On my last day of my trip on London I knew there only a few things I really wanted to do: see some Christmas decorations and have an afternoon tea.
Since I had been to London a few times before, this trip was really about seeing new parts of the city that were not the typical tourist attractions. My friend took me to Richmond, a cute little town in Southwest London. I loved seeing how the town was decorated for the holidays and what people typically would be doing on a Sunday away from all the hustle and bustle of the tourists.
We walked through the town and headed towards Richmond Park. The park is the largest of London’s Royal Park and is a deer park!
After years of admiring ornately decorated department store windows and towering Christmas trees in New York City during the holiday season, I wanted to experience how another city celebrated the most wonderful time of the year. My travels took me to London to visit a friend that lives in South London, next to the Clapham Common.
The Clapham Common is a large 220 acres triangular park with ponds and lots of walking paths. One of the best parts of London parks that I learned on this trip is that they are all dog friendly!
I have now been to Paris 3 magical times in my life and every time it takes my breath away. As a student of the French Revolution, being in Paris feels like going back in history while still being in the modern world. Even the streets are charming.
One night for dinner while in London, we went to a friend of a friend’s restaurant. I know it’s very stereotypical to say that London doesn’t have good food and that just simply isn’t true. However, on my first two trips, I don’t remember very good meals. That could be due to the fact that I was a bratty teenager that was barely eating vegetables consistently, let alone trying new things.
My friend Claire suggested we go to her friend of a friend’s restaurant, Lurra. It’s Basque style which to me means meat and I am always happy with that. The food was outstanding! We ordered the large sharing plate of beef and it was totally worth it. Not to mention, the drinks were excellent too. That goblet the size of Claire’s head is a gin and tonic. I highly recommend stopping by Lurrafor some good meat while in London!
This post is not for the history faint-of-heart. *Nerd alert*
The Tower of London is one of the most infamous sites in London. The Tower has served variously as an armory, a treasury, a menagerie, the home of the Royal Mint, a public records office, and the home of the Crown Jewels of England. However, two most infamous urban legends about The Tower are about when in late 15th century the castle was the prison of the “Princes in the Tower” and the Ravens. If you haven’t heard of these two legends before, I suggest you visit The Tower’s website and learn. Particularly the story about the two princes is better than any historical fiction I’ve ever read. See, history is cool! I love the stories of The Tower so much that I bought a guidebook while I was there. My friends really loved seeing the Crown Jewels that are display here so there is something for everybody!
The whole trip was not just historical tours and monuments, although that would be fine with me. One of my best friends lives in London so she took us out and showed us what the real London is like. This mostly involved pubs. We went to what can be described as the prettiest pub in London, The Churchill Arms. I don’t think this picture even does it justice just how pretty the flowers were cascading down the building. The inside has carpeted floors and comfortable armchairs, it kind of feels like a friend’s living room. However, very expectantly, there in the back is a Thai restaurant in the back. Apparently, according to my friend, this is quite common. We didn’t sample any Thai food but we did have a pint. There was a rugby match on so the pub was crowded and rather than people pushing and shoving to get the bar, everyone waited their turn and even stopped watching the match to chat with us and recommend a good pint. Then we took our drinks outside because apparently drinking on the sidewalk is not just legal, it’s encouraged!
Later that day, we stopped at another pub for a “Sunday Roast”. In New York City, on Sundays, many people partake in “Boozy Brunches” so I assume this is the London equivalent, however, it is much more civilized. We went to the pub with my friend and a few of her new friends from London and they taught us all about Sunday Roast etiquette. We had a few pints and devoured our roasts. Then we traveled on to another pub because rugby was on, and when in London!
The pub culture is really fascinating because it is so opposite what bars are like in the States in my opinion. Although the vibe is much more tame, I wouldn’t call it boring or stuffy at all. The people are polite and welcoming and I wouldn’t mind spending my Sunday like this every week!
When I travel, I am that friend that loves the dorky, guided tours. I want to know everything about everything and I think tour guides and detailed tours are the best way to learn. Partially, because as an amateur historian I have a great deal of respect for the amount of time and energy that goes into researching and preparing information for the masses. So my poor friends were dragged along on countless tours with me, but I think they enjoyed it and maybe learned something too!
Our first stop was Westminster Abbey. Standing in front of this impressive structure is really humbling. As an American, it is hard to grasp that this building has over 1,000 years of history. That’s over four as long as the United States has been in existence! Westminster Abbey’s age is reason alone to visit but it’s importance in England’s history, particularly political history, is an even better reason. Coronations, weddings and funerals for incredibly important historical figures have been held here since 1066. I could go on and on about the historical significance but the website for Westminster Abbey does a much better job than I could ever do, http://www.westminster-abbey.org/our-history.
If you are planning to visit, I would purchase tickets ahead of time on Westminster Abbey’s website and for the full experience, I would purchase an audio guide when you arrive. If you are going to take the time to wait in line to see it, take the tour and really appreciate what you’re seeing. Or you can do what we did, which is I tell my friends all about my dorky history knowledge and then we have a photoshoot in the cloisters afterwards.
This first post is about my time in London. This was not my first visit to England’s capital. Actually, I visited twice before when I was in high school and it is the city that actually sparked my love affair with Western Europe. I went on to study Western European History in college and history is still something I am passionate about today.