London Love Me Do - Days 3 + 4
"Love, love me do. You know I love you."
As you may remember, in my last post I mentioned that Nick and I ended Day 2 in a SoHo nightclub. While we hadn't planned to get very drunk, but it happens and we had a great night despite my embarrassing fall. This meant our plans for Day 3 were inhibited by unplanned hangovers, especially for Nick! So for this post I've decided to combine Day 3 and 4 together into one post. Funny enough, Saturday was the only day in which the weather was gloomy during our city break. It worked out well though, because in a way, the weather matched our own very hungover and tired states. It's funny how when the weather is gloomy, you feel less guilty about being lazy during the day.
Nick really wanted to go to Camden Market, and I really wanted to go to King's Cross Station to check out the Harry Potter attraction there. I was so excited! We hopped on the tube once again, and made our way to the Station. But first, we got a coffee at this coffee cart next to Westminster Abbey. Once again, we got some sentiments about Brexit from some elderly locals who kindly asked if we could adopt them! If only...
We went through Westminster Station to get to King's Cross first. Throughout this trip, I found that navigating around the city on the Underground was SO EASY. It was such a breeze, especially with our visitor oyster card. The tube maps are also easy to understand so you really can get anywhere. However, if you're just visiting, I would recommend not travelling on the Underground during "peak" hours. Not only is it annoying to the locals, it's simply more busy and uncomfortable, as it's very crowded.
We made it to King's Cross with ease. The station itself is actually two stations connected to one another; King's Cross and St. Pancras. We came back above ground through St. Pancras then followed the signs to King's Cross. After walking down down the long station we reached the Harry Potter trolley. I knew that fans could take pictures with the trolley, but I hadn't realized how ANNOYING it would be to do so.
Basically, we strolled up and I saw a line to take a picture and many enthusiastic people. However, I quickly learned that this was only the front chunk of the queue, and that you actually had to wait outside the station for a good while. Now, on this gloomy hungover day, there was NO WAY in hell that I was going to wait hours to take a picture with this cart. I have to say I was kind of frustrated with the whole situation. The line was being manned by some very enthusiastic workers who let each person take like ten pictures, decked them out in their house scarf of choice, gave them wands, and simply took too much time per person. I was annoyed at this because if each person just quickly shuffled up there, took a fun pic or two and moved along, people wouldn't have to wait so long! But instead, a professional also takes a photo for you, which is why you get ten of them all dressed up, in an attempt to get you to buy something. There was also a line just to get into the Harry Potter store next to the trolley. It felt a little disappointing, but I should have expected it!
Regardless of all that, it was magical to see how into this people are. It was a sweet reminder of how Harry Potter has brought people across the world together in such a kind, welcoming sort of way. There were people young and old in waiting in line and among them all was a sense of comradery and excitement about getting a bit of magic into their day. It definitely made my heart tingle a bit and I was still really glad to go. If you plan on visiting the Harry Potter trolley, I would recommend getting there WAY earlier in the morning if you can because the line is probably shorter. If we hadn't been so hungover, that's probably what we would have done!
Next up for Day 3 was Camden Market. I'd heard a lot about this place but I did not know what to expect. Nick was looking forward to it for sure as he had been before. Also, it's a great place to get some food when you are in desperate need of nourishment. With some Lucozades in hand we made our way.
There's an Underground station right at Camden so it's easy enough to get there. When you get back above you immediately see a lot of people milling around and it's obviously a very visited area. It was the busiest station that we had passed through so far. There is a lot of cool street art, plenty of "knock-off" shops for all of your "Michael Kors" needs, loads of unique stands filled with art and curiosities, as well as ample options for food.
As you can see it is a bustling place. There were many people from many places visiting. We walked for a while down the main street and the people watching was excellent. I do love my people watching! The buildings were beautiful and there were so many glass-enclosed areas that you could wander through. If you wanted to bring home something unique for someone back home this is a good place to check out as there's something for everyone. The knock-off markets have plenty of more touristy stuff, but there are also a lot of stalls further down with handmade goods and art available. There were some lovely-smelling handmade soaps, Warhol-inspired art and several wines for you to browse through.
Nick and I wandered around for a little while, but he was not feeling that great. In fact he started to look quite ill, so I suggested that we make our way back to the hotel where we could rest. I didn't mind cutting Camden market a bit short because I myself was exhausted too. That's what a night out does to you!
On our final day, we both felt significantly better. Our flights to Dublin weren't until 9:30pm, so we had a whole day ahead of us. I was really glad we booked a late flight home because it gave us more time on our mini-vaca and it was well worth getting home late. There were two things left we wanted to really do: Abbey Road and The Natural History Museum. Off we went! If you're taking the tube to get there, you get off at stop St. John's Wood. When you hop off you immediately will notice how NICE of a neighbourhood this is. A 500m walk and you'll find yourself at Abbey Road.
When we strolled up there were not too many people ther,e and everyone was trying to get that classic Abbey Road album cover pic. I hadn't realized but there's a store next to the studios and loads of grafiti all along the wall that is neat to look at, but also full of self-promotion via Instagram handles. I loved the overall vibe of love that came from the hearts along the wall. It really fit.
Also, apparently when you visit, there's a live stream via street camera, and your family at home can spot you! The link is here. While we were there, Nick and I couldn't stop laughing at how annoyed the drivers in the area must be with all the people crossing for pictures! It was again some great people watching! In fact, I've been flicking back to the web cam as I've been writing and it's still funny to watch all the people blocking the crosswalk.
As you make your way to the store, you get a neat history of the studio painted on the wall next to the pathway in. It was interesting and had some unexpected facts on there. Inside the shop you become surrounded by Beatles Beatles Beatles everywhere, as you should expect. You could buy some Vinyl if you want and there were actually a lot of cool stuff. I nearly left with a lovely notebook but I resisted.
Overall, if you're into the Beatles big time (who isn't) it's worth coming down here, especially when it's as gorgeous outside. The area is actually quiet and again, it's kind of magical to think about how one band has brought so many people to this place. It's simply incredible how the Beatles have changed the world for the better and you do get a sense of that here. Just beware, it wasn't super crowded when we arrived, but as we were leaving a big ol' bus rolled up. Perhaps you could check the cam on your way there to see if it's packed because you really should visit!!
We hopped back to the Underground and made our way to the last thing on the list: The Natural History Museum. Nick was the one who originally suggested we go and I am SO GLAD we did. I think this may have been the highlight of the whole trip for me, or at least tied with the National Gallery. To get there, we took the tube to South Kensington Station and made the very short walk over to the museum. Again, this is another really lovely area to wander around. It was definitely crowded with a lot of families and little kiddos, but of course it was! It's a Sunday! If you wanted to avoid all the kids and families, it might be better to go during the week.
Firstly, the building the museum is in is absolutely stunning. I had no idea what I was expecting, but it somehow wasn't this. Fortunately, this is also a great place to visit when you're on a budget because it's free (though a donation is suggested like at most museums). Right when I walked in, I was in awe. The place has an incredible kind of Hogwarts vibe to it and immediately your eyes roam around the room, taking it all in. I was dumbfounded with the sheer SIZE of the exhibits. Never in my life had I seen anything like the vast skeletons decorating the place. I took SO MANY PHOTOS because how could I not?! London is so photogenic, and with the sunlight coming into this magnificent building full of skeletons, the place is just as artistic as the National Gallery and the rest of the city, if not more. So prepare yourself for a bombardment of photos from this incredible palace of history.
In the main foyer where you enter hangs a massive blue whale skeleton that happened to come from Wexford. It instantly gives you a grasp on the COLOSSAL size of a blue whale. Like holy hell did I feel puny in an instant. You know something is incredible when it manages to capture the gaze of thousands of people a day. The giant mammoth on the right absolutely took my breath away too. To imagine one of those actually roaming the Earth is wild to think about. One of them could crush me under its foot with one good stomp I think.
After roaming through the little mini exhibits within the larger foyer, we wandered off to all the dead and preserved on the same floor. Firstly, I was really interested in looking at all of the birds. There were so many species and it was neat to see their evolution in the flesh, especially since we know that birds on the Galapagos were so important to Darwin. Also, peep the Dodos and the GIANT FREAKING SLOTH down there. So neat!!!
There's a dark museum alley full of stuffed animals and it reminded me a lot of the Dead Zoo in Dublin. There were so many creatures to look at. I particularly liked any of the ones that resembled a dog or bear. The size of the teeth on that meat-eater down there definitely made me go 'oof'.
After the alley of mammals, we get to one of the highlights of this museum: DINOSAURS. Dinosaurs are not something that ever really interested me when I was a little kid in school. They just seem so distant in time that I failed to grasp how incredible they were (unlike my baby brother who loves them and is absolutely obsessed). This museum definitely changed that for me. There are dino bones every which way you look and the animatronic T-Rex is so cool. My inner child was going wild watching that thing roar. My jaw just dropped multiple times throughout the dinosaur exhibit.
You follow this pathway throughout and there are a good few dino skeletons above your head. You learn all about the different types, get to see some fossils, Triceratops skulls, massive bony tail bits, some dino teeth and an egg, along with a lot of art depicting what these dinosaurs looked like. It is a little overwhelming and very magnificent.
After the dinosaurs, we found our way into the Marine evolution exhibit and it was equally as mind blowing. The reconstructions of all these different types of animals was amazing. The size of the freaking whale in the ceiling is insane to me. I really liked this part of the museum too and it was obviously less crowded than the dinosaurs exhibit, as one would expect. Dinosaur exhibit = flood of children screaming, naturally. I loved loved LOVED getting to see these skeletons and the actual baleen of the massive whales, especially since whales are one of my favourite animals (side note: if you ever get a chance to go whale watching, do it). I didn't expect to be so engaged and blown away by the exhibits in here but there I was, entranced.
I hope my photos somehow capture the imposing size of these skeletons and creatures.
The marine exhibit talked a lot about the evolution of marine life and what that looked like. It was pretty neat to look at the evolutionary patterns of these animals in the greater context of animal life. I was intrigued and could only imagine how incredible all of this would be to a child with a lower eye line.
Following an exploration of the marine animals, you might find yourself in the human body exhibit. This is the only part of the museum that didn't fully capture my attention. It's very interactive and so informative about the human body which is great for the kids. I did like all the bits about the brain and neurons, but the exhibit itself was a bit dated and this is something I already know quite a bit about. Though the physical perception and optical illusion displays were cool!
After the human body exhibit, we went upstairs to explore some more. Upstairs, there was a very tall display of gems and minerals. It instantly brought back memories of when my mom would take my brother and I to the gem and mineral show back in Concord, except these minerals were way bigger. There is also a display of important people in the biological and evolution sciences. It gave me such an appreciation for the work of these people who tirelessly explored the world to expand knowledge and so we wouldn't have to. To think that Darwin literally changed the world with his theories of evolution is incredible.
Going upstairs also gives you a great perspective of that main giant whale skeleton again. It's breathtaking. There's also a special collection upstairs of some of the most precious items within the museum. This contains a penguin egg, prints from the giant Audubon books, and so much more.
By this time, we are tired and have been in the Natural History Museum for actual HOURS. I was starving so we went to the cafe inside the museum which is a lovely place for a bite to eat. I got this salad that exceeded expectations and they have plenty of food options for the whole family. It's a relaxed environment and a great spot to rest your feet for a little bit.
For a place that I wouldn't have even put on my itinerary without being prompted, my expectations were exceeded. I would highly recommend that anyone who plans on a city break in London go check out this museum. It's affordable, it's gorgeous and very educational. Also, it's so kid friendly! So if you visit with your whole family, then this is an amazing way to tire them out and make sure they sleep soundly in the evenings.
Furthermore, the Natural History museum is in a great area. There are other things to do nearby. Since it was so nice out, we decided to take a stroll and make our way to Hyde Park and peek at Kensington Palace.
To get to Hyde Park, it was a twenty minute walk. We passed a lot of lush hotels, nice restaurants and maybe one of Taylor Swift's houses??? The best part was the number of dogs out and about. I do love dogs.
You couldn't miss Hyde Park if you tried. It's big, there's plenty of room to walk around and the palace is easy to find with all the signage out and about. It was nice to be in some green space and explore around. Kensington Palace is big and very beautiful. I actually thought it was prettier than Buckingham Palace. I loved the red brick, massive gardens and open space courtyard.
In front of Kensington Palace is a statue of William of Orange. This guy played an important role in Irish history, particularly in the Battle of the Boyne here in Ireland. He can be a divisive figure, so I'll let you read more about him here if you would like.
Apparently you can get tickets to go inside the palace and take a tour. When you walk up to the gate, you then can take a little path to the adjacent part of the gardens and there's an entrance to go in and explore. More information about tickets and tours can be found here. Tickets cost £19.50 per adult. At the moment they have the costumes from The Favourite film with Oscar Winner Olivia Coleman, a Princess Diana fashion display, as well as an opportunity to explore the King's state apartment. Nick and I considered going in, but we decided to save it for next time.
After exploring the gardens, we continued to roam around Hyde Park. It was so enjoyable and relaxing. I didn't feel stressed about a thing. How could I with so many cute dogs running around? I even got to see a swan yell at a child who got too close. We wandered over to a big pond that reminded me of a giant version of the secret lake at UCD. There were a lot of people feeding the birds, lounging on the grass and some even enjoying some ice cream. Around the lake I also spotted some funky green birds up in a tree on one of the pathways nearby.
Once we were finished exploring Hyde Park, we took a walk to Paddington Station so we could make our way back to the hotel. We had enough time to hop the tube, have a late lunch/early dinner before getting our bags and making our way to the Airport. We wanted to give ourselves enough time to get the train to Gatwick so we allotted an hour, just in case of delays! Ryanair flights wait for no one. Once the sun went down, we took one last walk to Westminster Abbey, and crossed the Thames for a look at the city all lit up. It was a perfect last look at the city (and naturally I didn't take a picture, such a dope).
And so our trip came to an end... and what an AMAZING mini-trip it was! My final thoughts on London are as follows:
Firstly, I LOVED visiting this city, so much. I didn't know what to expect and it was amazing. I kept wishing I had come sooner! The food, the atmosphere, the size of the city, the transport, it was great. I had such an amazing time and was really satisfied with our trip. Some of my favourite things about London were that it was so easy to get around, each neighbourhood had a character all its own, and there was so much to do. I loved how vibrant the city was and I also really appreciated the important landmarks scattered throughout. I think this is a city that you could return to time and time again, but do something different every single time. I also appreciated the much wider selection for ordering takeaway when we were hungover in our hotel room. Additionally, the city was simply good craic. I wasn't sure what atmosphere would be like, but it pretty good!
I was also really impressed with our hotel. The Premier Inn Hubs are designed for exactly what we did: a short vacation where you won't be in the room very often. They were more affordable than most of the other options, but the hotel was of high standards and always very clean. I would definitely stay in one again!
Some things I will keep in mind for next time I visit is that it would be cool to stay in a different neighbourhood next time. I really liked Westminster but with each neighbourhood having so much character, it would be neat to stay in a different one. I also think I would hold out for an Aer Lingus sale next time because Ryanair was terrible this time (my first time having a bad time with them tbh).
Oh and one more thing: London has a strong Mocha game!! All my mochas were great!!
Things I really want to do next time are:
- The Harry Potter Studio Tour. I have heard only good things about this but it's very expensive and something you have to book about two months ahead. We are on a budget (both of us are students) so I decided to save this for a next time.
- The British Museum. This is one of the big ones and a must do for next time. It's home to so many artefacts and antiquity.
- Go inside Westminster Abbey. This is a big one. I love the insides of churches and we definitely dropped the ball with this one!
- Plan where are going to eat with more interest. London is notorious for having incredible restaurants and next time we go I would love to explore the reviews and what the internet has to say and try out some well known, non-franchised places to eat. That being said though, everywhere we ate this time was really good!
- See a show! We didn't really think to fit this one in, but in hindsight, we should have! The options are endless because there are so many freaking theatres, especially nearby where we stayed. Next time we visit, we will definitely catch a play.
All in all, this was an amazing trip and we definitely will be coming back again. It's now such a special city for Nick and I. If you haven't been to London, I highly recommend giving it a try. It's exciting and so easy to explore, especially for just a weekend.
Anyways, thanks for following along!