London Calling! Growing up I listened to The Clash’s London Calling (thanks to my brother), and it still gives me good vibes, but this post will be about one of my favorite trips to London with my best friends.
We started early a Thursday morning and traveled from Stavanger to Heathrow London, my favorite airport (for shopping). We took the Heathrow Express to Paddington and then the Underground to High Street Kensington where we had our hotel, Kensington Close Hotel (now Holiday Inn London). Kensington is one of my favorite areas in London, so this was a perfect start for our London trip, with the Underground Station pretty close to our hotel.
My best friend had never been to London before, so I had planned a lot of sightseeing for us to make the most out of our days in the city. We started with Kensington Palace on our first day. Vi took the tour inside the Palace and stopped for lunch at the Kensington Palace cafe, followed by a walk in the garden.
Only the State Rooms are open to the public.
Kensington Palace has been a residence of the British Royal Family since the 17th century, and is currently the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Princess Kate). In 1981 the Palace became the London residence of the newly married Prince Charles and Princess Diana (Prince of Wales and Princess of Wales), and it remained the official residence of Princess Diana after their divorce until her death. Her sons, Prince William and Prince Harry were raised in Kensington Palace.
We saw a selections of Queen Elizabeth’s wardrobe from the 1950’s, Princess Margaret from the 1960 and 70’s and Diana, Princess of Wales from the 1980’s during their fashion heyday.
Diana, Princess of Wales, was one of the most adored members of the British royal family and one of most adored women in the world.
We did some strolling in Kensington High Street and dropped by some stores like Zara and Top Shop. My favorite store was the grocery store, the Whole Foods Market in Kensington High Street. We all love good food, and this store made me wanna live in London…..
We also walked down to Harrods and bought the best macaron ever at La Maison Du Chocolat. I do love the La Durèe macarons, but the La Maison’s are my favorites and I always by them when I’m in London. I bought the chocolate, coconut and raspberry and they were all so good.
In the evening we had dinner at the Cote Bistro a French restaurant at Kensington Court. For a moment we felt like we were in Paris.
The next day was our big sightseeing day and we started early with a morning run in Kensington Garden and Hyde Park. A perfect way to start the day, and male runners who passed us, said good morning ladies – people are so nice and polite in England.
After breakfast we headed down to the Somerset House, which is located on the banks of the Thames east of the Waterloo Bridge. The old Somerset House was a royal palace from 1553 to 1693. The original palace was demolished in 1775 and a replacement was built. The new Somerset House was deemed complete in 1801. Somerset House has been used as filming location in several well-known films like James Bond and The Duchess. Somerset House is now residence to a collection of creative organisations and artists, and the courtyard is also used as a concert venue.
After exploring the Somerset House we went over to the National Gallery and spent some time there looking at beautiful paintings of Rembrandt, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli and Raphael among others.
After some quiet time in the Gallery we went out in the streets again. We went down to see Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster better known as the House of Parliament. I think this is London’s most iconic landmark and a must-see of all London Attractions. The Palace of Westminster was originally a royal residence from the 11th century, and Westminster Hall is the oldest part of the estate from this century. In 1512 a fire destroyed the royal residence and in 1834 another fire destroyed most of the buildings in the palace, but Westminster Hall was saved. In 1840 the rebuilding of the Gothic-style palace started. I love the Gothic architecture and the Palace of Westminster is so amazing and beautiful.
All the sightseeing made us really hungry and we stopped by St Stevens Tavern in Westminster, for lunch. Since we were in a very traditional old English pub we just had to order Fish and Chips.
After lunch we walked over to Westminster Abbey, another amazing Gothic building from the 13th century. I have never been inside because it always look so crowded and I really can’t stand to stand in a line for a long time, so we just took our pictures outside and walked over to Downing Street.
It was not much to see since Downing street is closed for public, so we continued our walk into St James Park and up to Buckingham Palace.
Buckingham Palace is the residence of the reigning monarch, Queen Elisabeth II. It was originally known as Buckingham House, and it was a large townhouse built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703. It was acquired by King George III in 1761 as a private residence for Queen Charlotte and became known as The Queen’s House. During the 19th century it was enlarged with three wings around a central courtyard. Buckingham Palace became the principal royal residence in 1837, when Queen Victoria was the first monarch to reside there.
We then walked up to Wellington Arch. Wellington Arch was built as an original entrance to Buckingham Palace and located in front of the Palace. In 1882–83 the arch was moved a short distance to its present location on Hyde Park Corner. At this point we were pretty tired of all the sightseeing and walking so we took the underground back to our hotel.
In the evening we had dinner at Momo a Moroccan restaurant on Heddon Street, located right off Regent Street. The restaurant was beautiful and very exotic with Moroccan arched windows and rustic lanterns and we loved the authentic Moroccan food and vibe.
The third day we took the underground down to Borough Market. We spent some time here and did some eating of course.
We then walked along the river Thames to London Tower Bridge, another iconic London landmark.
The Shard – the tallest building in London.
After crossing the bridge we walked along the Tower of London.
We continued with the underground to St Paul’s Cathedral which is one of the most famous and most recognizable sights of London. Its dome which is 111 meters high, has dominated the skyline for over 300 years. The cathedral, dating from the late 17th century, was designed in Baroque style, and looks amazing. Princess Diana and Prince Charles wedding took place at St Paul’s Cathedral in 1981.
Late afternoon we dressed up and went to the Royal Garden Hotel in Kensington, for afternoon tea in the Park Terrace Lounge. We started with a glass of champagne accompanied by strawberries. We then had sandwiches, scones, delicate cakes and loose leaf tea. We were impressed by the teas and we liked that they brought over the teas in jars for us to smell and decide which one we liked. Afternoon Tea at the Royal Garden Hotel was a delight, the quality of service, the presentation and, most importantly, the ingredients used were excellent. This was my first afternoon tea in London, but not may last.
The next day we took the train out of London to explore an old castle. This was a dream come true for me, since I have wanted to explore castles in England since I was young. I will write more about this in my next post. In the evening we had dinner at the Royal Garden Min Jiang restaurant, London’s most authentic Chinese restaurant. It is located on our tenth floor with breathtaking views of Hyde Park and the London skyline. We had the Peking Duck and it was so good.
Great view from the restaurant.
After dinner we went for a walk up to Notting Hill. I love this part of London, but it was a little bit late to do a lot of exploring of the area.
And last, Happy New Year!
Thank you for reading!