Well, I cannot go to London without a stop at Buckingham Palace. I just adore this palace! Beautiful doesn't even come close to describing it. I have been able to visit it every time I have come to London. Every year they have a different special exhibit and in 2009 I got to see the Queen's dresses and gifts from various Commonwealth visits throughout the years.
The gowns are so detailed and elegant and the gifts were remarkable. One of the gifts from Canada was a model of an oil rig given from a town only 40 minutes from where I grew up. I found this very cool.
Being from Western Canada, we always fly into London from Edmonton, Alberta. It's a nice 8-9 hour direct flight that arrives around noon at Heathrow. I love this flight - there's nothing better than a handful of new movies to enjoy. There are so many to pick from that I actually look forward to the flight home.
I always like to spend some days in London to get over jet lag. My strategy is to book something that first night to keep us wake and moving. Last year we booked the London Eye and really enjoyed it.
One night, while in London, Mom wanted to walk to 'Boots', but I wasn't up to going (my feet hurt and I was tired). It was only a few blocks away and I told her to go by herself but just in case she got mugged I wanted her to leave her passport behind. I really didn't want anything to keep us from going to France! She couldn't believe I was sending an old women out alone at night in a strange city. She was somewhat kidding, but I wasn't.
In the end, she left her passport behind but then proceeded to take her time shopping trying to make me wonder what was taking so long. I didn't wonder, I knew what she was doing. That was her first time going somewhere alone in Europe.
This time we booked Les Miserables to keep us awake. After touring the British Museum and Covent Gardens and then dining on meat and potatoes, this probably wasn't my best plan. I couldn't stay awake in the show. Every time there was a solo performance I was down for the count and would jerk awake when everyone clapped. But based on what I did see of the show, it was amazing!
Some people say that food in Britain is boring or heavy, but in London it can be a highlight. My favorite place is 'Inn The Park' at St. James Park by Buckingham Palace. I actually plan my days around walking there for lunch. They serve the best afternoon tea, with a selection of finger sandwiches, tarts, freshly baked scones, preserves & clotted cream and of course your choice of tea. Yes, it is as good as it sounds! It's nice to just sit, relax and people watch. I believe the best thing to do in London is to enjoy its beautiful parks.
Another great place we ate at was a cafe at Portobello Road Market. It was right behind a Scottish store. They only use fresh ingredients. I was so excited, and yet confused when I got a chocolate brownie with my traditional English breakfast...uh, wrong! That would be blood pudding and it was horrible. It took all the beans and tomatoes left on my plate to kill the taste. I definitely won't make that mistake again, but now can say I have tried it.
We also booked dinner at Fifteen, Jamie Oliver's restaurant, for our last night in London. It was pricey but worth the experience. In the dining room they do seasonal tasting menus with wine pairing. I am pretty sure I was drunk by dessert (just preparing for France). The concept of Fifteen is to support youth who need a chance in life. All proceeds go to Jamie's Foundation, so the price is also a donation.
After that meal, we are so ready to go to France and drink the wine and devour the cuisine.
We ate fish and chips here!