Two weeks ago I was in London on a surprise vacation for my “LLL” (Lifetime Leading Lady) 30th birthday. About 2 months prior her husband had texted me and said, “How would you like to surprise Kristin for her 30th birthday in London?” It took me about 5 seconds to type the word “YES” and about 5 minutes to book my roundtrip ticket. I’ll be honest, this wasn’t my first opportunity in life to spend some time in London. I’d first been presented with an opportunity to intern there when I was in college, but at the time I was so poor that I never could make the trip work. There was no way I was going to let this moment pass me by a 2nd time!
Since this was a surprise visit we planned very little up front and had no agenda, or trip itinerary. I can now confirm that London is indeed one of those cities that you do not need an agenda for in order to have fun. We found something new and fun to do every single day and when I left I felt like there was still so much left for me to see. The history, culture, lights, shopping, food, people … I loved it all. There wasn’t a single moment of the trip that I disliked.
In order to make this blog post manageable (and readable – you’re welcome), I’ve narrowed my London list down to my Top 10 favorite experiences:
1 – Westminster Abbey
One of my personal missions was to walk in Catherine’s footsteps and turn around, look down the quire and nave, and remember what I felt on the day of my wedding. I wonder, did she feel the same feelings that I felt? A sense of calm, joy, and love? I remember waking early on my own wedding day, watching the Royal wedding and then walking down my own aisle a few hours later. What a blessing it must be to have been surrounded by your history and lineage on your wedding day, and celebrated in a place that you once mourned for your mother’s death (Diana). Not to mention Poet’s corner where poet’s and writers are buried or memorialized like Chaucer, Dickens, Austen, Bronte, Keats, C.S. Lewis, Shakespeare, etc. Neat!
2 – Changing the Guard at Buckingham Palace
I loved the pomp and circumstance of the Queen’s changing guard in front of Buckingham Palace. We sure had to fight for a good view, but it was worth it. The uniforms, the march, the music, and tradition. Changing the Guard is when the replacement guards march in to relieve the existing standing guards outside of Buckingham Palace, but in a parade-like fashion.
3 – Tower of London
The Tower of London is where it is at! You want to know about London and the start of it’s history? Tower of London is where you start. Not only do you get an in depth history and tour from a knowledgable “Beefeater”, but you can even visit the Crown Jewels and the largest diamond in the world. You also get spectacular views of the Tower Bridge (pictured below).
4 – Mass at St. Paul’s Cathedral
On Sunday of our trip we attended Choral Evensong, a sung mass. It was beautiful and literally brought tears to my eyes, just the thought brings tears to my eyes. I don’t know if it was the magnificent beauty of the cathedral, the voices that came together to create a magnificent sound, or the profound sermon, but it was really all quite lovely and an experience that I will never forget.
5 – Stratford-upon-Avon – Shakespeare’s Birthplace
Need I say more? Seeing Shakespeares birthplace and home (though mostly reconstructed) was neat. The town was also very quaint and totally worth a short day trip.
6 – Leed’s Castle
Located in Kent, England, this restored castle fulfilled my Downton desire. Built in 1119 and last owned and renovated by Lady Baillie, an heiress, the castle was eventually opened to the public in the late 1970s. Can you imagine walking through a castle built almost a thousand years ago? Yeah, it’s pretty cool.
7 – Portobello Market and Notting Hill
In Notting Hill is the famous Portobello Market. I loved walking the streets in the cool brisk winter air, popping in and out of unique shops, smelling croissants as you passed an open door of a patisserie, and talking to a local artist about what inspired her motivational book art. It was more than I’d imagined after watching Notting Hill years ago, though, we never did find a travel book store, a man in scuba gear, or Hugh Grant. Maybe next time.
8 – Warwick Castle
Another castle, but with Madame Tussauds (the real MTs) wax figures in all the rooms to depict a scene of what would have taken place in any given space. It was smart, and really cool.
9 – Kensington Palace
For all I know Kate and William were in another room in the Palace watching reality BBC while I was walking through the public portion of their home viewing and taking photos of Princess Diana’s memorialized gowns. A girl can only dream.
10 – St. Pancras International Train Station
Though my Paris leg of my London trip was canceled, I did get to wonder and take photographs of this awe inspiring train station. I mean, wow. It felt very Harry Potter-esque.
Cheers! xoxo ‘n lols, crystal