London was calling me for a May bank holiday weekend. With Ireland being neighbours to Great Britain the flight only took just over an hour. Pure bliss and no jet lag. I flew from Knock to Luton with no hiccups. It was my first time flying on my own, I’ve always travelled in groups and so I wasn’t sure how I’d fare by myself. I get nervous going through security and even though I know I don’t have anything on me that I shouldn’t, there’s always that little worry that I might look a bit dodgy to one of the security officers and ask me to step aside. Maybe it’s just me. I obviously looked normal to them so crisis averted.
Just over an hour later and I landed in Luton. It was time to make my way to the centre of London and then get the tube to my cousin’s house. I have to admit I was a bit nervous about getting the tube as it was my first time in London but it’s actually dead easy. After much pushing and shoving through the tube (you would think I would be used to it from living in Dublin for two years!), I finally arrived at my cousin’s house and spent some time with her little munchkins. My cousin Michelle and her partner Lee allowed me to stay with them on my trip. I really appreciated their hospitality ☺
My cousin John Paul was my tour guide on Friday night and he walked the friggin’ legs off me!!! ☺ He was brilliant though. We got off at Bond Street station, walked down Oxford Street to Oxford Circus onto Regent’s Street to Picadilly Circus. We walked through Soho and China Town onto Leicester Square to Trafalgar Square. We walked passed No. 10 Downing Street, passed Big Ben, over Westminster Bridge, passed the London Eye and along the Southbank to London Bridge, where we got the tube back to Michelle’s. I have to say London looks beautiful at night.
But the highlight of the tour was stumbling across this little fella!
Saturday was spent going around London on my own. It was time to explore the city properly.
First stop was the London Eye. I don’t know about you but I’m not great with heights. However, I was not going to let this tiny detail deter me from going on it. Although I couldn’t back out after paying for my ticket. It’s something that has to be done when visiting London. I’m glad I booked by ticket in advance and printed it off before arriving. And the queue was so long that I was waiting half an hour to get on. The staff were very efficient in getting people on and off though. As I was in the queue I was trying not to think about it but as I kept getting closer and closer my heart was pounding and I was hoping there would be space to sit down. No turning back now. I wasn’t alone in being nervous as there were two people sitting on the bench alongside me clinging on for dear life! They couldn’t even look at the view! I have to say the view was spectacular and once I was sitting down I was quite calm. I became a bit brave at one stage and took a selfie and a pic of the Houses of Parliament.
Back on solid ground it was time to get some sustenance and enjoy the street entertainment. The Southbank is a hive of activity during the day and I love that about cities. The bank is lined with talented street entertainers and food stalls. It just so happened that the Streets of Spain Festival was on the long weekend. I so badly wanted to get something from one of the stalls but the queues were off-putting. It was thronged with people! I made my way back towards the aquarium where I had noticed a food stall near there selling noodles. Armed with my noodles I went to the Jubilee Gardens to enjoy my food.
Fuelled for the next part of my exploration I hopped on the tube to Green Park to visit the Queen at Buckingham Palace, as one does when they’re in London. Green Park is such a lovely park with cute striped deck-chairs that you have to pay for to sit down on. But there’s more than enough space to bring your own blanket and sit down on the grass. After following the signs and a 10 minute walk, I arrived at Buckingham Palace. Of course the palace was buzzing with visitors, TV reporters and the local bobby because of the new princess, HRH Princess Charlotte. I wonder how HRH Prince George feels about being an older brother!
Next stop was Covent Garden. The markets and shops there are a must see. You can buy everything and anything. My new love is Sass & Belle. I nearly bought the whole shop but restrained myself and purchased two lovely items. I’m owl mad so of course I was going to buy an owl mug and an owl money box! I’ve promised myself that I will return and whenever I set up my tea room I will be decking it out in Sass & Belle. There isn’t a shortage of restaurants in Covent Garden and my particular favourite was Chez Antoinette. There’s a rustic French feel to it and a great variety of savoury and sweet dishes on the menu. I ordered the Croque Monsieur and it was to die for. The atmosphere was made better by some outstanding opera singing.
Sunday was spent with my cousin Michelle. She’s the best craic! We went to the London Dungeons. You’re transported through the history of London, from the time of King Henry VIII to Jack the Ripper. You meet all these shady characters from London’s past and you feel as if you’re right there in the moment. The actors playing these characters are superb and they must have so much fun watching visitors scream with fright. If I wasn’t tour guiding in Ireland I would love to work there. However, we were delighted to be out. We needed to keep things relaxed after the dungeons so we took a leisurely stroll around London, taking in the sights. Of course some food was thrown in as well thanks to Ed’s Easy Diner in Soho and Haagen Dazs ice-cream in Leicester Square. We rounded the day off nicely with another visit to Covent Garden and enjoyed the music of a string cinquet.
Monday morning and it was time to say goodbye to my family and London. But I will be back. London has everything, the culture, the nightlife, the shopping. I didn’t really go with a plan, apart from booking the London Eye and the Dungeons. I wanted to be spontaneous but on my next visit I hope to check out some museums and get a walking tour of some of the city.