And so it begins
A trip of my dreams, maybe even a trip of a lifetime. My trip to London and Paris was something I’ll never forget. Both cities were unique and beautiful. I recommend going to each place for different reasons and just providing an overview of my experience wouldn’t do either city justice. But as a travel blogger, I will try my best. Here’s part one of my trip to London and Paris.
The Night Before
I couldn't sleep. I was too excited. Perhaps a better word would be anxious. That night, I had a slight panic because my husband's passport was missing. No worries we found it. Later, I could not sleep because I knew I wouldn't really sleep on the plane even with sleeping pills. So I did what any other person does when she can't sleep: watch TV. At about 2 a.m. I finally made my way to the bed.
Day 1 - Travel
I’ll spare you the details of heading through TSA, but I was pleased to receive a compliment for the way I displayed my electronics from a TSA agent. The struggle to keep my luggage to just a carry on and a personal item was real though. I packed strategically with a duffel bag stuffed with clothes inside my carry-on suitcase, with the intention of bringing souvenirs in the carry-on to check for later. Genius, right? We met two lovely older couples while waiting for our flight. They were funny and friendly but I thought to myself, “I can't be older and traveling. I want to do it now!”
We boarded the plane and flew to Charlotte. Then we waited there for hours. I noticed Raiders fans were boarding the plane to our first stop in London. As a Kansas City sometime-Chiefs fan, I wondered what are they going to London for and why are they wearing very touristy Raiders gear but I let it go. Who cares? I'm going to Paris and London.
American Airline is not quite as luxurious as Delta Airline. Though we were seated in the main cabin with “extra legroom” and first dibs on boarding, I don't know if it was worth the upgrade. Sitting behind us were some annoying guys incorrectly rapping Drake lyrics. I put my headphones on and try to tune them out. The meal and the wine on the plane didn't really help me fall asleep and, as expected, neither did the sleeping pill. I knew I was going to arrive in London in the morning and wanted to get some sleep. I think I eventually dozed off. But I never missed meals or the snacks.
Day 2- London
Finally after an 8-hour flight we landed at London Heathrow airport. It was a breeze through customs because we had nothing to declare. We also didn't have any luggage at baggage claim. We headed to meet our chauffeur after a quick bathroom stop and a change of clothes. The chauffeur was holding a sign that said our names on it which is pretty cool. An hour drive later, watching the chauffeur take time to check his Facebook feed, we made it to the President Hotel. I enjoyed listening to the radio in the car. Driving on the opposite side of the road was very confusing though. I was happy I wasn't driving. We checked into our hotel and didn't spend any time resting. We had things to do.
Our first stop was Harrod’s for afternoon tea. Imagine Macy's in New York but on steroids. This place was the most beautiful department store I've seen. There were several stories to shop from and each level revealed something new and exciting. I felt like I couldn't afford much there so I headed towards the Christmas shop which I thought would be reasonably priced and it was. With crispy pounds in hand, I was ready to make a purchase.
The Afternoon Tea
The afternoon tea screamed luxury. For 59 pounds, it ought to. But I didn't care about the cost or how exhausted I was. I was just happy and excited to be there. We were offered a selection of teas. I selected a green tea, I believe it was Jasmine. Next we received a beautiful selection of sandwiches and desserts including my favorite, The Harrod’s Faroe Island smoked salmon with roasted beetroot. The Line-caught-tuna mayonnaise with chive and lemon was also quite tasty. After another helping of sandwich, it was time for dessert. I didn’t care much for the desserts but I believed the Harrod Signature was my favorite, it was tea-infused chocolate mousse, milk panna cotta and chocolate sponge sitting on a malted biscuit. Scones were next but I was so full! I took about four bites and savored every bit of a REAL authentic scone with clotted cream and Harrods Jam. I finished with tropical tea.
We headed to the Underground, or the Tube as it is nicknamed in London. It was a little difficult to purchase a visitor’s pass but we headed back to hotel for a bit to allow my husband to change and to drop off a few bags.
Next up we went to Joe Allen, which was on the outskirt of Covent Garden. This is a pretty artisty area with live performances all around the streets. We later learned that the performers auditioned for those coveted spots. The food at Joe Allen was not amazing. There was a set menu for 16.50 pounds. I wouldn’t recommend this place. It wasn't even close to our next destination, the Apollo Victoria Theatre. We hopped back on Tube, and headed to the theatre. We were early so it was the perfect time to wander around for a moment and see more.
I’ll spare you the details of the musical. Just know that Wicked was excellent and grown men cried. I’ve never seen this musical and thought I might fall asleep due to my major jet lag. I think I did take a brief siesta but I heard the important songs. I was alert within about 15 minutes of the musical. And then I was into it for the rest of the time.
Just a few stops on the Tube and we were back at the hotel. But not before stopping to get a delicious pizza at Franco Manca. We had to have a late night bite. And it was a reasonable price too.
Breakfast in Europe always amazing. I love the runny yolk from the eggs, the pancetta like bacon, cheese and tomatoes. I didn’t want to eat too much. The next stop was Borough Market. A market known for fantastic food. I needed to try as much as I could. My husband pointed out Tower Bridge and London Bridge. I believe we took a photo on London Bridge. Now it’s time to eat, again!
After watching several YouTube videos, my husband was on the hunt for a chorizo sandwich from Brindisa Stall. We were offered a sample but we didn’t need any convincing. We purchased the somewhat spicy sandwich and shared it. Also on the menu for that day, fresh French oysters. Those were the BEST oysters I’ve ever had. It was like they came fresh from the ocean or something. WOW! The spices and tea shops were impressive. I regret not purchasing truffle salt. I thought France was known for truffle salt so I wanted to wait and purchase there. Bad move, Morgane.
I got a little thirsty and tried out fresh squeezed juice. So many juices but a pineapple juice was my choice. I got a little adventurous and purchased a meat pie. My husband hated it! I spent 5 pounds so I was going to at least take like five bites. After those bites it met the trash. Lastly, I grabbed fish and chips. Beer battered fish and chips were the specialty of the day for 10 pounds. The fish was also fresh and not too greasy. I loved it.
Next up, our private tour of London. Initially it was supposed to be a Royals tour but I wanted to know more about the city. We started in front of Kensington Palace. I think my most shocking takeaway about the Royal family is that they married cousins. Our tour guide was very knowledgeable. Fashion Trips London guide, Luciana was totally comfortable being on her toes when I decided I wanted to see Notting Hill next. We viewed very expensive “brownstones” (for a lack of a better word) that the ultra wealthy aristocrats must live in. No photography was allowed.
Notting Hill had a very chill vibe. It felt like a relaxed kickback on the yard (AKA my college campus) mixed with a street fair. It was Saturday evening, so perhaps that might be the reason I was able to grab items for “five lousy pounds,” as the worker at Alice’s said. Though the sky was grey and there was no sun in sight, we continued our walking tour. On the way, I grabbed a s’mores donut from Donut Time just next door to the Notting Hill Bookstore. We set with the guide for a moment under a heater for just enough time to finish my donut.
SOHO was the next stop. It was an edgy world with Harry Potter and cute boutique shops. I didn’t buy anything here but I did enjoy the culture. The streets were crowded with people, more so than in Notting Hill. There was even some type of costume party going on in front of the Harry Potter museum. SOHO had some very Instagramable spots. And a few polite shady statements were painted across the walls.
I believe our last stop was in Covent Garden. We were guided to Fortnum and Mason, which is one of the oldest department stores in London. At this moment, I was hungry but didn’t want to move too far from the night tour we had planned. We were just five minutes down the street from the meeting point. We grabbed sandwiches from the department store. Also, after purchasing a tea strainer for five lousy pounds, I wanted English tea to accompany it.
Our time in London was slowly coming to a close. But there were a few more stops. Our See London By Night tour awaited us. It was cold. I wish I had a real coat and not this fashionable thin trench coat I wore to be cute. I needed a blanket. On the rooftop of a double-decker bus, we viewed the important landmarks of London. Such us the Big Big, the Houses of Parliament, Tower of London and Tower Bridge. From a distance we could see the London Eye. I will have to ride it the next chance I return. After an hour and a half, I believe, the tour was complete.
We headed back to the hotel because we were so close and our reservations weren’t until 11pm. Later we came back to SOHO for our final activity, drinks at Cahoots. This is an old Tube station transformed into a jazz club. We were served popcorn with two complimentary glasses of champagne because it was our anniversary trip. I also enjoyed two more drinks as the jazz music filled the cozy, dive bar style lounge. We exited the bar and it was pouring. GREAT! I did have an umbrella. We snapped a few photos and walked through what looked like Chinatown. We tried to find Piccadilly Circus but I don’t think we actually saw it.
The next day was Sunday. We boarded our train to Paris.
In hindsight, I would have stayed much longer in London. I mean, I didn’t even check out a pub. But I loved the energy. The city, though grey, was exciting. It was incredible to visit a place with such diversity and a very laid back vibe.