Travel With Me – London // Where We Stayed & What We Ate

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Welcome to part two of my three part Travel With Me series about our recent trip to London. Part one was a day-by-day outline of all the activities, attractions, and places we visited while we were there. I wrote that post intending for it to be read by anyone – both those interested in casually reading about our trip and those who want details to plan their own vacation. Part two (this post) is all about our hotel and all of the delicious food we ate. This post is going to have hotel and restaurant details that may only interest those planning a trip and exploring their accommodation and dining options. Part three (coming soon) will discuss how we planned our time in London, any tips and tricks we picked up along the way, and other miscellaneous trip information.

Where We Stayed

Park Plaza Westminster Bridge London

4 out of 5 stars

Check-in – When we first arrived at our hotel, we checked in with a very friendly front desk clerk who immediately gave us an upgrade from our Superior Room to a Studio Room. Someone did offer to carry our bags, but they were not pushy about it. We usually prefer to handle our own luggage to avoid paying the tip, so it was nice to be able to turn down the offer without feeling uncomfortable about it.

Room – Our room was very nice. Since we were upgraded to a studio, we had a living room and a bedroom. It was very clean and very modern. The decor was a little too modern for my taste, but I don’t care much about that for my hotel room since I’m not actually living there. I was disappointed by our view – the hotel is very close to Big Ben, so I was hoping to get a view of either Big Ben or another nice part of the city, but our window just faced a wall. The best part of the room was the bathroom with the giant jetted tub! I really enjoy baths, so this was a treat that I was not expecting.

Location – The hotel’s location is fantastic! You can see Westminster Abbey and Big Ben from some windows of the hotel, and it is walking distance to two train stations: Waterloo and Westminster. The only downside to the location is that there are not many places nearby to grab an evening snack or dessert. We tried to find ice cream one night, and Daniel ended up just grabbing some Haagen Dazs from a convenience store to bring back to the hotel because there was nothing else nearby. Other than that one evening, this issue didn’t affect us because we were out late exploring other areas of London and were able to conveniently get back to our hotel via the nearby train stations.

Price – Unfortunately, because we booked our room through a travel agent, I’m not really sure what exactly we paid for our room because it was lumped into a travel package. However, after running a few searches on their website, it appears that the superior room ranges from £150 to £180 ($255 to $310) per night and the studios range from £215 to £230 ($365 to $395) per night. Yes, that is pricey, but transportation costs in London are expensive, so we definitely saved money by being able to walk to the two train stations nearby.

Amenities – We were provided both complimentary internet access and breakfast. Breakfast takes place in a very nice dining area with a view of Big Ben (see picture below). I really did not like the coffee (which can be a big deal for me because I love my morning coffee), but the food was good. You could eat from the cold breakfast buffet or order some eggs or omelets from the server.

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The bedroom area – note the view of the wall out the window

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The living room area

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The fancy bathroom and jetted tub

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Other side of the bedroom and our ultra-modern closet door art on the right

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View from the hallway outside of our room

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The outside of our hotel

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View of Big Ben from one of the breakfast rooms

Where We Ate

England does not have the best reputation for food, but we had an overall very good dining experience in London. We ate our free breakfast at the hotel every morning, but we ate out at restaurants for all of the other meals. Here are my thoughts on our experience at those restaurants.

The Old Shades

3 out of 5 stars

While Daniel and I were wandering around and exploring the area right after we checked into our hotel on the first day, we ran across this pub near our hotel.

Food– The food was really good. Daniel ordered the traditional corned beef hash, and I had the fish and chips. We both thought our meals were delicious.

Atmosphere – It is difficult for me to comment on the atmosphere because we ate at a weird time – around 3:30pm. Needless to say, the pub was empty, but there were a few people at the bar making conversation which made for a casual, fun atmosphere.

Service – We have no complaints about the service. The woman who greeted us and served us was really nice and offered her opinion on the different menu options.

Price–  While in London, we quickly learned that everything was expensive; however, this pub in particular is probably even more expensive than normal because it is in a very touristy area. Daniel’s corned beef hash was £10.75 (about $18) and my fish & chips was  £12.95 (about $22).

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My fish & chips

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Daniel’s corned beef hash

Caffè Nero

4 out of 5 stars

We saw these coffee shops all over London.  Since we really enjoy trying new coffee shops whenever we travel, we actually stopped here twice. One thing we learned is that their regular coffee order is actually two shots of espresso in regular coffee. We thought it was good that way, but we didn’t expect the extra espresso! I also learned that they think you are weird if you ask for less or for no espresso, so I decided to stick with the way they prefer to make coffee. The inside of the shops are very cozy – more so than a typical Starbucks. We enjoyed sitting at a table and people-watching. This coffee shop is a chain, but we were impressed because the good coffee atmosphere made it seem more like a local shop rather than a chain. We thought it was a fun “local” experience since we don’t have these shops in the United States.

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Boyds Brasserie Bar & Lounge

4 out of 5 stars

Before we went to the theater to see Les Miserable, we stopped for dinner at this nice restaurant. We had made reservations in advance and requested the pre-theater menu. We really enjoyed the experience. The restaurant was very British which made the experience even more fun!

Food– We really liked most of the food! Daniel ordered the crispy haggis and quail scotch egg as his first course. It was his first time to try either of these British dishes, and he thought they were very good. For his entree, he ordered the Wild Cornish Mushroom Risotto. Daniel said it was good, but it was “nothing to write home about.” For my first course, I had the toasted goat cheese and lobster bisque, and I ordered the Citrus Cured Salmon as my entree. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of our desserts, and they have changed their menu since then, so we can’t remember what we got, but we do remember really liking it.

Atmosphere – The atmosphere was really fun. It was fancy and British, yet it wasn’t intimidating. It was perfect for a pre-theater meal.

Service – We have no complaints about the service. They were very friendly and paid careful attention to what we ordered and when we needed something.

Price–  Again, this was a nice restaurant, and we ordered a three-course meal with wine, but since it was a fixed pre-theater dinner, it was cheaper than ordering from their full menu. It was £19.90 each for the three course meal (about $39).

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My toasted goat cheese and lobster bisque

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Daniel’s crispy haggis and quail scotch egg

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My fantastic citrus salmon

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Daniel’s risotto

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First Floor Restaurant

3 out of 5 stars

While browsing around Portobello Road Market, we looked for a place to eat a big brunch. As I mentioned in my previous London post, we got lost that morning, so our plans to eat a light breakfast from the stands at the markets did not happen. We were starving, so we really wanted to sit down at a restaurant and eat a full meal before picking a few snacks from the market stands.

Food– We both ordered dishes that we wouldn’t normally choose. Daniel had the Lentil & Quinoa Burger (per Daniel, it was “messy but delicious”), and I got the Eggs Benedict. Once again, we both enjoyed our meals. It would be nice to go back one day and try another brunch dish as there were so many options.

Atmosphere – The atmosphere here was strange (hence the 3 stars). When we walked in, we went up some stairs to the second floor (despite it being called First Floor Restaurant), and we couldn’t tell if we were actually going into the restaurant entrance or into a private residence. It was so quiet! Finally, when we turned right at the top of the stairs, we saw a dining room, but we couldn’t see anyone in there! Once we walked in, we saw a server and a couple of people sitting at tables, but it was a little too uncomfortably quiet at first. Once we were seated, more people started coming in and it was fine. Also, they had some cool decorations throughout the dining area (such as the pictured melted candle below).

Service – We enjoyed talking with the servers at this restaurant. They were genuinely interested in where we were from and how we were enjoying our stay in London. Also, we didn’t have a problem with the food service.

Price–  We paid about £25 total for both of our dishes and coffees (about $43).

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Fresh flowers on the table

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My eggs benedict

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Daniel’s quinoa burger and chips

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Interesting decor and chandelier

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Lakwatsa

4 out of 5 stars

My friend Kaitlin highly recommended that we try this bubble tea place while at Portobello Market. I had never even had bubble tea before, so I didn’t know what to expect. If you don’t know, bubble tea is a Taiwanese tea drink with tapioca balls at the bottom. We had such a fun time sitting in Lakwatsa trying out both a fruit tea (honey peach) and a milk tea (watermelon). They had swinging benches inside for guests to sit in (I was jealous – we didn’t get to sit in one because they were all taken). Overall, it was a fun experience. I recently found out that they just opened a bubble tea place near where I live, and I can’t wait to try it! I have a feeling I will be disappointed though because Kaitlin, who has tried many bubble tea places, said that Lakwatsa’s was the best she had ever had.

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Honest Burgers

4 out of 5 stars

This burger joint was recommended to us by Estee of essiebutton. My husband tweeted her for recommendations since she lives in London, and she responded! So, we definitely had to try this place.

Food– I ordered the regular cheeseburger and fries, and Daniel was adventurous again and ordered the fritter (cauliflower, sweet corn, shallots, spices, coriander, and cucumber yogurt). These were both great dishes. The fries were sprinkled with rosemary which I really enjoyed (even though I don’t typically like rosemary).

Atmosphere – This was the first burger joint I’ve been to where we had to be placed on a waiting list! Part of the reason for this is because it was small, but it also was very popular. After our hour wait (we went to Starbucks to get out of the rain), we were seated in a very small room. Daniel didn’t like how cramped it was, but I thought that it made it seem more unique and local that way. It is a very casual restaurant.

Service – We had good service, but it wasn’t anything that stood out.

Price–  Hands down, this was the most expensive burger I have ever ordered which is why I rated this place 4 stars instead of 5. My cheeseburger and fries were £8.5 (about $15!!), and Daniel’s fritter was £6.5 (about $11). Despite the price, if you are looking for a local, very casual restaurant to try, I would recommend Honest Burgers, as long as you are aware that you will be paying quite a bit for that burger.

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Wagamama

4 out of 5

We found this Asian fusion restaurant right next to the Tower of London, so we ate lunch here after our tour. We really enjoyed the ramen restaurant experience! I had never been to a place like this before.

Food– I ordered the chicken ramen, and Daniel had the yaki udon. Delicious! Just look at my chicken ramen in the picture below! This is not just normal ramen – it was full of chicken and vegetables and tons of flavor.

Atmosphere – The restaurant seemed like a mix between fast food and sit down. We were seated at a long table (all of the tables at this restaurant are long and parallel to each other, cafeteria style), and we ordered from our table, but the food came out really quickly. I thought it was a fun atmosphere to get a quick bite because there were so many people to see coming in and out, and you can see the Tower Bridge from the window.

Service – Again, we had good service, but it wasn’t anything that stood out.

Price–  Each of our dishes were £8.75 (about $15), but the portion sizes were huge, so if we had been able to take leftovers with us to use as another meal, this price would have been reasonable.

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My huge bowl of chicken ramen

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Daniel’s yaki udon

The Grenadier

4 out of 5

At the end of our London bike tour (mentioned in my previous London travel post), our guide passed out lists of recommended attractions and pubs. The Grenadier was on that list. This restaurant is in a historical building (built in 1720) that eventually became The Guardsman Public House. They say that it is haunted by the ghost of Cedric, a man who was supposedly caught cheating at a game of cards and then beaten to death. The ceiling is covered with money from all over the world given by people trying to help pay off Cedric’s debt. This was the perfect place to have a nice British dinner with Daniel’s co-worker who was also in London at the time because it was exactly what I have always pictured a London pub to be like.

Food– I ordered fish & chips once again. It was our last dinner in London, so I wanted to have this delicious traditional meal one more time. Daniel had a giant meat pie (see picture below). Both of us were surprised that we didn’t love our food, and Daniel’s co-worker had the same opinion. It was not bad, but the atmosphere was so neat that we expected better.

Atmosphere – Even though the food was not outstanding, the atmosphere was really cool (which is why we chose to give it 4 stars instead of just 3). First of all, this pub is kind of hidden, so it was mostly a local crowd from what we could tell. We entered through an alley (see picture below) which contributed to the local feel. We sat at the bar when we first arrived and waited for our reservation time. You definitely need to make reservations for dinner at this place because there were very few tables. Once we were seated, we were taken to the cozy dining area with bookshelf wallpaper and money pinned to the ceiling. The decor made it feel like you were in a library.

Service – The service was great. Our server answered all of our questions and gave good recommendations.

Price–  This place was very expensive which was unexpected and somewhat took away from the local feel. Daniel’s meat pie was £13 ($22), and my fish & chips were £10 ($17).

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Dining area

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Donations from restaurant patrons helping to pay off Cedric the ghost’s debt

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Daniel’s meat pie

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My fish & chips

As you can see, we ate well in London! Just wait until you see what we ate in Paris….

Click here if you would like to see what activities we did in London as well as some pictures from our adventures in this beautiful city.

Weekly Wishes #23 // July Goals

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Watching the sunset on our Annapolis sail, June 28

Happy Monday! I hope that everyone had a great weekend and is refreshed and ready to conquer the work week before the holiday! I know I am. I want to get a lot of work off of my plate before heading to Texas on Thursday.

Today I’m linking up with The Nectar Collective’s Weekly Wishes. I will recap how I did on my goals for June, and then I’m sharing goals I’m setting for myself for July.

June Goals

1. Read three books. I did not reach this goal completely. I’m working on book #3 right now (The Memory Keeper’s Daughter), but I’m not far enough along for it to count. So, that means I’m still pretty behind on the Semi-Charmed Summer Book Challenge. I’m thankful that there are still two months left in the challenge!

2. Actually clean out my closet and get rid of clothes I no longer wear. I finally got this done! My closet is still really full (Daniel and I share a very small closet), but it is more organized and is now much easier for me to find things.

3. Make a game plan for revamping my blog design and layout. I have a set plan – now it’s time to get it done….

4. Create my April Project Life layout. I have started my layout, and I’m planning to get this done tonight. If I do, then I will accomplish this goal in June as planned.

5. Organize my blog feed. Done! This has made a huge difference in my personal time management. I’m no longer overwhelmed when I open up my Bloglovin’ feed every morning searching for the posts I should read while eating breakfast. Now I can immediately just go to my “Favorites” section to read those everyday, and when I have time, I can browse the other categories I have made.

July Goals

1. Read three books. Sorry to be so repetitive, but I’ve got to set reading goals for myself if I’m ever going to accomplish the Semi-Charmed Summer Book Challenge!

2. Organize my jewelry. I’ve been eyeing some nice jewelry organizers at The Container Store for months and months, but they are a bit pricey, so I’ve held off. This month, I would like to either be really creative and come up with a DIY jewelry organizer (but I’m really not very creative), or I will allow myself to invest in The Container Store organizers. My jewelry is in such a state right now that I hardly even know what I have to choose from anymore.

3. Revamp my blog design and layout!! I am so excited about this goal. I’ve been all talk about this since I first started my blog, but now it’s time to actually take action. Thankfully, I have a computer-savvy husband who is going to help me out, but I know it will take a little time to figure everything out.

4. Write all of my posts about our Europe trip that I have planned… and post them! I have been somewhat dragging my feet on editing my photos and writing my travel posts. I have quite a few posts planned, so I want to get all of them written and posted this month. I did post one last month; you can read it here if you’d like!

That’s it! I’m looking forward to accomplishing all four of these goals this month. While I will be going on several weekend trips (taking advantage of summertime!), I have more time at home this month than I had in May or June, so I feel like I’ll be able to these goals done at a more relaxed pace.

What would you like to get done this month?

Weekly Wishes is a link-up hosted by The Nectar Collective.

The Sunday Currently, Volume 31

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At the OneRepublic concert

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Sunset sail in Annapolis, MD

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As you can see from the pictures above, it has been a full and fun weekend. On Friday I went to the OneRepublic concert (with American Authors and The Script opening for them) with a group of friends. Saturday Daniel and I took a day trip to Annapolis, MD that involved browsing shops, ice cream, a delicious seafood dinner, and a beautiful sunset sail. Today I got my nails done with a friend, ran errands, and did some picking up around the apartment.

Currently… 

Reading  The Memory Keeper’s Daughter. I finished The Fault in Our Stars last week, and I really liked it. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie with my book club (my group of friends who gets together to discuss the book for five minutes and socialize about other things for a couple of hours, ha).

Writing  in my journal again these days – finally. I used to be great about daily journaling, and I stopped doing it consistently for about a year, but I’m back at it!

Listening  to Ed Sheeran’s new album X (pronounced “multiply”). The songs Photograph and Tenerife Sea are my favorites.

Thinking  about the week ahead and getting excited! Daniel is leaving on a backpacking trip with some college friends, and I’m heading back to Texas for a beach trip with my sisters in Galveston.

Smelling  our new Bath & Body Works Caribbean Escape candle. It’s a really great summer scent! It’s making me very excited for the ocean and sand and sun.

Hoping  for a smooth week at work before the holiday

Wearing  pajamas…. At 7:30pm at night. Yes, I know, it’s lame. But nothing sounds better to me right now than getting some blogging done and catching up on some shows (currently watching True Detective) all while being as comfy as can be.

Loving  how much we have been making the most of summer. Evening walks, big trips, weekend trips, reading good books, etc…. Summer has been good to us so far.

Wanting  to get back on that sailboat in Annapolis. Last night on the water was magical.

Needing  some sister time! Good thing I have a whole long holiday weekend ahead with Elizabeth and Ellen. Really looking forward to Galveston!

Feeling  nervous! I’m watching True Detective  right now, and it is getting good, but it’s pretty creepy.

Clicking  blogs and Instagram. Oh, and I’m starting to sort of use my Twitter account (e_phillips), but I’m still not quite into it yet.

 

This post is for the TSC blog link up at siddathornton. Share yours and link it up!

Click here to see all of my The Sunday Currently posts.

Travel with Me // London – What We Did

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When I first started this blog toward the end of 2013, I was excited to use it as a place to share my travel experiences. Obviously, it has turned into more of a lifestyle blog, but I am still excited to write posts about our adventures. Since I haven’t done one of these posts in a long time, I want to share what I wrote as an introduction to my first “Travel with Me” account:

I love planning vacations. It probably is not an exaggeration to say that my absolute favorite way to pass the time is sitting down with my calendar, scouring through tons of reviews and friend recommendations, booking flights and hotels, and creating lists of things to do on a trip. I get very excited and distracted when I’m in full trip-planning mode.

One of my other favorite things to do is share my travel experiences with friends and family that are traveling to the same places as I did. I’ve been known to write extremely lengthy emails full of suggestions for a perfect vacation. Basically, I probably should have become a travel agent. Maybe I still will “when I grow up”.

I’ve decided to break up my Travel with Me posts into three types: (1) What We Did, (2) What We Ate & Where We Stayed, and (3) Planning & Other Recommendations. This way, people who would like to just read a simple trip re-cap can just read the first post, and those that are actually looking to plan a trip and get activity, attraction, restaurant, hotel, and planning advice and reviews can read all three.

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In May of this year, my husband and I had the opportunity to travel to Europe! Our first stop was London. I’ll get to Paris in future posts….

Day 1

When we first arrived in London, Daniel and I checked into our hotel, quickly unpacked, and went out to explore the city. We took our mini tripod around with us so that we could take pictures with the two of us together, so this first day was really all about finding the perfect picture spots and soaking in the feel of the city. We spent the majority of the evening at Trafalgar Square and in the Piccadilly Circus and Soho neighborhoods. I’ve heard people describe Piccadilly Circus as the Times Square of London, and that is a pretty good description. We loved this area! There were so many cute restaurants, coffee shops, and stores to browse around in.

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Mandatory red phone booth picture!

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Westminster Abbey (Fun fact – Big Ben is actually the bell inside that tower and not the tower itself).

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Piccadilly Circus

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Day 2

Our second day in London included the two events I was most excited for in this city: a bike tour and a show at the theatre!

Brakeaway Bike Tour

5 out of 5 stars

We decided to do a bike tour the morning of our first full day in London. I picked the highest rated tour on TripAdvisor, Brakeaway Bike Tours, and booked our trip online. We loved the experience! We did the Grand London Bike Tour because that was the recommended tour for people who were visiting for the first time. The tour lasted about four hours; the guide stopped us at many of the famous London attractions including The London Eye, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace (where we watched the changing of the guard), and St. Paul’s Cathedral. He also took the time to point out less well-known spots that were very interesting, including a hotel that pays for your funeral if you pass away while staying there and the oldest wig shop in London.

I highly recommend you book this tour if you are traveling to London for the first time. A biking tour allows you to cover more ground than a walking tour does, and we felt better oriented with the city once we had finished. Before the tour, I was slightly concerned about running into pedestrians while biking, but the guide was very careful to take us on pathways and roads that were less busy than the main routes would have been. As another plus, our guide gave us a list of recommended restaurants, pubs, and activities. We ended up going to one of the recommended pubs at the end of our time in London – I will write about that experience in my upcoming Travel with Me // London – What We Ate post. I would love to go back to London one day and take the Secret London Bike Tour!

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Getting on our bikes in the Graffiti Tunnel – this tunnel was originally painted by the famous Graffiti artist Banksy but is now open to be painted by anyone

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Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace

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Buckingham Palace

The tickets were £20 for each adult – about $34 each.

Les Miserables

5 out of 5 stars

After the bike tour, it was time for us to get ready for the show – Les Miserables! Before this, I had only seen the musical at a children’s theatre and the movie, so I was in for a treat.

We had a nice pre-show dinner, and then we made our way to Queen’s Theatre. I have always dreamed of seeing this musical in London, and it was everything that I hoped it would be! As you can imagine, the talent was unmatched and the sets were beautiful. I got chills throughout the entire show but especially during the end of the first act.

Our tickets were £94.50 total – about $160, and we did not have the best seats, so this was a pricey event. As a reference in case you are deciding on which seats to choose for yourself, we sat in C17 & C18 in the Upper Circle. See the picture below for our view, which I thought was just fine. None of the stage was cut off as we were watching, and it was just low enough that we did not miss out on the set detail toward the top (you would miss this if you sat higher than a few rows above us). Unfortunately, I got stuck sitting behind a really tall person who liked leaning forward, but if a person of average height had been in front of me, it would have been a great view, especially for being so high up.

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View of the stage from our seats – the curtain was down at this point, but when it came up, we could see the full stage

After the show, we walked around the area to find a fun place for drinks. It was neat to see what the London night life is like.

Day 3

On the morning of our third day, we started our day by getting lost. This was really frustrating because I kept thinking about all of the time we were wasting. In the end, I regret that I let myself get frustrated rather than just enjoy walking through an exciting city seeing places we would not have seen had we not gotten lost. I took this thought with me the rest of the trip.

Once we found our way again, we headed over to Portobello Market.

Portobello Market

4 out of 5 stars

If you enjoy shopping around at various market stands, hearing lots of live music, people watching, and trying unique foods, Portobello Market is for you! It is only open on Saturdays which makes it very crowded, but it is well worth the visit. We actually didn’t spend much time shopping or trying foods because of the crowds, but it was a fun experience to just walk through everything. On the way back to the tube from the market, we passed through Notting Hill – a very upscale and beautiful neighborhood. It was fun to see the big houses and all the fancy cars parked on the street.

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These two were lip syncing and air guitaring for hours. It was hilarious!

British Museum

4 out of 5 stars

Our next stop was the British Museum. When you first walk into the museum, you enter a beautiful atrium with a glass roof. From there, you can pick which exhibits and parts of the museum you’d like to visit. A few of the highlights from our visit include Cleopatra’s mummy, the Rosetta Stone, and one of the Easter Island statues. There were many, many exhibits that we did not have time to visit, so we will have to return someday!

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The museum is free and open everyday from 10am to 5:30pm.

London Review Bookshop

Daniel and I always make a point to visit local bookstores whenever we travel. We found this one near the British Museum. It was a neat little shop with a small cafe attached to it – be sure to visit if you like to see local bookshops!

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Day 4

On our final day in London, we had a packed schedule. As usual, time and energy limitations from earlier in the trip had forced us to put many of our “must-sees” on our list of activities for the final day.

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre

4 out of 5 stars

Our first stop of the day was at the Globe Theatre. We did a 10am tour after exploring the Exhibition. The Exhibition gave a very interesting overview of Shakespeare’s life and the history of the Globe Theatre. Our tour lasted for about an hour, and we really enjoyed it; our guide took us into the main part of the theater and talked about many interesting facts about the past as well as how the theater is used today. Unfortunately, the play that was showing at the time (Titus Andronicus) involved a solid black background, so the detailing and color of the stage were covered by giant black sheets as you can see in the pictures. We did get to see the stage manager crawl through the trap door in the stage as he was setting up for that evening’s show, so that was fun to watch.

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The Exhibition is open every day from 9am to 5:30pm, and tours are given every half hour on Mondays, 9:30am to 5pm; Tuesdays through Saturdays, 9:30am to 12:30pm; and Sundays, 9:30am to 11:30am. Tickets are £13.50 per adult, but we got them “buy-one-get-one-free”! I will explain in my future Planning London post what we did to get this deal.

Tower of London/Crown Jewels

5 out of 5 stars

Our next stop was the Tower of London! Let me tell you, this was much different than what I had imagined. The main surprise for me was that the Tower is not just one tower. It’s a fortress with multiple towers, none of which were as tall as I expected. Our guide was an actual Beefeater who lives in the Tower of London. This is going to show my ignorance of English history, but right up until before I wrote this section of this post, I thought our guide was just playing a part. But no! My all-knowing husband informed me that he was an actual Beefeater, and he did in fact actually live there. So, obviously, this guy knew his facts and stories! His stories were very gory and violent in a humorous kind of way. Just in case you are considering bringing kids, I’m not sure that I would bring them on this tour unless they have a strong sense of humor and can stomach graphic, violent stories of beheadings and torture. I learned a lot of history and interesting information, and I highly recommend this tour on any trip to London.

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Our Beefeater tour guide

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Tower Bridge

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Knight Exhibit in part of the Tower

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The Beefeaters keep ravens on the property because of legend that says “if the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it.”

The Crown Jewels are displayed in an exhibit inside of the Tower and are guarded by the Beefeaters. The Crown Jewels are the regalia or objects involved with the coronations of English Kings and Queens. The current display was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in 1994. It was neat to see such treasured objects up close and in person.

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The Tower admission price is £22 per adult, but once again, we got a “buy-one-get-one-free” deal. It is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9am to 5:30pm and Monday through Sunday 10am to 5:30pm. They close an hour earlier during winter (November through February).

Kensington Palace

3 out of 5 stars

Kensington Palace is the royal residence of Will and Kate. Obviously, we did not tour their actual home, but there is a whole side of the palace that is open to the public. There were four different exhibits: the King’s State Apartments, the Queen’s State Apartments, Victoria Revealed, and Fashion Rules. Each section focused on a different royal family or a different piece of history. Overall, I enjoyed our time there, but we found one of the exhibits to be a bit strange; in the Queen’s State Apartments, there was an exhibit focused on Queen Mary II. It consisted of a long dream sequence with paper birds hanging from the ceiling and whispering voices echoing throughout the halls. There was even a room filled with lit birdhouses that was very pretty (see picture below) but didn’t seem to make a lot of sense for a palace exhibit. We really enjoyed and learned a lot from the other exhibits in the palace. I would recommend taking the time to come to this palace, but if you are short on time, you could skip the Mary II exhibit and not miss out on much.

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Palace admission is £16.50 per adult, and it is open daily from 10am to 6pm, and the last time to get in is 5pm.

Kensington Gardens & Hyde Park

 5 out of 5 stars

After a long day of touring historical buildings and gaining a wealth of knowledge, it was time to wander around a couple of gorgeous parks filled with gardens, ponds, and fountains. Kensington Gardens begins right behind Kensington Palace and extends for 242 acres (!!), eventually turning into Hyde Park. We found the well-known Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens and enjoyed the nice weather and people watching. At this point, we were killing time before meeting Daniel’s co-worker for dinner nearby, so we got to spend quite a bit of time exploring the parks. Spending time in both of these parks is a “must-do” in London!

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After going to a cute British pub for dinner, we walked around with Daniel’s coworker and friend Jonathan, got gelato, and took pictures of the beautiful buildings at night. Then it was time to pack and get ready for our train to Paris the next morning!

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I’ll be back – hopefully sooner rather than later – with a couple more posts on London, and then I’ll get to my posts about Paris! Thanks for reading!

Weekly Wishes #22

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Like I mentioned in last week’s post, I’m doing the Weekly Wishes link-up with the Nectar Collective a little bit differently – at least for the time being. I’m going to be tracking my progress for my month goals each week rather than create new goals for every week. This has definitely helped me take my goals more seriously so far.

Why is June in such a hurry? Slow downI just have one more week to reach my goals for the month, and then it’s time for a new set already.

Progress on June Goals:

1. Read three books. I’m quickly reading to reach this goal. I’m almost done with book #2 (The Fault in Our Stars).

2. Clean out my closet and get rid of clothes I no longer wear. I have started this. I went through all of my clothes that are hanging, and I made a pile of things to donate. I still need to go through the shelves and bins.

3. Make a game plan for revamping my blog design and layout. Like I mentioned last week, I’ve got plans on paper. Daniel and I will tackle the actual update in July.

4. Create my April Project Life layout. I ordered my prints, and I will pick them up this weekend to do the actual layout.

5. Organize my blog feed. I’m actually working on this right now and hope to finish after I publish this post.

 

Weekly Wishes is a link-up hosted by The Nectar Collective.

The Sunday Currently, Volume 30

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Saturday’s brunch

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Our team at this morning’s Cure HHT Walk

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Beautiful morning in DC

Happy Summer! While summer is not typically one of my favorite seasons, there are so many things about it that I really enjoy: bright colors, pool time, vacations, summer reads, sundresses, cold drinks, etc. We celebrated summer by eating crepes for Saturday brunch at a French cafe in Old Town, attending a going away party for a friend in our church small group last night, participating in the Cure HHT Walk in DC this morning, and enjoying a tasty tex-mex lunch at Austin Grill (after which I may have squeezed in a nap). Now for a night in of blogging, reading, and possibly watching another episode of True Detective.

Currently… 

Reading  The Fault in Our Stars. I have not read it before, and I am determined to read it before seeing the movie. So far, it’s really great, and it will be a quick read for sure. I finished Out of the Easy earlier this week – I really enjoyed reading the book, but I thought that the ending was too sudden like the author was rushing to finish it. I would definitely still recommend it as a good summer read though.

Writing  a posting plan in my planner. I’m really behind on some blog posts I had hoped to do at this point, but all of my traveling has kept me from my plan. Even though I’ve got some more travel in the near future, I’m going to try to stick with my plan from here on out.

Listening  to Ed Sheeran on Pandora. I’m really looking forward to his new album that comes out tomorrow!

Thinking  that I’m determined to get back into a work-out routine this week. I love going to classes at my gym, but I’m realizing that I’m way too dependent on them for my workouts. If I can’t make a certain class time, then I just won’t work out that day. There are too many great alternatives for me to make this my excuse – I have seen so many blog posts about fun at-home workout options lately that I need to start taking advantage of. Do you have any specific suggestions for workout DVDs or YouTube channels that I should start with?

Smelling  our Cinnamon Sugared Donut candle from Bath & Body Works. It’s almost out, and that is the last of our candles. For now…

Hoping  that I don’t regret the rather large Bath & Body Works online purchase I just made. They are having their Semi-Annual Sale which means their three wick candles are half off and their bath and body products are buy-two-get-one-free. I couldn’t resist some of their new amazing summer fragrances, and, like I mentioned in “smelling” above, we are almost out of candles!

Wearing  comfy shorts and a t-shirt

Loving  this relaxed summer weekend at home

Wanting  to figure out what’s for dinner tonight. Daniel ran to Trader Joe’s for our groceries for the week, and we have quite the fun selection of dinner items to choose from.

Needing  a bit more motivation tonight. I feel like being lazy and just watching TV and YouTube, but I can’t!

Feeling  kind of strange. It was a good weekend, but I still feel like I have not gotten enough done at this point. Trying not to be too hard on myself….

Clicking  on some of my favorite blogs

 

This post is for the TSC blog link up at siddathornton. Share yours and link it up!

Click here to see all of my The Sunday Currently posts.

Home Sweet Texas: Wedding Time

Part one of my trip to Texas was spent mostly with my family in Waco. Part two of my trip to Texas was mostly dedicated to wedding preparations and celebrations for my high school friend Shannon. Here are some pictures and captions of the wedding weekend!

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Bachelorette Party time at Joe T’s!

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High school friend reunion

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The entire bridal party!

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Back at the house where we stayed, the living room and kitchen were decorated with fun, girly decorations, including a giant MRS balloon.

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Friday brunch at Mimi’s Cafe, a favorite of mine

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Relaxing at the house and so excited for the wedding!

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At the rehearsal dinner. Note the adorable picture of the bride and groom in the background!

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The morning of the wedding, we gave Shannon a scrapbook with pages of pictures and notes from each bridesmaid.

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Joined by another lovely high school friend (Jennifer) at the wedding reception

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I don’t have permission to snatch any of the photos of the wedding taken by Shannon’s photographer, but I did take a picture of her bridal portrait so that I could share how beautiful she looked! She was a stunning bride.

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Pappadeux’s after the wedding with a big group of high school friends. This is me, Becca, Jennifer, and Kim.

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That takes us through Saturday! Unfortunately, I forgot to take pictures the rest of our time in Texas. On Sunday, we spent the whole day with Daniel’s family celebrating Fathers’ Day, and Monday we both worked in the morning, packed our bags, and flew home. Unfortunately, our flight was delayed and Daniel’s bag was lost, so the trip didn’t end on a high note. BUT Daniel’s bag was returned to us today, and we have wonderful, wonderful memories from the weekend.