Here we are in sunny London.
That’s right, you heard correctly! Sunny! Who’d have guessed it? We check in to our High Street Kensington hotel, courtesy of our friends at Creative Holidays (thanks, guys!) and head out to explore the Big Smoke.
Round the corner, we find this. Yes, under all those flowers is a pub! Quite a famous pub in fact – The Churchill Arms was a favourite of Winston Churchill’s grandparents hence the name. There’s more about this little London gem in our review of the Churchill Arms here.
After a good night’s sleep at the Copthorne Tara Hotel, we head to the South Bank and the London Eye. Thanks once again to our chums at Creative Holidays, we have a Fast Track ticket, which lets us skip the queues. So good are these tickets, it’s as if we’ve travelled through time – we even get on the first capsule as they fire up this 135 metre (443′) Ferris wheel.
The views from around London are astounding from up here. We’re blessed with another clear day too, so we can see almost all the way to the Chilterns in the north.
The view up the Thames and over Westminster Palace is breathtaking.
Back on terra firma, we wander around the city. Mrs Romance snaps this pic of some good old-fashioned telephone boxes (do people still use these?) as we head further east towards Tower Bridge and…
...the Shard. Currently the tallest building – not just in London – but in Western Europe, the Shard stands at a looming 308 metres (1,012′).
Once again, our fast track tickets (thank you, Creative Holidays!) flash in the eyes of the friendly staff and we’re whisked off up the 72 stories to the top. The building is pleasantly quiet, so unlike our experience at the Empire State Building in New York, we enjoy the serenity of our altitude.
It really is an amazing view from up here. There are three levels you can explore in the Shard. Here Mrs Romance is peering down from the mid level. Lovely, ay? And the view’s not bad either… awww!
This is the main viewing area and the ‘lowest’ point in the Shard’s 360 experience.
And then there’s the top level, which is kind of open air. We’re at the crown of the building where the shards of glass give this structure its unique shape. The glass doesn’t meet all the way round or at the top, so it is technically open air. The views are just amazing though.
Back down on the ground, we head to Tower Bridge and the famous Shad Thames alleyways with their stone causeways across the Gothic streets. And yes, it’s still sunny!
Two iconic London structures – Tower Bridge and the St Mary Axe – or the Ghurkin as it’s better known.
Tower Bridge really has to be the prettiest bridge in the whole city. It certainly hides its grisly past well, though that past becomes more obvious when we get to the other side of the Thames and there waiting for us is the Tower of London.
We make our way to St James’ Park – my favourite London park – and make our way along its leafy paths to nowhere in particular.
In the summer, you can find these deckchairs scattered around the lawns of St James’ Park. It’d be the perfect place for a picnic, wouldn’t it? That’s if you like picnics, of course.
The squirrel-to-human ratio in St James’ Park is virtually equal. These cute little critters are everywhere – especially as the summer starts its chilly descent into autumn.
Mrs Romance is thrilled thrilled by this close encounter with a posh rat in this pub courtyard!
We find ourselves at the Horse Guards Parade Ground near 10 Downing Street and the other side of the park to Buckingham Palace. Don’t you just love these ‘I’ll take a picture of you taking a picture of me taking a picture of you…’ the question is, who’s really being photographed? Hmmm.
Mrs Romance feeds her addiction once more as we stumble across another flower stall.
And so we come to St Paul’s Cathedral. I’ve always wanted to go inside here and I’m quite excited to be doing so. This is a view of St Paul’s from the Shard, by the way. We haven’t suddenly grown very tall!
There has been a church dedicated to St Paul here since 604AD. This latest incarnation was designed and built by Sir Christopher Wren in the late C17th.
Thanks once again to Creative Holidays, we step inside this amazing building and collect our iPods and headsets from the counter. In the main part of the cathedral, we stare up at the famous domed ceiling while the choirs practise at the alter.
Down in the crypt – Europe’s largest, by the way – we find Lord Horatio Nelson’s tomb. He was a boyhood hero of mine and it’s quite awe-inspiring to be here.
There are 530 steps up to the top of St Paul’s. That’s a lot of stairs – just ask my butt! It’s well worth the climb though. 100%.
There are three galleries in St Paul’s. This is from the top gallery that looks out from the top of the dome. This is called the Golden Gallery. Mrs Romance is in her element here.
St Paul’s is not as high as the Shard or the London Eye, but I think this is the best view. Perhaps it because it’s truly open-air. Or perhaps it’s because you feel so much a part of the city from here. This was the tallest building in London until the mid 1960s, and you can feel that authenticity from a really old, tall building you miss from other bigger, newer ones.
I can’t help myself as we leave St Paul’s to completely incriminate Mrs Romance. But you’re taking a photograph too, I hear you say. That’s not important though, is it?
This evening we head out to a few bars with some friends we haven’t seen for a long time. It’s great to see them, but it’s also sad. We have to say goodbye to London in the morning and head east.
We meet my sister and go to a pub nearby for lunch before heading east to see Mum and Dad. This is a great pub that’s been taken over in the last few years. Here’s our review of The Gate you might like to read.
The drive east is a fun one. I haven’t seen my sister for about two years, so it’s great to catch up. The next and final part of our trip is already in the making as we reach our parents’ house in Essex. It’s almost time to relax at last.
Mum! Can I have a cup of tea, please?