As opposed to my mental image of Paris, I had no preconceived expectations of what London was going to be like. Literally none. I purposely left that element of surprise totally intact so that I could experience London with unaffected eyes. It worked. I was blown away by the whole London experience, from entry to departure.
Traveling anywhere with three kids in tow, especially for an extended period of time, demands a little more space than your standard hotel room. The kids are getting bigger (The boys are bigger than me! I know that’s not a big surprise. Whatevs…eye roll.), so a little extra space helps minimize our desires to kill each other at the end of any given day. My husband is a MASTER at travel planning. He is just really, really good at it, and seems to enjoy it. He booked us in Airbnbs for London and Paris. Brilliant!
The apartment that he found in London was perfect. The building was designed by, famed architect Aston Webb, whose designs include the current façade of Buckingham Palace. The exterior had old-world charm, but the interior was updated with every modern convenience, with the exception of central air and a clothes drier. Bathrooms were immaculate, kitchen was modern, and the beds were super comfy. As a bonus, the space still contained some of its antiquated charm in the form of an old cast iron stove in the kitchen (purely decorative at this point) and what looked like an early 20th century fireplace in the living room. And location?! Perfection. It was located practically at the base of The Shard (the tallest structure in the UK), nestled equidistant between the London Bridge and The Tower Bridge on the south bank of The River Thames.
A two-block walk from the apartment brought us to Hay’s Galleria that contained multiple shops and restaurants in a beautiful glass covered promenade. It afforded the feel of outdoor dining but provided complete protection from the temperamental weather. My favorite tenant? Well, as much as I wanted the full European experience, it was quite comforting and delicious to find one of my true loves, Starbucks. I did indulge…a few times. (I would order my usual, but they had much better coconut milk than we do. Much creamier….I digress.) Anyway, The Galleria became a frequented piazza for us.
The primary item on our agenda for the day was to attend the company picnic for which this trip was planned around. The event was held at the beautiful Paddington Recreation Ground located within The City of Westminster. The park is made up of outdoor sports facilities including a bowling green! It was a welcomed party that provided our kids with plenty of free-ranged activities, my husband and I excellent conversation with amazing people, and a lovely picnic lunch.
We bid farewell to our hosts and took off walking through the park (which had a real San Francisco feel). We caught the Tube (The London Underground metro system) back to The River Thames to get a birds eye view of the city via The London Eye. From the pinnacle of the large Ferris Wheel, we could take in the mixture of old classic landmarks amid a very modern collection of glass and steel. A combo that was most unexpected to me.
Back on the ground we were entertained with street performers and colorful venues with food stands and shops. The time change took a hard grip on us and it was time to eat again. Being such an international city, and lacking any real reputation as a foodie destination (at least in my mind), we set our sights on a noodle house. I don’t know if it was extreme hunger or what, but that was the best, damned plate of Teppanyaki ever.
Day one was in the books and I was hard in love with London. Come back to the blog to read more about our trip across the pond.
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1 Photo from Wikipedia.com
2 The Aston Webb Building located in the Borough of Southwark.
3 The Shard.
4 Hay’s Galleria.
5 Photo taken in Paddington Recreational Ground.
6 Big Ben and the Palace of Westminister.
7 Carousel on the South Bank of the River Thames.