London, the first leg of my three-week-long Europe trip, was unexpected. It was not part of the original #europebyaudrey destination list, but when cheap flights into Gatwick popped up, I booked them right away. We would fly to London, hop over to Ireland on RyanAir, and call it a day.
Same-day layover times didn't align, though, so I thought—why not stay a night or two in London? And alas...
We had thirty-six hours in London. We being myself and my sister Liz, who so graciously stepped in to travel with me for a week in place of Garrett, who just started a new job. Garrett joined me later in the trip, while Liz and I kicked it off with a whirlwind stop in London.
To plan, I turned to friends that lived there, The New York Times Travel Section article 36 Hours in London, Pinterest, and a slew of Instagram accounts to build out the best possible itinerary for the best possible experience tailored to my liking (pretty architecture! old bookstores! high tea! old pubs!). Here's what I came up with...and what we actually accomplished below.
UK - London (July 1-3)
Saturday, July 1
Arrive in Gatwick and take the London Express to Victoria Station (non-stop, 40 minutes). Walk the 10 minutes to our our Pimlico Airbnb to shower, change, and unload luggage. Do not sleep. I repeat, do not sleep. Wake up with coffee from The Roasting, which is so delectably located right below our Airbnb.
Refuel with a late pub lunch at the Marquis of Westminster. Walk off said pub lunch by heading to Green Park to see Buckingham Palace, the gardens, and the guards in big hats. Touristy pictures with said guards are allowed.
Continue on to Covent Garden and seek out the colorful, quirky Neal's Yard. If the pub lunch didn't work out, or if you're just hungry again because #jetlag, grab a slice at Homeslice Pizza. Pop into the Cambridge Satchel Co. shop. Do not spend all of your trip savings here. It is your first day. You have twenty more.
Hungry again? Good. A 6:15 PM dinner reservation has been made at The Palomar. Yes, it's on the early side, but, well, jetlag. Eat all of the things, but do not eat yourself into a coma. There's one more stop on your list before the night's over—an 8:15 PM cocktail reservation at Cahoots, a 1940s-underground-themed cocktail bar.
Sunday, July 2
Build your energy for the day with a 9:00 AM brunch at the Cambridge Street Kitchen. Then walk the hour to Notting Hill, by way of Belgravia and Kensington Gardens.
Sober up by walking to the Palm Court at the Langham for a 2:45 PM high tea reservation. Remember to lift pinky when lifting tea cup. Add milk to tea after the tea has been poured, not before. Do not clatter cup on saucer. Do eat as many scones, and discreetly slip some into your bag, as possible.
Explore Marylebone until dinner, which is booked for 8:15 PM at the ever so posh Chiltern Firehouse .
Retire straight after the meal; you're flying to Ireland at 9:00 the next morning.
Our flight got into London a bit later than planned, so Liz and I had a short amount of time to explore before our dinner at the Palomar. The dinner was fantastic, by far one of the best meals that I had during my three weeks of travel. Dinner was followed by walking around Soho and Carnaby Street, which were both absolutely darling and full of so much love.
We then got a drink at Cahoots, the 1940s underground railway speakeasy, even though I totally messed up our reservation (read: 18:15 and 8:15 are not the same...#jetlag) and was extremely uncool about getting in (read: don't say "I have a reservation," instead ask for "the captain"). From there we walked through Mayfair and Westminster and happily landed upon Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately, the Queen did not ask us in for tea. We finished day 1 by walking back to Pimlico and passing out (albeit briefly) in bed.
Neither of us slept very well because of the jetlag, and, for me, excitement. I couldn't wait for the sun to come up so I could explore London more. Lizzie and I were out the door by 8:00 AM on Sunday morning. We explored more of Pimlico (so bright! so clean! so pleasant!) before sitting down to a full English breakfast at the adorable Cambridge Street Kitchen. After that we walked to Notting Hill by way of Belgravia and Kensington Gardens. I loved the wide streets and white columned homes of Belgravia.
Notting Hill was colorful, vibrant, and...crowded. We walked around the Portobello Market, stopped by the Churchill Arms for pictures (see below!), and then walked to Marylebone. Marylebone (and all of London, really) surprised us with its gourmet markets and health food stores...their wellness scene put San Francisco's to shame!
After Marylebone, Liz and I met up with our cousin Aisling and her boyfriend Tristan for tea at the Palm Court at the Langham Hotel. It was wonderful to catch up with Aisling over cucumber sandwiches and tea, and to rest our feet after so many hours of walking. One of my favorite parts about the trip was spending time with family...we hadn't seen many of our relatives for years but so easily connected with them. It was a nice feeling for sure.
Tea ended up lasting three hours and was more decadent than imagined...resulting in us canceling our coveted reservation at Chiltern Firehouse. Instead of eating more, we walked, and walked, and walked some more through Piccadilly to the Seven Dials and Neal's Yard. With tired feet, we hailed a cab, drove by Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, and called it a night.
London was lovely. I wish we had more time there, and I can't wait to go back. Lizzie and I both live in San Francisco now, so maybe London is the next city we'll take on together. She'll live in Marylebone, I'll live in Pimlico. I guess our husbands can come too.