During the Summer of 2018, I took a trip to a part of Europe with my family to celebrate my mom’s birthday, my brother’s start to senior year, and my college graduation gift. Just thinking about it now and reflecting back on it is so surreal. I thought I would be going to visit Europe later on in my lifetime, but it turned out to be sooner. There were two countries we had set for us: England & France. This post is solely going to focus on London, England because I want to share all the fun photos we took as well as what I experienced in certain areas! Shout out to my brother for being the best photographer.
If you are interested in going to visited London, here are some of my favorite places we did go to and a few notes about them! (Pictures will continuously be added here because I took a lot of the good photos on my mom’s phone (ﾉ◕ヮ◕)ﾉ*:･ﾟ✧ )
The Ruben’s at the Palace
This place felt like a hole in the wall. For some odd reason I was expecting some grandiose hotel with a large entry lobby with a regal vibe, but super spacious. I got regal, I did not get spacious. The hotel has its own charm and is beautiful overall. I also felt super biased because their signature is a red carnation (carnations are my favorite flowers). Like everything in London, it’s all side by side and compacted together. The hotel has depth as you go deeper in, but from the exterior you would not imagine the organization and complexity of the interior. The facade of the building makes it look like a simple apartment complex, but everything from the living quarters, the reception area, the dining room, the tea room, and the elevator are carefully and strategically sectioned off. Being in the actual hotel room was a surprise also, since three people were able to comfortably fit into one room.
The Tube and The Hop On, Hop Off Red Bus & River Cruise
These three are definitely must-do’s when you are in London and want to get around fast but want to see all the sights. The Tube is basically the underground public transit system that takes you to all of London. There’s stations roughly within two miles of each other and it makes it super easy and convenient to get around the city. A lot of people will use the Tube to get to and from work, which helps decrease the amount of traffic in the city. As for the Hop On, Hop Off Red Bus and River Cruise, these two go hand in hand with each other as long as your tickets are valid for both. The Bus has several routes going around London via side street and it is the famous big , double-decker red bus. A lot of the time we sat on the top floor of the bus to really enjoy the views around us. As for the River Cruise, this took us along the Thames River to see the sights. This was the best mode of transportation if you want to get a holistic view of Parliament, Big Ben, and The London Eye.
London Eye VS. Sky Garden
So disclaimer, I did not ride the London Eye. I was super sad because that is literally an icon of London. It was a thing I had to do, or so I thought. The London Eye is cool, no doubt. The concept of being in a pod with a bunch of other people getting a 360 degree of the entire city is impeccable and something you need to experience. BUT! You can also get the same thing for cheap at another place. Nestled in London, there is a place called the Sky Garden. It is located in the middle of London and it is the HIGHEST PUBLIC GARDEN IN LONDON. HIGHEST. PUBLIC. GARDEN. Do you realize how happy this makes me?! Number one. I love gardens. If a guy were to set up a picnic for me with music in the middle of a garden I would be the happiest girl in the world. Number two. I love views. Just seeing the world from another point of view and taking it all in is an amazing experience. I like day views, but I love night views so much more. There’s so much more to think about. Anyways, Sky Garden is the same thing as London Eye, except that you are on the top floor of the building and it is not moving anywhere. The place has two sets of main stairs on both sides of the garden, a bunch of luscious plants, two bars, and a fair amount of seating and walking space. It is BEAUTIFUL. Wherever you walked in the area, you saw a different view of London. Did I mention it is free??? Yes, entry is free. You just have to RSVP in advance on the website and they will provide you the tickets.
Tate Modern Museum
It was very hard to get good pictures at this place, but I loved the museum. They had a lot of modern art that was also interactive. The best part was definitely the swings that were outside of the entrance and a small room that had all these sayings on the wall. Here’s some pictures of the art I got a shot of and the interior of the building. I have a huge appreciation for architecture, so seeing the design of the building was amazing. I remember in college in my second year, we studied museums and why they were built a certain way. The designer of a museum would curate stories, themes, and thoughts when coming up with the concept of the building. Something that would unify the wings of a building, if not the entire structure. In this case, there were two sides to the building that were unified be a large, high-ceilinged central space.
Buckingham Palace + Royal Mews
One thing to note with this place, the Buckingham Palace in particular: you cannot take photos inside and you can only visit the interior during the summer season. I would assume it is because the Queen and her family vacation elsewhere or have other duties in another place while it is the summer time when there’s less tourists. The Royal Mews is half museum and half stable for the royal horses. This place holds all the carriages that carried royalty during their coronation ceremonies, parades, special events, and more. One cool thing, and we tried to do this, is see the royal horses take their exercise. According to the front door man at the hotel we stayed at, at 6 AM in the morning, the horses will take a ride around the palace exterior to get used to the route and be familiar with the roads. My parents and I were up for this and hauled butt down to the lobby at 5:45 AM in the morning. Unfortunately because there was rain, there were no horses for the morning. 10/10 would do this again and then go for a run just to find these horses. Another special event that happens at Buckingham Palace is the change of guard. Every morning at 11 AM there is a whole production where the guards of the palace (yes those men with the fluffy, tall, black hats and red suits that have no emotion) change shifts. The only time that I am aware of is at 11 AM. There are CROWDS. So if you want a good spot on the fountain, against the lining of the street, or at the gates, you best bet you better get there super early. There is a whole procession from a location I have yet to figure out to the front of the palace. Low-key it gets a little boring, but if you are interested in the process, what formalities they have to go through, and how many guards actually patrol the palace, come check this event out.
Trafalgar Square + National Gallery +Leicester Square
So we did not spend a lot of time in these areas, but I high key wish we did. If anything, the most time we spent was in the National Gallery where I got to see a lot of paintings by Monet and Van Gogh. These were paintings that I studied in HIGH SCHOOL. The fact that I got to see them in real life was unbelievable. When we were navigating through the place and finally got to the room for these particular artists, I just took a minute and sat down on a bench with my mouth gaping open and just taking in the art. I wanted to cry because it was so beautiful in person and in that moment, I missed painting and doing fine art. It was such a therapeutic practice and I feel like I took it for granted when I was younger. Maybe one of these days I’ll get back into painting and make something.
As for Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square, I wanted to just sit and live in the moment. Trafalgar was in front of the National Gallery and Leicester was going back towards our hotel. Both had so much LIFE. There were street performers everyone, people just sitting and eating their meal, and just really living in the moment. I met a girl the other day, and she was telling me how Leicester Square was the hub for theater, a similar vibe to that of America’s Broadway. These two places I will definitely come back and visit just to sit down and enjoy the scene for an hour or two.