From Reykjavik, we hopped a plane to London, only a few hours away. Due to weather-related delays (of course it snowed the morning we left Iceland), we didn’t arrive into Gatwick until noon, and by the time we took the train into the city and checked in at our hotel near Victoria Station, it was nearly 2pm and we were ravenous. Using Yelp (love it when restaurant reviews are in my language), we found a nearby pub supposedly famous for – what else – fish and chips. The meal was far from healthy, but the portions were huge, the fish was perfectly cooked, and the prices (for London) were reasonable. Feeling fueled and appropriately “Londonized”, we headed off to see the city.
I’d been to London before, about 5 years ago, on a girls trip with my mom, aunts, cousin, and grandmother. We’d spent 4 days in the city and had covered most of the museums and major sites. My husband, while an avid traveler, is not nearly the museum geek that I am, so on this trip, we focused on seeing more of the city itself and spending less time indoors (although we did make an exception for pubs).
One site that I refused to pass up, even though I’d already been, was the Treasurers of the British Library. For the price of free (!!), you can see an incredible collection of historical manuscripts and other treasured pieces of writing. Along with historical heavy-hitters such as a Gutenberg Bible, the Lindisfarne Gospels, and a notebook of Leonardo da Vinci, there is an impressive collection of maps, plus writing from other famous, more contemporary authors. Think drafts of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, scraps of paper that start to tell the story of The Boy Who Lived (that would be Harry Potter), music scores of Beatles lyrics edited by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, and so many others that I’m forgetting. Let’s just say the British Library is my happy place, and I would have stayed for hours if not for my patient and good-natured, but clearly ready to leave, husband. He’s a good sport, but history isn’t really his first love.
Beer, though, that’s something we both love. I’m especially enthusiastic when I can get my beer in a beautiful, Victorian setting, such as the Princess Louise, which is located not far from the British Library. The interior decorations of the Princess Louise date from the late 1800s, and pictures, even professional ones such as the one below, do not do it justice. The entrance leads you into a long hallway, off of which several partitioned “drinking spaces” give access to the bar. There is stunning detail everywhere you look – stained or etched glass, intricate mosaics, carefully carved wooden panels. I’ll tell ya, drinking in places like these can put all your other favorite bars in a rather harsh perspective!
After our beers, it was time to head to dinner. It was drizzly outside, so we decided to take a bus over to Soho, one of the most famous and vibrant London neighborhoods, known for its conglomeration of delicious ethnic restaurants. Traffic in London is pretty awful, so buses aren’t exactly the most efficient form of transportation, but sometimes it’s nice to watch the city creep by from the top of a double-decker bus, rather than have it zoom by underground.
My husband is a fanatic for Chinese food, so we decided on Y Ming Chinese Restaurant, known for authentic Northern Chinese cooking. I can’t remember what we ordered, and I have a fairly strict “no pictures at the table” restaurant policy. I do remember really enjoying mine (some sort of slurpy noodle soup, I think), while my husband wasn’t as thrilled about his. Overall, it was a good meal, but certainly not the best we had in London.
Our first afternoon in London was pretty rainy and nasty, so we didn’t take any pictures with our nice camera. Next post will cover our walking tour of London, for which we had amazing weather, and will be full of photos!
For more information on our Europe 2014 trip, check out these other blog posts:
- 2 nights in Reykjavik – Hallgrimskirkja church, yummy food, and gorgeous scenery
- London Part II – walking tour of London highlights, Westminster Abbey, and an Irish pub
- London Part III – St. Paul’s, Borough Market, and an incredible WWI memorial at the Tower of London
- Paris Part I – a walk through Luxembourg gardens and sunset at the Eiffel Tower
- Paris Part II – three blockbuster sites: Notre Dame, Versailles, and Sainte Chapelle
- Paris Part III – the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, and Auguste Rodin museum
- Bayeux – small town France
- D-Day Beaches – paying tribute to the Greatest Generation
- Mont Saint-Michel – an abbey on an island