Oh, how we loved London – we had such a jolly good time! Four days was not enough but we sure crammed in as much as we could. The weather was absolutely perfect and definitely added to the WOW factor.
We stayed in a lovely, central hotel near the Paddington Train Station. The room was very comfortable and was large compared to the one we stayed in 25 years ago. There were some good restaurants and pubs nearby, and great ones, just a short walk. A few blocks away was Hyde Park; a busy, beautiful and huge park that served as an enjoyable shortcut on several walks.
From our hotel window:
Kensington Gardens and Palace
Within Kensington Gardens is the royal residence, Kensington Palace. Currently it is the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Gloucester, and Kent, as well as Princess Eugenie and her hubby.
Buckingham Palace, the London residence of Her Majesty The Queen, is one of the few working royal palaces left in the world. There are few ways to tell if the Queen is home; if the Royal Standard is flying over the palace, she’s home. If it’s the Union Jack, she’s out. Four Foot Guards in front of the palace indicates she’s in, two she’s out.
Westminster Palace and Abbey (It is highly possible I have these mixed up). The Palace of Westminster is more commonly known as the Houses of Parliament, and is on the bank of the River Thames. Massive!
Westminster Abbey is a large, gothic church near the Palace.
Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace. Sadly, during our visit, Big Ben was undergoing a four year reno which included silencing the bells until completion in the 2020’s.
Food and Beverages
Unbeknownst to me, the English love more than just their pints; they also love GIN! Most of the pubs we visited had separate and elaborate Gin Cocktail menus. I enjoyed the most fantastic, flavourful and fragrant grapefruit craft gin so much so, my standard G&T’s will no longer be extraordinary. The craft gin boom in England has put them in first place over Scotland for the number of distilleries – for the first time ever. Cheers!
There are no shortages of restaurants in London and we saw many kinds in many neighbourhoods. We had a great Japanese meal in Soho after our music tours. In the pubs in the heart of downtown we saw patrons standing room only outside in very large groups. Closer to our hotel, the outside pub tables were starting to get some use (or smashed as described by our server) with the arrival of the good weather. Our first meal in London was a shared enjoyable fish sandwich with chips. Breakfasts usually come with beans and chips (fries) or black pudding, which I will never get used to. We finally figured out you order your drinks at the counter or be subjected to a service charge and very dry mouth.
The London Eye is an observation wheel on the River Thames. It is the most popular paid tourist attraction in the UK with over 3.75 million visitors every year. You board a roomy, air conditioned capsule that holds 25 people, leaving lots of room to roam around. The views of London were fantastic!
Other great spots we visited including Trafalgar Square
Extinction Rebellion Protesters were everywhere and disrupted traffic throughout downtown
Rock and Roll / Beatles Tour
London has an incredible music history and we did two back to back tours one day to experience the music scene. The first was a ‘History of Rock and Roll Tour’ which took us to many sites where the likes of Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles, Jimmy Page, lived or frequented. It was very interesting!
Jimmy Page’s house
Paul McCartney’s house
Freddie Mercury’s home – Mary Austin still lives there
The second was ‘A Ticket To Ride: Beatles in London 50th Anniversary Tour’. Both tours took us to the Apple Studios where our guide suspects something is brewing for the 50th Anniversary. We also got to have our pictures taken crossing Abbey Road in the style of the album with the same name. It is a busy, local road with lots of people waiting on the traffic to die down to strike the perfect pose. You don’t have much time!
Secret pub the Beatles and others frequented that was not open to the public. Harry Styles and friends use it nowadays.
Building where the Beatles last played together – on the roof top of the Apple Offices. January 30 1969
We went on the short, five hour bus tour to Stonehenge that stretched to almost 7 hours. Partly because of heavy Good Friday traffic and also due to an unscheduled washroom stop when a demanding Italian passenger practically forced the driver to stop for a break. There was an intense screaming match in Italian while the bus was moving and when it stopped. The driver was po’ed as were the rest of us; many of which also tried to get off the bus but were told they could not.
Stonehenge itself was incredible to see! Stonehenge is one of the Wonders of the World and the best known prehistoric monument in Europe. The ring of standing stones each weigh about 25 tons and archaeologists believe the site was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. Mind boggling!
We arrived in Bristol, checked into our hotel and then promptly reboarded the train back one stop to Bath. The Eurail pass is good for as many trips as you like in one day, so we took advantage of it.
Bath is known for its’ Roman built baths; dating back to 60 AD! The city has many theatres, museums, cultural and sporting venues that attact 3.8 million each year.
The Royal Cresent is a row of 30 homes in a large crescent. We didn’t see the crescent, but saw a smaller, full circle version. Incredible city!
The colourful city of Bristol was once a popular port for journeys to ‘America’. Now a hub for culture, aerospace and industry, with easy access to the coastline and country side. We enjoyed walking around the historic area and taking a boat cruise down the vibrant river. It was a sunny and busy day!
There is a lot of famous people from Bristol! Cary Grant for one! And J.K. Rowling was born in Yate, just outside of Bristol. Her father is an engineer for Rolls Royce in Bristol.
Banksy, the elusive street artist, vandal, and political activist, was born in Bristol. We followed the self-guided walking tour of his works as best we could but only discovered it at the end of an exhausting day. It was fun when we found some though!
Some of the cast from the Game of Thrones from Bristol include:
Maisie Williams – Arya
Hanna Murphy – Gilly
Jacob Anderson – Grey Worm
Would have been fun to watch an episode with them!
Chester is near the border of Wales and is one of the best preserved walled cities in Britain. We walked the circuit of the walls and loved the 1899 wrought-iron clock, saw some cool medieval buildings and a few of the black-and-white Victorian restorations. Apparently in the summer a town crier announces the news and hour from a reconstructed 15th century crucifix. So cool.
Chester’s main street, the “Chester Rows” are 2 storey buildings with many shops, pubs and restaurants. Chester also has a large racetrack that was directly behind our hotel. The day we were in Chester, thunder clouds rolled in and while we only got drizzled on, the skies were spectacular! We loved Chester!
Liverpool is a city in North West England. The popularity of the Beatles and other groups from the Merseybeat era, put Liverpool on the map as a tourist destination. Since we were in the birth place of the Beatles, a tour was in order. Unfortunately, Storm Hannah joined us as well, and scared away 17 other tour participants, leaving just us and two blokes from Denmark. The smaller group was great but it being a walking tour, it was brutal. Winds of 80mph were reported and there were several times when we were near the water, that we seriously thought we were going to be blown over. Lifting my right foot for a split second almost caused it to knock my left foot right out from under me! Joe got wise in an attempt to stay standing and turned sideways slightly, tricking the wind. The rain was painful when it hit our faces! It was the worst weather we have been in, in a very long time!!
These were everywhere!
We lucked out and got to see The Museum of Liverpool’s presentation of Yoko’s ‘Double Fantasy’ expo with personal pieces from her collection. Our guide used the display to try and convince us it wasn’t Yoko’s fault the Beatles broke up. We learned some interesting trivia here!
Next stop was Mathew Street, home of the Cavern Club where it all started for the Beatles.
Radio City Tower provided us great views of the city
The History of the Beatles audio tour was the last on our agenda.
Other interesting sites around Liverpool and our Apartment Hotel that we loved!
Leeds with York
Our dinner in Leeds was made great by our lively server whom had been to Vancouver before and made me a special cocktail. On our walk back to the hotel, a couple our age approached us and asking if we knew where the Doubletree Hotel was. Joe piped up ‘Yes! We are on our way there; follow us!” We chatted with them on route and ended up having a drink with them later. What an odd encounter. They were in town for a funeral but were divorcing, Tony told us privately. Sherry never made eye contact with Tony and cut him off constantly. They both seemed to have had a fair amount to drink on the train we soon realized. Sherry asked us 10 times what our favourite country was in Europe. Each time we said Croatia, and each time Tony then asked us (10 times) what Croatia used to be called. ‘It was part of Yugoslavia’ we said 10 times to Tony whom served in the army for many decades.
We did take a side trip from Leeds to York in the afternoon to visit our old friend, Leah Blakeway. (I worked for Leah’s parents for 15 years when we lived in Cloverdale.) Leah and her family are temporarily stationed in York and loving every minute of it.
Leah toured us around the walkable city and explained all the sites. York is another walled city and has a massive church ‘The Minster’ and vibrant shopping district.
We visited what Trip Advisor calls ‘the most photographed street in the UK’ – Shambles Street. It was straight out of a Harry Potter Movie with it’s protruding building block structures and paved stone paths. Indeed, there were many people taking pictures there.
We enjoyed our visit Leah! We wish we had more time in both Leeds and York but that just means we’ll be back!
Windermere – The Lake District
We stayed in Windermere at the Hawksmoore Guest House and it was cosy and lovely. Breakfast was made to order; a very welcomed change from ‘running off your plate’ scrambled eggs.
Windermere is the largest natural lake in England. The ribbon lake has been one of England’s most popular places for holidays and summer homes since the arrival of the railway in 1847. There are large homes in the city converted to BNB’s on every block and corner. The steep hill down to the lake is laced with boutique shops, bakeries and restaurants.
The waterfront is filled with tour boats ready to sail you (and the people from the many tour buses) around the shores of the prestine lake. It was a magical place and our last stop in England.