I have lost track of the number of times I have traveled to London now. It is one of my favorite cities. Corey and I's latest trip began as many of my previous trips have. An early-morning arrival at Heathrow. After passing through customs and immigration, our first stop is the Virgin Atlantic Revivals Lounge. I have traveled thousands of miles over the years. My experience has taught me a hot shower, and breakfast upon arrival do wonders for starting the day in a new city.
Feeling revitalized, we continue our journey into the city. Our intentional delay in leaving the airport allows the 8 am rush of arrivals to clear out of the train system. Traveling into the city at an off-peak time is a less chaotic experience.
There are many options for getting from Heathrow into London. Having tried many different options, Heathrow Express what I prefer. The mobile app makes purchasing tickets easy. If you purchase them in advance, you can take advantage of a discount and not have to spend time at the kiosk to buy a ticket. A quick 15 minutes later and we were in the city at Paddington Station.
From Paddington, it is a quick ride on the London Underground to our hotel. The Tube, as it is known, is the best way to get around London. There are easy to navigate kiosks to purchase tickets, but the easy way is to set up an Oyster account online and configure your phone for contactless payments. With this setup, there is no time wasted in lines trying to navigate the kiosk menus. Open your wallet app on your phone and tap the contact on the entry and exit stalls.
Where to Stay
There is no shortage of lodging options in London. Through all of my travels during my corporate career, I have stayed at Marriott brand hotels. My Marriott loyalty status means when Corey and I travel, we stay at Marriott properties when we can. For this trip, we stayed at the London EDITION hotel.
Located on the edge of Soho, the EDITION is a boutique hotel with an Edwardian architecturally styled exterior contrasted by contemporary room décor. It is also conveniently located a short walk from the famed Oxford Circus and multiple Tube stations. We arrived a bit too early to check into our rooms, so we dropped our bags with the front desk and headed out to explore the city.
See and Do
It would take weeks to see and do all of the things London has to offer. It might not even be possible. This is why every time I go back, I get to explore something new. Since it was Corey's first trip, we started at the prominent first stop the Tower of London. Before diving into some of the individual sights, there are a few things I have found to be universal. Before setting out for any of the museums, put a pair of headphones in your pocket/purse/fanny pack. Even though all of the museum plaques will be in English, I have found that the audio guides improve the experience.
I love the Tower for many different reasons, but I really like the contrast of the stone from the Tower against the modern buildings encased in glass and steel that and sprouted around it. Just as with the Tube, a bit of planning can yield some savings. While purchasing tickets at the gate is a painless process, purchasing them ahead of time can save a bit of money. If you are considering visiting any of the other six Historic Royal Palaces like Kensington Palace or Hampton Court Palace, be sure to check out a Membership. It could save you even more and give you additional discounts on purchases in the shops, cafes, and restaurants.
Ever 30 minutes, a Yeoman Warder tour departs, and I recommend following along as the stories they can tell about the Tower are fascinating. After a visit through the vault to see the Crown Jewels, we were both famished. We popped into the café at the Tower for tea and a scone. My love of food means that I am always interested in a snack, and I'm shocked that I have yet to adopt this delicious tradition of afternoon tea.
After our time at the Tower, we took a stroll down the River Thames, eventually making our way to St. Paul's Cathedral. Just like the Tower, purchasing a ticket in advance can save you a few Pounds. Pull out those headphones you brought along and grab an audio guide. After a lap around the main level, I recommend heading up to the Whispering Gallery and then to the Golden Galleries. A tragic accident just before our visit had the Whispering Gallery closed, so we proceeded to climb the steps to the Golden Gallery. The view from Golden Gallery is spectacular, with landmarks across the iconic London skyline visible in every direction. After climbing numerous steps and walking almost 12 miles, it was time for dinner.
While we were headed for Dishoom for dinner, The list of things we wanted to do was long and distinguished. In the coming days, we would visit the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum, and The British Museum. All of which had free entry. Each of these could easily consume an entire day even to scratch the surface.
Where to Eat
Growing up in New Orleans, food played a central role in almost everything. When I travel, I am always in search of unique places to eat. It just so happens that one of my favorite restaurants in the world is in London.
I was introduced to Dishoom by a co-worker from Microsoft on a business trip. Now every time I go to London, it tops the list of essential stops I must make. On my shortlist for ordering is the Okra Fries, Spicy Lamb Chops, and the Chicken Berry Britannia. Dishoom does not take reservations, and it is trendy so be prepared for a wait. While I have only been to the Kings Cross location, I have heard the other restaurants are just as popular. Be prepared to wait in line outside for an hour or more. Even the wait in line can be pleasant as they offer glasses of warm chai while you wait. My mouth is watering just thinking about the smells and tastes.
Jetlag had us up early, so Corey and I ventured out to try an take some sunrise pictures of London City Hall and Tower Bridge. After the security guards shooed me and my tripod off, we wandered down through Borough Market. The vendors were just setting up for the day. We ended up at The Breakfast Club, where we filled up in preparation for a day of museums and attractions. While I'm always a sucker for a classic English breakfast, checkout the Butternut Shakshuka Benedict. Its spices were just the thing to warm me up after a chilly morning, begging the weather to give us a good sunrise.
While a departure from London always makes me a bit sad, our next adventure awaited. We headed to Kings Cross Station to board a northbound train to Edinburg, Scotland. What are your favorite things to do in London? Leave us a comment below and let me know. If you are interested in purchasing any prints of the images of London, be sure to check my store. If you enjoyed the video at the beginning of this post, please consider subscribing to my YouTube channel.