European {Honeymoon-Inspired} Travel Journal: LONDON

Feb 26, 2013


I've visited London twice before - once when I was a little kid and again at the end of high school. When my husband mentioned taking a little vaca to London, I wasn't immediately excited but after I picked up a few guidebooks and started doing some research, I couldn't wait to revisit this crown jewel. It's so amazing what a few years {okay, ... 13 years!} can do ... my interests have changed so much that this city felt entirely new to me ... I think I've fallen deeply in love with everything English! And I think you will, too! Ohhh, and those dreamy proper accents!

We spent a good bit of time exploring Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill on Saturday morning. More than the antiques and vintage wares, I was most taken with the vibrantly colored townhouses. How cheery would it be to live along a rainbow like this? {good competition for Charleston's Rainbow Row} The market itself was crowded and chaotic but in a great way - we enjoyed falafels from a roadside stand and admired everything from vintage cameras to Paddington Bears to Moroccan-style pillowcases lining the pedestrian-friendly street.

While walking down Portobello Road, I couldn't help but notice the storefront used in Notting Hill as Hugh Grant's character's bookshop. It's now a shoe boutique but they've cheekily named it Notting Hill as a not-so subtle nod. About a block away, I recognized the corner coffee shop where Hugh Grant bumps into Julia Roberts with orange juice. Oops! Unfortunately, I didn't spot Spike or the famous blue door - shucks!

I always love taking the subway tube in European cities - it offers the best people-watching, hands-down! And it's usually the cheapest and fastest way to get from point A to point B.

One of our nights in L-town, we took a long walk along the Thames and queued up for the London Eye right after sunset. Unfortunately, none of my photos on the ride came out very well because of the glare of the glass mixed with the blue lights {and the fact that my dslr was at  home} but it was still a magical experience. Glad we did it.

Well played if you can name the film that featured this heartbreaking memorial. This was Postman's Park, a tiny and well-hidden gem near St. Paul's Cathedral which pays tribute to those who have died saving the lives of others. Tragically beautiful.

I couldn't visit London and not visit Liberty - only the most beautiful department store on earth. I loved the home decor section and will share my favorite find from the floor with you tomorrow. ;) ps. Did you know Liberty was constructed from the timbers of two ships? Isn't that the coolest?

My husband was totally singing a certain Fergie song all weekend long. smh.

A trip to London wouldn't be complete without a visit to the London Tower. I loved marveling at the crown jewels and it was fun to see the armor of King Henry VIII {even more so if you were obsessed with watching The Tudors like my family was!}

The Restaurant in The National Portrait Gallery. Amazing views.

I've wanted to see the famed Abbey Road zebra crossing for years so as soon as we had our flights booked, I was googlemapping this baby. All the guidebooks say there really isn't much to see here but I totally disagree. First, it's hilarious to watch all the tourists stop in the middle of the crosswalk for a photo op while angry Brits are honking their horns in annoyance. hehehe. How horrible it must be if this is on your daily commute! I also loved reading all the notes/sayings/vandalism/whatever on the walls outside of Abbey Road Studios. I know a lot of people hate graffiti but it always fascinates me and when it's commemorating a special place or person it seems more like a collective art project to me.


Portobello Road Market. Despite the achingly trendy vibe of the Notting Hill neighborhood, this market is a London staple and worth a visit. The market is every Saturday. Just head to the Notting Hill tube stop around 9a and follow the crowd. That's what we did and it worked like a charm. ;) Make sure to grab a snack {or even a full lunch} from the street vendors - what we had was delicious and the cheapest meal we had all weekend.

Museums. Most {if not all} of the art museums in London have free admission. We visited the Tate Modern, the Tate Britain and the National Portrait Gallery. Fantastic value ... take advantage!

Views. The London Eye is a fun experience. But if you'd prefer to save your money, head over to the Tate Modern and/or the National Portrait Gallery - along wtih the free admission, they also provide beautiful sweeping views of the city. Just head to the top floor restaurants and be prepared for your jaw to drop. :) The Shard also recently opened and is said to boast gorgeous views. We didn't have time to visit but maybe you should! 

Fish 'n Chips. Mate, you're in Britain ... it's the thing to do. In our experience, the streetside vendors seemed to offer the tastiest versions {and easiest on the pocket}. Just don't forget to pile on the malt vinegar and salt like a true Brit would. Yummmmm-eeee!

Where to Stay? We stayed at the citizenM which I would describe as a trendy boutique-style hotel intended to be affordable luxury. It was clean, easy on the eye and centrally located {a 5-min walk to the Tate Modern}. It gets our vote and I would stay again without hesitation. In fact, I can't wait for them to open their Paris and NYC locations in 2014! J&I both loved the quirky + modern design of the hotel and the room, while small, was also wonderful. There's a Samsung tablet that controls almost everything {the lighting, the 'moods', the electric blind and curtain and the LCD tv which offers free movies}. You can also access free wifi on the tablet. The bed was loft-like and cozy. And I loved freaking J out by changing the colored lighting in the bathroom pod while he was showering ... before he realized I was controlling it on the tablet. :) We also had dinner one night at the canteenM in the lounge and it was great. Try the Coriander + Carrot soup.

Only negatives - Skip the drinks at the bar. Maybe we had a new bartender but they were horrible and at $15 a pop, so not worth it. Also, we came home every night to strange notes tucked in our door telling us that they hadn't cleaned our room b/c we had put a sign out .... however, we never placed any sign on the door. It was a slight bummer to come home each night to dirty towels and linens but I suppose we did do Mother Earth a small favor. ;)

Above: citizenM's comfy and beautiful lounge.
Below, from l to r: Lounge; Our room's vanity and bed; Our room's bathroom pod

Have you been to London? If you have any tips, insights, suggestions or comments, I'd love to hear them! Happy Honeymooning!

Did you miss the other entries of CB's Travel Journal? Click here to catch up! ;o)

All images by moi.

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