Our second European adventure together brought us to London for a five-day weekend. We spent the first half of our stay pretty close to our home base in the neighborhood of Pimlico.
A lot of the city’s major tourist sights are in a relatively small area west of downtown. Our first destination was Buckingham Palace and then we made a loop through St. James Park to Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster just in time to hear Big Ben ring!
On the first leg of our journey from Boston to Reykjavik we had to gate check our carry on which was too large by European airline standards. In the chaos of the moment, Rico forgot to grab his wallet and thought he may have told the flight attendant the incorrect final destination for the bag. After a 2-hour layover in Iceland without money to buy breakfast, we were relieved to find out that our bag was in fact going to end up at Heathrow with us.
While we were still on edge about our experience and tired from our sleepless night on the plane upon arriving at our apartment, it was finally seeing these iconic sights that helped us replace our exhaustion with excitement. It’s all we needed to get a second wind and into adventure mode. Onward!
We made a point to walk along the south bank of the Thames on our search for dinner. It was perfect timing as the sun was setting across the river behind the Palace of Westminster. Also noteworthy this evening was the surprisingly mild weather which made for perfect strolling conditions!
After stumbling on a delicious Mexican tapas place for dinner, we made our way with full bellies toward the London Eye. At this point the sun was completely gone from the sky and you could see the lit up skyline of downtown London across the river. How could we not drop the exorbitant price of admission to take a ride up into the clear evening sky!? It was certainly a great way to acquaint ourselves with the city from above on our first day.
The next day we ventured off a bit further toward the hip and artsy neighborhood of Shoreditch. With quick stops at the Tower of London (which, to our surprise, is actually a castle) and Tower Bridge, we continued on through the financial district to visit Whitechapel Gallery, one of the area’s many contemporary art galleries.
A short walk from the gallery is Brick Lane, an epicenter of south central Asian culture in the UK. Street signs read in both English and Bengali, and the bustling thoroughfare is lined with curry house after curry house, all with hosts outside the front door offering “special” discounts to unsuspecting passersby in hopes of securing their patronage. We stopped into a basement-level vintage shop with racks of raggedy clothing and a collection of dusty vinyls before caving in to a delicious dinner of curry chicken, butter chicken, samosas, and naan bread.
We made the journey back to our apartment to rest up for an exciting second half of the trip, which would be spent exploring some farther flung parts of the city.