Somehow, my trip has come to an end. Months ago as I planned the summer-long journey, I decided to make London my final stop before hopping back across the Atlantic. I’ve found so many other parts of my planning-related aspects of my trip to be serendipitous, and my visit to London was no exception. As Nat lives just outside of London, I was so excited to spend a few more days with him after our adventures in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, and France earlier in the summer. Nat was absolutely the perfect London guide, and the last few days have flown by. I only wish I had known to plan more time in London months ago when I was booking flights, but we made the most of my time there!
After a quick flight from Vienna to London, Nat picked me up Monday night and we made our way to the quaint town of Potter’s Bar, where we watched the Olympics and I reunited with my long lost bag! The next morning, we set out for London. Nat surprised me with tickets for the London Eye, as well as a room at the Citizen M Tower Bridge hotel for our nights in London with a flawless view of the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge!
After checking in and enjoying our complimentary drinks, we made our way across the Tower Bridge, along the Thames, towards a quick stop for lunch and a beautiful ride on the
London Eye. I never would have done this by myself, so I am so glad Nat had this idea and surprised me with it!
After the London Eye, we made some quick calls from an iconic London phone booth before exploring the Big Ben and Westminster Abbey areas. Later, we made our way to drinks at the Sky Garden bar, located at the top of The Shard (the “cheese grater” building) in London. This place houses a large indoor garden and has a beautiful view of London below.
The next day, we visited the Tate Modern Art Museum where we enjoyed several well known pieces, like The Snail by Matisse, as well as a lot of random art. Then we made our way to the Globe theater, which is somewhere I’ve always wanted to visit! Even though today’s version is a modern replica, it was amazing to learn more about how the theater played a role in the everyday lives of Londoners in Elizabethan times, and also how tough life was at that time. Apparently people only bathed twice a year, so it seems like coming to the plays was a welcomed distraction from the roughness of reality. The “groundlings” were the people who would pay 1 pence to be able to stand on the floor, and I learned they were very much part of the plays (almost like a sporting event!) It also stood out to me how Shakespeare was truly in touch with all levels of society–his plays regularly entertained and involved the “groundlings” and he was also invited to court by Elizabeth I multiple times.
After the Globe, I enjoyed my first experience at Cheeky Nando’s.
Then, we made our way to Trafalgar Square (Nat is related to Lord Admiral Nelson at the top of the column, so we took a picture!) and then to the National Portrait Gallery. So many of the pictures’ captions included stories about scandals related to the portraits’ subjects, so it was quite entertaining to walk through!
Then, we walked past Buckingham Palace as well as the former residences of Ben Franklin, Heinrich Heine, and Herman Melville. After relaxing a bit and watching Great Britain win gold and the USA win silver in men’s diving, we went to dinner at the French restaurant Clos Maggiore in the Covent Garden area. The small dining room had a glass roof and the room was filled with flowers. It was beautiful!!
The next day, we visited the Churchill War Rooms (thanks for the recommendation, Hillary!). This museum shows the preserved bunker for Churchill and his war cabinet during WWII and includes an extensive museum on Churchill and his life. Nat and I both enjoyed it a lot and left with an even deeper respect for Churchill and understanding of the complexity of his life and work.
After an Asian lunch (throwback to earlier in the summer for us!) we went to the British Museum. We saw the Rosetta Stone, as well as several artifacts from ancient Egypt, Africa, and Native America. We also looked at their coin collections, as Nat collects coins!
Afterwards, we made our way back to our hotel, where I had one of the main highlights of my London trip! My friend Amber, who I had traveled in Africa with back in December, met up with us for a drink. It was so amazing to not only see her and catch up, but to see her on the last night of my travels. It was very much a full circle moment for me. Amber, along with my friend D.J. from TFA, has been 1 of the 2 single-most influential friends when it came to planning and executing my round-the-world trip. I find Amber’s story, which involves losing a significant amount of weight and then traveling the world for 14 months, so powerful, and I’m thrilled to learn she is writing about it!! Stay tuned…I can’t wait for her story to further inspire others to travel!
While (in my opinion) London is not as beautiful or as cheap as other European cities I’ve visited this summer, I still found myself feeling at home during the last few days. On one hand, London reminds me a lot of New York. On the other hand, I was with Nat the entire time and felt very comfortable. I couldn’t help but feel sad at different intervals throughout the visit–as much as London reminded me of New York, it was a reminder that my travels were coming to an end so soon.
Yes, I know that the end of every adventure is the beginning of a new one, but I’m not ready for this one to end!