Ever wonder why people return to a place they have already visited? To fully experience a destination from a completely different perspective not only opens your eyes to new sights but also invigorates the soul with new passion for a place you may already enjoy. It can unlock new art galleries, charming shops, tasty restaurants, that you may not discover on your first go.
Since my sister and I have both been to London it seemed fitting to experience the city in ways neither of us have before. We weren’t going there to see Big Ben, Buckingham Palace or Trafalgar Square – but if you are a first-time visitor you should make sure to hit all the major tourist locations! Some additional sites for your first trip are the National Gallery, Houses of Parliament, Tower of London and Tower Bridge.
We chose to stay at The Chesterfield, a lovely boutique hotel in Mayfair in central London. Immediately upon being welcomed by a full dressed doorman with a top hat and tails I knew this would be a charming hotel with a focus on exceptional service and personalized care.
Our London journey began with one of our favorite past times: museums! The British museum was filled with Greek, Roman and Egyptian ruins. Who knew a sarcophagus full of hieroglyphics could be so mesmerizing…especially sitting next to Cleopatra’s mummy? You read that correctly. Totally. Awesome.
We kept the momentum going by visiting Tate Gallery. Here you will find old world Renaissance style art. Admittedly not my thing, but I did discover a new contemporary artist, so I was pleasantly surprised. There are many wonderful museums in the city, so take advantage. And don’t forget to make time to take-in the old-world architecture, each building more ornate and beautiful than the next. It’s a marvel how these buildings were constructed centuries ago and still hold the same mysticism now as they did them. Breathtaking.
London isn’t just filled with large galleries of art and history, the city is full of small wonders like the home of the poet, John Keats in Hampstead and Sir John Soane’s Museum in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. John Soane was a neoclassical architect and avid collector of paintings and antiquities, complete with a sarcophagus in the basement. Really, it’s insane and a must see!
You must be hungry from all this museum talk so let me take you on a recap of our savory journey of London food – it’s not all fish and chips like you might think. Although, I did enjoy an amazing basket or two of the local pub grub!
London is an extremely cosmopolitan city so you can expect every type of global cuisine. For the steak and potato lover, Paternoster Chop House was divine, complete with a fantastic wine list. I’m partial to Italian, and Osteria Romana is rated one of the best in the city. A quaint locale off the beaten path leads you to a small dining room with a fresh basil plant on every table. The server snips leaves right from the table to mix with their own olive oil that I am still dreaming of today. Bellissimo!
We spent our last night feasting on hummus and lamb chops at Liman Mediterranean restaurant where the Turkish owner is also the master grill chef and puts his heart and soul into each plate he prepares.
We indulged at the English Grill at Rueben’s Hotel with both a server and a sommelier to guide us through the perfect meal. Stepping back into the golden age of Hollywood was an unforgettable tribute to years gone by at the American Bar in the Savoy Hotel. Each specialty cocktail is named after a famous celebrity, and the menu “book” tells its unique story. A swanky ambiance and impeccable service make this indulgence totally worthwhile.
And how could any proper foodie not complete their London journey without afternoon tea? The Claridge Hotel atmosphere was pristine, posh and exactly what you would expect for high tea. Tea sandwiches, desserts and champagne were all divine, but the Green Monkey Tea was the highlight for me.
If you are looking for entertainment, there is no shortage of musicals and shows to see. We chose to see the London Philharmonic, and were lucky enough to see the world premier of a composer’s new work. Pretty cool to be among the first ever to hear this new masterpiece played at its premiere.
Looking to escape the bustle of London for a bit? We took a train to Cambridge to walk the famous college town. I was pleasantly surprised that there was more to see and do than expected. There are many colleges in the town and even a lovely botanical garden. Stroll at a leisurely pace so you don’t miss all the architecture and magnificently manicured lawns (just don’t step on the grass) – each college more splendid than the next. The King’s College Chapel is one of the most enchanting chapels I’ve ever seen. Wall-to-wall stained glass on all sides is astonishing – pictures simply can’t do it justice. Make sure you stop in to the local wine store (only one in town – what a gold mine) and chat with the locals at the Eagle Tavern. This unique pub has a ton of World War II memorabilia and a ceiling that is signed by WWII soldiers from the US and Royal Air Force. I was blown away at the history I was a part of. And like the rest of London, the shopping isn’t so bad at Cambridge either.
Don’t even get me started on all the gifts from Harrods Department Store I am returning with – a whole separate suitcase full (don’t tell my husband). Because let’s be honest, my sister and I were both in London before, so what’s left but a little shopping! We hit all the key shopping areas – Harrods Department Store, Oxford Street, Regent Street, and a dozen more. Don’t forget to pack an extra bag for your next trip, you’ll need it! Thanks to special guest blogger Rachel Wicks.