London was never really on my radar because it didn’t seem that different from the US. They speak the same language, so what’s the big deal? Let’s go somewhere exotic instead!
Then we moved to France and people told us we could take the Chunnel from Paris to London in two hours, so I figured we had to go at least once.
Train travel can be pricey, though it’s very convenient. Last year, I never planned far enough in advance to find tickets to London for less than 200 euros each way, but we finally got our act together and planned a trip a few months in advance, snagging train tickets close to the baseline price.
Since England was at the top of both of our travel wishlists, we would be traveling near our anniversary, and our trip would occur after being apart for a few weeks, we decided to spend a bit more time in the country.
We ended up spending two full days in London, two days up north in the Peak District, and one extra day so we didn’t have to rush.
At first, the two full days in London seemed like plenty of time for us to experience the city – but the more I researched, the more I realized there is SO MUCH to do! I kept adding to my idea list; now we have plenty of reasons to go back!
So, what did I actually think of London? I was surprised how much I LOVED it! Maybe my sensitivity for familiarity and nostalgia is heightened from being an expat, but being surrounded by classic (colonial-style) architecture made me feel so at home!
Growing up in Richmond, Virginia, I fell in love with brick colonials with columns on the porch, black and white tile, and French doors. It was perfect, then, that our hotel was located in Kensington, which gave us the opportunity to wander by stately homes with black front doors and marble pillars.
We had only just arrived in London and already I was smitten! Every front stoop reminded me of my favorite homes in Richmond and Washington, D.C. I wanted to stop and photograph all of them – and of course I was dreaming about what it would be like to live there.
On our walk we came across some Mews. I had heard these were cute spots to take photos, but I had no idea what they were.
Wikipedia taught us that Mews refers to a “row of stables, usually with carriage houses below and living quarters above, built around a paved yard or court, or along a street, behind large city houses, such as those of London, during the 17th and 18th centuries.”
Though the dwellings in these alleys are less opulent than the larger neighboring homes, they are loaded with charm and offer residents the privacy of being tucked away off the main road.
It’s hard to find a good slice of pizza in France, especially one that’s gluten-free, so we were psyched to find this fancy-ish pizza place that was fairly fast AND had gluten-free crust (and dough balls!!). Plus, look how adorable the building is!
Pretty much everywhere we looked we noticed iconic London details. I had to educate Whit on the royal family – not that I know very much, but he didn’t even know who Harry or William were. (Whoops!)
When we were exiting the train station, we had seen a cupcake cart and both started drooling. We made a pact to get cupcakes as soon as we could, so right after lunch we picked up a couple of soft, mouthwatering cupcakes from The Hummingbird Bakery.
Somehow we managed to save our treats until we reached a few benches in the Buckingham Palace Gardens.
One of the downsides to living in Paris is that there isn’t much green space, and the trees that are in the city don’t change color in the fall (they just turn brown and fall off). I really miss wide open spaces, so seeing a huge park decked out in autumnal colors breathed life into my soul.
Naturally, from there we walked over to Buckingham Palace. We didn’t prioritize being there during one of the Changing of the Guard ceremonies, but we did get to see two guards do a little “routine.”
Next, we hadn’t planned on making a stop there, but on the way to Westminster, St. James Park stole our hearts. Surrounded by trees bursting forth with every autumnal color, a perfectly idyllic lake points to a handful of buildings that come together in the distance to look like a fairytale castle.
Between the elderly folks sitting on park benches, businessmen on their lunch breaks, students getting fresh air, and lovers on an outing, plus the swans, geese, and squirrels running around, the park was buzzing with activity, yet all the energy melted together in a dreamy serenity. With the abundance of colors, layers of flora, and wildlife freely roaming, whilst the city bustled on all around us, it felt like a page out of a children’s storybook.
We noticed more than one grown man stopping to feed a squirrel or take his photograph, and right then I foresaw a vision of Whit and I in our seventies, living in London with a house full of plants and books, spending our afternoons feeding squirrels in the park. We have found our people.
Okay, I’m gonna break it off here, because this post is crazy long! See you next time. 😉
Have you visited London? Did you love the parks? I highly recommend going in the fall!