I’ve visited London twice before and when my husband mentioned taking a little vacation to London, I wasn’t immediately excited but after I picked up a few guidebooks and started doing some research, I couldn’t wait to revisit this crown jewel. It’s so amazing what a few years can do … my interests have changed so much that this city felt entirely new to me … I think I’ve fallen deeply in love with everything English!
We spent a good bit of time exploring Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill on Saturday morning. More than the antiques and vintage wares, I was most taken with the vibrantly colored townhouses. How cheery would it be to live along a rainbow like this? (good competition for Charleston’s Rainbow Row) The market itself was crowded and chaotic but in a great way – we enjoyed falafels from a roadside stand and admired everything from vintage cameras to Paddington Bears to Moroccan-style pillowcases lining the pedestrian-friendly street.
While walking down Portobello Road, I couldn’t help but notice the storefront used in Notting Hill as Hugh Grant’s character’s bookshop. It’s now a shoe boutique but they’ve cheekily named it Notting Hill as a not-so subtle nod. About a block away, I recognized the corner coffee shop where Hugh Grant bumps into Julia Roberts with orange juice. Unfortunately, I didn’t spot Spike or the famous blue door – shucks!
Can you name the film that featured this heartbreaking memorial? This was Postman’s Park, a tiny and well-hidden gem near St. Paul’s Cathedral which pays tribute to those who have died saving the lives of others. Tragically beautiful.
My husband was totally singing a certain Fergie song all weekend long. smh.
A trip to London wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the London Tower. I loved marveling at the crown jewels and it was fun to see the armor of King Henry VIII.
I’ve wanted to see the famed Abbey Road zebra crossing for years so as soon as we had our flights booked, I was googlemapping it. All the guidebooks say there really isn’t much to see here but I totally disagree. First, it’s hilarious to watch all the tourists stop in the middle of the crosswalk for a photo op while angry Brits are honking their horns in annoyance. How horrible it must be if this is on your daily commute! I also loved reading all the notes/sayings on the walls outside of Abbey Road Studios. I know a lot of people hate graffiti but it always fascinates me and when it’s commemorating a special place or person it seems more like a collective art project to me.
Top Tips for London:
Portobello Road Market. Despite the achingly trendy vibe of the Notting Hill neighborhood, this market is a London staple and worth a visit. The market is every Saturday. Just head to the Notting Hill tube stop around 9a and follow the crowd. That’s what we did and it worked like a charm. Make sure to grab a snack or even a full lunch from the street vendors – what we had was delicious and the cheapest meal we had all weekend.
Museums. Most of the art museums in London have free admission. We visited the Tate Modern, the Tate Britain and the National Portrait Gallery. Fantastic value … take advantage!
Views. The London Eye is a fun experience. But if you’d prefer to save your money, head over to the Tate Modern and/or the National Portrait Gallery – along with the free admission, they also provide beautiful sweeping views of the city. Just head to the top floor restaurants and be prepared for your jaw to drop. The Shard also recently opened and is said to boast gorgeous views. We didn’t have time to visit but maybe you should!
Fish ‘n Chips. Mate, yor in Bri-in! … it’s the thing to do. In our experience, the streetside vendors seemed to offer the tastiest versions and easiest on the pocket. Just don’t forget to pile on the malt vinegar and salt like a true Brit would. Yummmmm-eeee!
Where to Stay? We stayed at the citizenM which I would describe as a trendy boutique-style hotel intended to be affordable luxury. It was clean, easy on the eye and centrally located (a 5-min walk to the Tate Modern). It gets our vote and I would stay again without hesitation. In fact, I can’t wait for them to open their Paris and NYC locations in 2014! J&I both loved the quirky and modern design of the hotel and the room, while small, was also wonderful. We also had dinner one night at the canteenM in the lounge and it was great. Try the Coriander + Carrot soup.
Photography by Sarah Darcy of Classic Bride blog.