We arrived in London Sunday around noon and checked into our home for the next four nights – the Principal London, Russell Square. This hotel, formerly the Hotel Russell, was built in 1898 but has gone through a tremendous renovation and is just lovely. The hotel’s flagship seafood restaurant is said to be almost identical to the Titanic’s dining room, both designed by the same architect. I will try to capture photos before we depart.
Mark took a quick tour of the British Museum while I took a much-needed nap, and then we met up with Hannah. First stop? Covent Garden – one of my favorite spots in London! We walked around the area, enjoyed a street performer, and then had a lovely meal of “Sunday roast” at the Palm Court restaurant. Afterward, we stopped for an indulgence of my most-favorite treat – French macarons from Laduree! YUM!
Today, we arranged a full-day private tour of London, including the three famed sites of Kensington Palace, Westminster Abbey, and the Tower of London. Norma, a London native, was our most capable Blue Badge tour guide (if you hire a private tour in London, be sure they are Blue Badge certified). This was really for Mark’s benefit, as this is his first visit to London. With limited time, we knew we had to pack it in!
Kensington Palace included tours of both the king’s and queen’s quarters – did you know King William III and Queen Mary II purchased the palace in 1689? We also enjoyed the temporary exhibit, “Diana: Her Fashion Story,” which featured many iconic dresses Diana wore during and following her official reign as princess. Such a lovely soul taken too early from this earth.
There are few words to describe the beauty of Westminster Abbey. It is simply stunning, and it’s so clear to understand why royal weddings and coronations are held in this amazing church. All but two monarchs since the 11th century have been crowned in the Abbey. I was completely bummed that photography is not allowed – but managed to sneak a photo of this intricate, hand-carved ceiling!
While photos aren't allowed in the main area of the cathedral, I managed to sneak a quick pic of the ceiling...much to Hannah's horror (I thought my rule-follower daughter might actually turn me in for this).
Our last stop of the day was the Tower of London. We learned about the many nobles and their cruel punishments during the Middle Ages. Henry VIII had two of his wives beheaded there – Ann Boleyn and Catherine Howard. Many others were tortured and/or killed onsite, or just outside on Tower Hill. Pretty ruthless bunch, for sure! They most certainly didn’t believe in do-overs! My most favorite part of the tour was the Crown Jewels exhibit – amazing!
Karen and Bryan arrived this afternoon, and we joined them for dinner this evening. We stayed close to the hotel and had a wonderful pub meal at the Marquis Cornwallis – our first fish and chips of the trip did not disappoint!
On to Bath and Stonehenge tomorrow! Cheerio!
PS. Why do I feel the need to speak much more formally, enunciating clearly, and minding my vocabulary while I’m in the UK? It’s so funny – but we are all trying our hardest to not come across as crazy-ass, ignorant American tourists!
PSS. Watching the Crown series prior to our trip certainly helped me speak intelligently about the current Monarch – and appeared to impress our tour guide, Norma, on more than one occasion.