Our little family of four went on a four week trip to Europe in September this year. This trip has been a dream of ours for years and it was such a privilege and thrill to experience the reality of this dream. Our girls are 13 and 15 years old and were an ideal age for this kind of holiday.
The girls were able to physically handle their own luggage (came in handy when trying to board trains in a hurry), they were able to walk all day long without needing to be carried 😊, they had genuine interest in the historical aspects of where we went and were prepared to take the time to learn and appreciate everywhere we visited. They were a pleasure to take!
So, over the next month or so, I will take you through our trip week by week and outline what we did, where we went and let you know any tips or tricks we discovered along the way. This was my first time leaving Australia, ever, so it was a huge deal for me!
We were gone for four weeks exactly. We visited London, Dublin, Paris and Rome. Today I will tell you all about our London leg!
Our flight from Australia was very long but it went smoothly. Read about how I coped with the long haul flight over here.
LONDON – DAY ONE
Today we landed in Heathrow – London and took the train to our apartment in Hyde Park, booked through Air BnB. We had pre-purchased Oyster cards which made our Tube travel on arrival very stress free. Our local Tube stops were Bayswaer and Queensway which are on differnt lines. This was very handy! We stayed int the ground floor level of this apartment building. It was very comfortable and was a good home for us in London.
LONDON – DAY TWO
Took the Tube to Westminster and walked along Westminster Bridge to see the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the London Eye. Then we walked to Westminster Abbey where we did a self-guided tour. This was worth doing! Loved it.
After a quick lunch of pre-packed sandwiches across the road from the Abbey, we walked along Whitehall where we stumbled upon Downing Street with it’s heavily guarded and gated entrance. Then we came across the changing of the guard of the Household Cavalry. This was an unexpected surprise!
We continued walking on to Trafalgar Square and then onto Picadilly Circus (which was covered in scaffolding! 😕).
Then it was on to the British Museum. The British Museum is free entry so we just took our time in the ancient Egytian section, vowing to return another day. The British Museum is a must-see if you are visiting London! Just walk in whenever you are in the area. There is always something amazing to see there.
Took the Tube back to our place. Lots of walking today but you really get to know the city well by pounding it’s pavements.
DAY TWO – LONDON
This morning we visited the Tower of London, once again opting for a self-guided audio tour (they are the way to go!). Here we were able to see the Crown Jewels which was quite mind-boggling (no photos allowed). Definitely worth doing. This tour took all morning.
We were starving by the end of the morning, so we walked across Tower Bridge and continued along the edge of the Thames to Southwark, where we bought a yummy lunch at the Borough Market. This place was buzzing with all sorts of street food, buskers and local produce.
From here it was a short walk to Tate Modern Art Gallery. Managed to spot a Monet and Picasso painting here, but it was just a quick look. We were ready for a lie down by this stage in the day!
DAY THREE – LONDON
Today was our tour of the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace!! I was so excited about this and it ended up being one of the highlights of our trip for me. When the Queen is away for the summer in Balmoral, 10 weeks of every year, the Palace’s State Rooms are open to the public (no photos allowed). We pre-booked this tour online and I would recommend doing that. You risk missing out otherwise. It was such a privilege to have access to the Palace and it’s grounds. If you are in London at the right time of year, definitely do it!
We left the Palace (reluctantly) after stopping for a coffee on the Queen’s back verandah, and walked to St Jame’s Park. Here we saw squirrels and went crazy over them. SO cute!
This afternoon was shopping on Oxford Street time! We bought quite a few things here, but were very conscious that we still had over three weeks left of our trip and our suitcases were already full! It is amazing what you can squeeze in when you really want to though. The store Lush was high on the agenda.
DAY FOUR – LONDON
Today we thought we’d try our luck at Kensington Palace. We had tried to pre-book this from home but all the sessions were booked out. We turned up just before it opened and got in! I was thrilled about this because I really wanted to see the special exhibition dedicated to Princess Diana – Her Fashion Story (being her 20 year anniversary this year). This was fantastic. We also saw the Queen’s State Apartments, the King’s State Apartments and a section from Queen Victoria’s time. It is steeped in history, but doesn’t have the grandeur of Buckingham Palace’s State Rooms. It is unique in its own way.
Had our sandwiches in the front yard of Kensington Palace, then Tubed it to Tottenham Court Road. We walked along Charing Cross Road and browsed in some old book shops. (And yes, the basement was worth a look!)
Then we returned to the British Museum and spent time in the Greek section as well as the ancient Iran section and the Europe section. Could have spent all week in this place! So much to see.
DAY FIVE – LONDON
Our time in the city of London is coming to an end today. Before leaving though, we walked to Portobello Road Market. This is a fascinating place! Apparently Fridays and Saturdays are the best days to go (lucky for us!). Here we ate Nutella donuts the size of our heads (2 for £2, a good deal!).
After this we Tubed it to Waterloo Station and caught a country train south to Guildford. Very good friends of ours who lived near us in Australia for a few years now live in Guildford. We were going to spend the weekend with them in their town. A taste of real life in the UK! I had been really looking forward to this leg of our trip.
The fun started straight away with a few drinks at their local pub! I tried Pimms – mmmmm! Even the sky is pretty!
DAY SIX – GUILDFORD
Spent the day with our friends shopping and walking around, exploring their gorgeous town. It is so pretty here.
DAY SEVEN – GUILDFORD
Today our friends drove us to the nearby village of Shere. This village is so quaint and typically English. It actually features in a couple of movies (“The Holiday” and “Bridget Jone’s Diary”). We loved exploring here. There are some great places to poke around in and found a nice place for lunch.
Back in Guildford later in the day we visited a different pub, The Weyside. As the name suggest, it is right on the Wey River. It is a very pretty pub and the Pimms here tastes pretty good too!
DAY EIGHT – GUILDFORD
Time to leave Guildford today. Spending time with our friends here was so special and it was sad to leave.
We took the train back into London, to Waterloo Station. I love the inside of this place. Just had to show you!
From here we took the train to London City Airport, ready to fly to Dublin!!
You’ll hear all about our Dublin adventures next time!!
I have just given you a brief outline of the places we visited (and tried to show you the highlights without boring you with too many photos), just to give you an idea of the things you can do around London and what we enjoyed. I would come back here in a heartbeat.
Just so you know, we booked our accommodation through Air BnB and found it to be excellent. We had researched the locations of each place very well and had specific things we were looking for (such as wifi, washing machine, separate beds for the girls, etc). Every place we stayed in was very well equipped and was a nice temporary home base. We would book like this again.