This post is the fifth in a 6-part series where I want to share the knowledge, experience and insight I acquired while planning and executing this trip. If you missed them, you can read Parts 1~4 by clicking on the links below.
Where We Stayed
The Marlin Waterloo is just minutes away from the London Eye in the South Bank area of the city and a short walk to/from the train station. This hotel was not exactly what we were expecting. The room was nice but a little on the small size. It was clean though (which is very important to us regardless of where we are in the world) and it met our needs as far as a place to sleep and shower. One interesting feature of the room was it had a small kitchen. We knew this in advance from our booking information but what we did not know was, the hotel does not have a restaurant. They do have a bar/pub but they do not serve food of any kind on the premises; including NO room-service. If that works for you, ok, but we were a little taken aback and for this fact alone, we would not stay here again. In addition to no room-service, we asked the hotel to call us a taxi (you know – those cute little taxis you seeing driving all around London) to take us to our dinner plans. After waiting over 30 minutes, the front desk assured us the taxi was on its way but instead, a car-service is what showed up. Now, because we ordered it through the front desk, we were paying for it whether we took the car or not and since the car service was late, we took it anyway so as not to be late for our dinner reservations. We were not at all happy with the way this was handled.
The room we booked was a Deluxe Studio Queen room. It had a Queen bed and a pullout for our third person.
Where We Ate
One of our favorite stops in London was Honest Burgers. We ate at the South Bank location.
What We Ordered
- South Bank Burger (Honest beef, smoked bacon, Waterloo cheese, garlic pickle, red onion and baby spinach). This is only available at the South Bank location.
- Spring Burger (Honest beef, organic bacon, Extra-Mature Montgomery’s Cheddar, wild garlic pesto, rocket and pickles) with rosemary chips.
- We also had their Mint Lemonade (this was lovely)!
A special treat on this trip was dining at Michelin-starred Galvin La Chapelle. They serve a traditional-yet-modern French menu.
What We Ordered
Of course, we made a number of stops at the local Starbucks . . .
On our way out (at the airport), we ate at a place called Wagamama.
What We Ordered
We also ordered an English Breakfast. It was so good, we ate it all before got a picture!
What We Did
The London Eye is one of the most famous London landmarks. Located on the South Bank and surrounded by the river Thames, the London Eye is also known as the Millennium Wheel. It stands 135 meters (about 443 feet) high.
Big Ben is the nickname for The Great Bell of Westminster. It is one of the most recognizable sights in London. As you can see, it was undergoing repairs while we were there, which was a bit disappointing. I guess we will have to go back to London when repairs are complete.
Built in the 14th century to house the treasures of Edward III, it is one of the four surviving sections of the Medieval Palace of Westminster.
Piccadilly Square is located at the junction of five busy streets (Regent Street, Shaftesbury Avenue, Piccadilly Street, Coventry Street and Haymarkt). This is one of the busiest squares in the heart of London.
Horse Guard Parade at Whitehall is a parade ground in London used for royal parades and ceremonies.
I tried to get into the street for a better picture but . . . my travel companions were concerned for my safety. This was the best shot I could get.
The Burghers of Calais represents the idea of freedom from oppression. It tells the story of the siege of Calais in 1347; during the Hundred Year War.
Abraham Lincoln Statue, located on Parliament Square, is one of 12 statues of British Commonwealth and foreign political figures.
Of course, we had to do some shopping . . .
We also wandered around the shops on Carnaby Street. At Harrod’s, I highly recommend you try the Champagne Truffles.
How We Traveled
We flew from Prague into the London (Gatwick) airport so we had a good 45 minute train ride into the city. To use the transit system, you will need to buy an Oyster Card.
We left London the same way we arrived; by plane through Gatwick.
This was my first trip to London and I was really looking forward to seeing Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the London Eye – to name a few highlights. I did enjoy myself. I had some good food and saw some wonderful historic sites. I would not recommend the hotel we stayed at for the reasons stated above. I would recommend every place we ate and to see all the sites listed above. If you have more time, of course, see more, do more, explorer more. The shopping in London was good. I highly recommend the Champagne Truffles from Harrod’s. The Tube (train) was an interesting experience and highly recommend giving that a try. Overall, London was my least favorite stop on our 5-city / 5-country journey, however, I would go back again.
To be honest, London was not very high on my list of places to visit but planning this trip was a group effort and I got out-voted. Well, that is not totally accurate. All kidding aside here, London was a pleasant surprise for me. I knew it would be full of rich history and culture but I had no idea how massive and impressive the city was. Any pictures you see of London will not do the real thing justice. This is a place you just have to go and see for yourself.
As mentioned already, the hotel (Marlin Waterloo) was a bit disappointing. It was a place to put my head down and otherwise unimpressive. The food, of course, was amazing with the highlight being our meal at Galvin La Chapelle. I have a cousin who lives in London that I have not seen in probably 40 years. It was nice to reconnect with him, share a meal together and tell stories about our [angry] Hungarian family. We had a good time of fellowship and conversation.
When you hear the word “London”, many of us will immediately get a mental picture of something. Perhaps you think about those cool-looking taxis or the guards standing outside Buckingham Palace wearing those funny hats. Perhaps it is a picture of Big Ben or some memory about England from your History book (think: Boston Tea Party). Whatever comes to your mind, it simply does not compare to seeing it in real life. This is a massive city with more culture and history than a person can take in on a quick trip. If you come to London, plan to stay a while. Get yourself an Oyster Card (for The Tube), take your time and explore all that this city has to offer. You will not be disappointed.
This was not my first time in London. I visited a couple of times before and done various activities throughout the city. It does not matter how many times I visit this city, I am still impressed by the history and the sites the city has to offer. From Big Ben to the Palace, there is so much history to be seen and it is amazing to walk the same streets as some of history’s biggest names. I love the people, using The Tube and overall, the city itself. I would visit London over and over for it is full of surprises and amazing experiences.
Be sure to keep an eye out for our last post in this European vacation series where we will discuss some travel tips and talk about some of our “lessons learned”.