Travel: London, England {Part One}

This trip to the UK was supposed to be a big family trip to visit relatives and dig into some of our family roots. My sisters and I are first generation Americans.  While we don’t have dual citizenship, we do have a note from HRH QEII that states if we ever choose to give up our American citizenship, Britain will gladly take us.  As of some point in the 1980’s, this practice is no longer in place, so I think it’s kind of cool.  And given the last few years, I have thought about it {wink, wink.}

We hadn’t been back to the UK as a family since 1982, so it was supposed to be a big deal.  First there were 10 of us.  Then there were 9, and from there it slowly dwindled to nothing.  We had been planning the trip for two years and my daughter was very excited.  So, I picked her up from school one day and said, “I have bad news.  The trip fell apart and no one’s going now.”  I was going to ask if she still wanted to go, just the two of us, and before I could, she responded, “Well, can you and I still go then?”

Yes we can!  And we did.  Since we were no longer tied down to other people’s schedule’s {we were planning to go at peak summer travel time} I researched when the cheapest time to go was after school got out.  It was about 7 weeks later.  I had to mentally prepare myself for a mother/daughter trek across two countries, alone.  It took me a couple days, and then I decided I couldn’t think about it anymore and I just booked it.

London England

Done. Now what?  Lots of research.

Where We Stayed

Holiday Inn London Kensington High Street

Once I booked the flights, I started looking into hotels.  I looked at a map, saw that Kensington seemed to be central to most of the things I knew we wanted to do and started researching the cheapest hotels in that neighborhood that weren’t total dumps.

We took a taxi here from the airport and stayed for five days.  It ended up being pretty fancy and it was in the perfect location!  The Kensington High Street tube station was at the end of the block.  It was close to dining, so we usually walked to wherever we wanted to go.  There was a lot of shopping, but most importantly, a Boots and a Marks and Spencer’s close by.

There was a Starbucks in the lobby, a bar area that served food, and if you’re looking to date a pilot or a flight attendant, this is where they seemed to stay so the lobby was usually full of uniformed men and women.

The rooms were small, it’s London, but they were modern and clean.  We had an electric tea pot and we bought some snacks and breakfast items.  It worked out very well for us and we both actually loved this hotel!

Doubletree by Hilton London – Hyde Park

Our London trip was actually split into two parts.  We stayed at this hotel on the backend of our trip for two nights before our departure.  We went to Scotland for six days in between, but I’ll tell you about that later.  Since I had no idea I was going to love the Holiday Inn as much as I did, and since we were up for exploring different parts of the city, we chose to stay on the other side of Hyde Park for this quick stay.

This is a nice hotel, but it wasn’t our favorite.  We didn’t enjoy this area as much as Kensington, however there are lots of souvenir shops and restaurants and it’s close to Notting Hill.  It’s down a little side street which is very residential.  It just didn’t have the same feel as Kensington.  There is a tube station close by, but this line is older and we found it to be very claustrophobic, so I tried to avoid it as much as possible.

The room was smaller than the Holiday Inn, but it was nicer.  This one had coffee and had a place to store our snacks.

We had to leave the hotel super early on the morning of our departure, and there are no taxi’s available at that time, so they hired a car service for us. The driver was super nice and he got us to the airport on time even though there was a huge accident that closed the highway.

I’m not going to lie though, there was a brief moment that I panicked when his employee called to tell him about the accident and that he couldn’t take that way to the airport, even though we were already headed there, so he diverted us in another direction, speaking frantically in another language, so I had no clue what he was saying.  I had visions of the movie Taken because like an idiot, I didn’t confirm his name before I got in the car.  It was all good and he got a huge tip because I had a lot of cash left over which we were going to have to spend at the airport anyway.  I wish I could recommend him, but I didn’t get his name or the name of his company.

Where We Ate

Bar Lounge – This was the lobby bar in the Holiday Inn.  We had a light dinner here after Harrod’s because we were tired and just wanted to get back to the hotel.  It was actually very good and they had wine, so…

Churchill Arms – I read about this restaurant on several blogs.  It looks like a pub, but it’s really a Thai restaurant.  We ate dinner here our first night.  It was about a 20 minute walk from our hotel.  We ate early, but it was still packed.  And they’re so busy we were told we only had our table for an hour.  It worked out fine because they are super fast with the food.  We shared Pad Thai which was very good.

Churchill Arms

Dishoom – I also read about Dishoom on a blog and it happened to be near our hotel.  We saved it for our last night before we left for Scotland.  We went early, otherwise we probably wouldn’t have been able to get in without a reservation.  It’s Indian food, which is my favorite.  I liked it.  Ella, who also likes Indian food, thought it was meh.

Ladurée – Ella loves macarons, so she was in heaven.  This is attached to Harrod’s so we stopped here before shopping.

Laudree

Le Pain Quotidien, Notting Hill – We ate lunch here on our second day after Kensington Palace.  It was about a 15 minute walk from there and we wanted to knock Notting Hill off our list, so even though we were starving we persevered.  It was delicious and quick, and very healthy.  It’s a chain, but it was new to us, so we enjoyed it!

McDonald’s – We never eat here, but we wanted something quick for dinner on night two.  We were also curious to see if it tasted different.  It didn’t.  Neither did Chipotle when we ate lunch there one day.

The Muffin Man Tea Shop – We found this adorable place on our first morning, right down the street from our hotel.  It quickly became a favorite and we ate here almost every morning.  It’s small and gets pretty busy, so sometimes the servers were snippy, but we loved it.

Muffin Man Tea Shop

Prince of Wales Pub – My uncle always complains about what’s happened to the pubs in Britain because now they’re all chains.  He’s right. This was a chain, but this was the first time we ate here, so it was new to us.  We saw the same menu about three more times at different pubs in London and Scotland.  We ate fish and chips and I drank beer and we pretended like we were in a real British pub that wasn’t a chain.

Urban Meadow – This is in the Doubletree and we ate here our last night.  We were tired and we knew we had to get up super early for our flight.  It was actually good and the waitress was super sweet to Ella.

Walrus and The Carpenter Pub – We found this pub on our way to St. Paul’s Cathedral from the Tower of London.  We shared a burger.  It was okay, not the greatest, but we were in a pub in England so we were happy.

99 Flake – We loved these when we were kids!  Ella had her first one at the Tower of London.

99 Flake

We ate at a few good places, but I did have an 11 year-old with me, so for every place I wanted to eat, we had to find one where she wanted to eat as well.  There are a lot more places to go next time!

What did we do in London besides eat?  To be continued…

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