TBT - England | London Tour & Kew Gardens
It was finally time. We were finally on our way to ENGLAND! I was finally going to be able to find myself a British boyfriend, and bask in his glorious accent.
At the time, 3 years ago, I thought I would be able to find my self a nice British boyfriend on this leg of our trip. I made sure to always look pretty and engaging whenever we went out. I made a lot of eye contact, which is something I usually DO NOT do here in Toronto. Who knew when I would find him? I had to treat every moment as an opportunity. I figured he would fall madly in love with my accent and take me out to dinner one night, and then we would spend the next 2 days together, touring the city, leaving my parents to fend for themselves. After a tearful parting, we would decide to do the long distance thing for a while. But after a year or so, I would finally join him in England, and would adopt a flawless British accent (all that drunk practicing finally paid off!) and live out my days going to afternoon tea with the Queen and my new BFF Princess Kate in the amazing city that was the birth place of Harry Potter.
Obviously, that did not happen.
I partially blame my father and his imposing mustache. That’s obviously why the British gents weren’t flocking.
Needless to say, the trip was still amazing and left me dying to go back to England again!
We had left France and took the Channel Tunnel (a.k.a Chunnel) high speed train to England. We were dropped at St. Pancras Station where we then took the tube (see how British I am?) from King’s Cross St. Pancras Underground Station to High Street Kensington Station. From there it was just a short walk to our flat and we were able to unpack our bags, and marvel at how adorable the accommodations were. I may have been the only one marvelling. I was literally so excited to finally be in England.
We rented an apartment just a stone throw’s away from Hyde Park in a gorgeous area of Westminster. It had a full kitchen, bathroom and living room, with a loft that had a single bed for me! The crown jewel of the apartment, however, was the adorable terrace that you had to crawl through a huge window to get through. It looked out over the street and had a view of the park. Magic. Pure magic.
After my initial amazement died down, we took a walk over to a grocery store to stock our fridge for the next few days. I was actually surprised how reasonably priced the food was in England. We had been warned by several people how expensive England was going to be, so I was glad to find that the grocery store food wasn’t so. We picked up some classic English things, such as bangers, a trifle, and some potatoes to turn into “mash”.
We made a quick dinner that night, and I enjoyed a nice Stella Artois cider on our terrace. Then, we decided to talk a walk around Kensington Gardens & Hyde Park since it was so close to us! The park was gorgeous, and features Kensington Palace. Princess Kate had just had her baby a few days prior when we were in France, so my dad kept joking that maybe we would get to see the royal baby. Sadly, we did not. However, that didn’t stop us from enjoying the gardens and snapping some nice photos along the way. After that, it was off to bed to rest up for the next day!
Exploring England: Kew Gardens + Fish & Chips!
For our first full day in England, we decided to brave the metro and take the tube out to Kew Gardens. From High Street Kensington Station, we got on the green District line going towards Richmond. Kew Gardens is the second last stop from the end of the line, and was quite easy to get to.
As soon as we got off the subway I fell in LOVE with the area. It was everything I imagined England to be. Quaint small houses with beautifully manicured yards and gorgeous bright flowers. Just thinking about it, I’m dying to go back.
Anyways, the gardens are just a short walk from the subway and are quite straight forward to get to. There are a number of large green houses in the gardens, all with different types of plants. They also have a small aquarium area in one of the green houses that is home to different types of fish and jelly fish. My favourite green house, by far, was the one that holds the giant lily pads. They’re really quite beautiful, and apparently, can hold the weight of a small child.
After the green houses, we took a walk around the nicely manicured lawns towards the Treetop Walkway. The walkway is an 18m high path that allows you to walk among the tree tops and get a closer look at the insects, blossoms and leaves of the trees. It was definitely an interesting vantage point to be able to see the gardens from.
At the bottom, there are diagrams and information about the trees, as well as how trees age, and other information. While we were up among the trees, we saw the next green house that we wanted to go to, so we headed that way once we had reached the bottom again.
The last green house that we went to was more dry and desert-like. My cactus-crazy self now wishes that I would have got more photos of this green house! At that point, we decided to head back to the entrance and take a final walk around the pond before heading out.
Back through the adorable streets we went to get to the subway. Before we got on the subway, we saw a small shop that was selling fish and chips. One of our goals was to try authentic fish and chips in London, so we figured what better place than this small shop?!
Needless to say, we were not disappointed with this choice! The fish was golden and crispy with tangy tartar sauce and crisp fries. We at outside in the sunshine, and it was a perfect meal!
Once our tummies were full, we got back on the subway and headed over to Buckingham palace. Lucky for us, they were changing the guards at that time, so we got to see the entire ceremony! It was actually much longer than I anticipated, so I can’t believe that it happens so often!
For the rest of the afternoon, we found information about the Big Bus Tour that we would be going on the following day. For dinner, we had a quick meal at home, followed by an early bed.
Exploring England: Big Bus Tour of London + A Harry Potter Tour
Today was the day that we would take in the entire city of London via tour bus. Lucky for us, we were able to get on the Big Bus tour a few minutes walk from our flat. It was a beautiful, brisk day, perfect for sightseeing. The big bus tour is a great idea, because you get to see SO much of the city for a pretty reasonable price. There are also additional small tours that you can go on such as Harry Potter, which we obviously did.
We started off our tour going through Notting Hill, which was such a beautiful, picturesque area. It made me want to move to London all the more! We also were informed that there is a farmers and vintage market in that area every Saturday, so we were able to plan our activities for the next day!
There are 4 different road routes that you can take with the tour, and 1 route that is a boat ride on the river Thames. We used the blue and red lines the most, as these lines allowed you to see all of the major attractions. The other great thing about the bus is that you can hop on and off at designated stops whenever you want, and your ticket is valid for 24 hours. We were able to see quite a bit from the bus, so we didn’t get off to explore too many locations. By that time in the trip, we were pretty tired of guided tours and waiting in line. But, here are some highlights of places on the tour that you may want to check out:
Trafalgar square is a gorgeous outdoor area with several fountains, and a large blue chicken. This is also where you catch the Harry Potter Walking Tour, and is a location from the film. The National Gallery is also located here, and I believe is free admission!
Harry Potter Tour
As a fan, I coerced my parents into going on this two hour long tour so that we could see many of the locations around London where they had shot parts of the film. We also had an AMAZING tour guide who was so enthusiastic that it made the tour all the more fun.
Westminster Abbey, The House of Parliament & Big Ben
The Tower of London & Tower Bridge
St Paul’s Cathedral, The Shard & The London Eye
Other Sights to See
At around 6 pm or so, we had seen everything that we wanted, so we got off near our flat and went for dinner at a local pub. I believe I got some kind of classic roast with a Yorkshire pudding. It was a nice meal after all the sightseeing that day. After lusting after London for so long, it was amazing to be able to see all of these iconic monuments and places in person. I’m still dying to go back!
For my last and final blog post about our trip to Europe, we explore the Portobello Road farmers & vintage market and take another bus tour out to Windsor Castle, Bath and Stonehenge. Stay tuned!