Friday, July 25, 2014

London, England! Celebrating my 50th Blog Post!

Cherrio ol' Chaps!!!  I'm so sorry I was late in writing this month, life's been packed full of Bit's 'n Bob's!!!  But I'm back and I'm hear to say, " Stop watching your Downtown Abbey and Mr. Selfridge season's on PBS and head across the Atlantic to experience London, England fist hand;) (I have a strong obsession with both shows...they're my favorite's)

The flight from the USA to England usually happens at night, flights depart anywhere from 5-9pm and are scheduled to land in England by breakfast time.  My advice: Pack clothes that will turn heads because London is a fashionable place and you'll want to blend in with the locals;)  You'll find a mix of antique, vintage and modern looks throughout the city's landscape and it's people. 

My carry-on essentials include: my Kindle, the latest Vogue and Vanity Fair, healthy snacks like plenty of electrolyte enhanced water, trail mix, fresh fruit(grapes), chips like Stacey's Pita's, and a start off healthy take-away meal, like a chicken caesar wrap.  If you're anything like me, you'll wanna bring your cozy, J.Crew hoodie for extra comfort, in case you get cold, and a neck pillow!  Once you're settled in, your in for the long haul, so get comfortable, eat and drink plenty (staying hydrated will keep you from becoming dehydrated and thus making you so sick, you won't be leaving the hotel room's bathroom, trust me, I have first hand experience!).  Plus, there should be plenty of movies and TV shows to watch to give your mind a break during your 7-8 hour flight:)       

Once you arrive, a good rule of thumb is to head straight to your hotel, check-in, take a shower and take a 4 hour nap, especially if your sleep was shotty on the plane.  This trip we stayed at TUNE Hotel, on our first trip over we stayed at IBIS, we went with small, clean and ultra affordable, but look at a few different hotel options and choose the one that's right for you:)  After your nap, you'll feel rested, rejuvenated and you'll be on London time, ready to see the sights, go shopping and grab a great dinner!  Our first stop, none other than... Selfridges:)

After we dreamed about having thousands and thousands of dollars to spend as we walked though Gucci, Chanel and Hermes Counters, we realized, we may be leaving with nothing, but we did get to walk the same floors as Mr. Selfridge himself.  Being an American who strived to offer something for everyone, we were pleased that Selfridge and Co. did offer swanky threads to the less rich on the street level, back!  We were glad to stumble upon these great finds!!!
After we shopped till we were about to drop, we found a cozy little Italian Kitchen, just across the street from Selfridges, called Ponti's:)  Even though we were soon to be in Italy, we couldn't resist the outside aromas of thick pasta's and flowing red wines!!!    

Travel easy between your hotel and everything you want to see by way of the Underground or Tube (Metro).  All you'll need to buy is an Oyster card, which can be refilled as many times as needed!  Be sure to also try the double decker buses, which are a great way to see the city, between stops!  Below is
King's Cross and St. Pancras Train Station, where the famous Harry Potter Platform awaits;)

Pop into a city grocery to re-charge in between outings, you'll find goodies to keep in your travel tote while you're on the go and definitely try a Belvoir whenever you see them available, they're divine and they're made right here in England:)

One of our favorite neighborhoods is Notting Hill, so naturally, we spent the next day there!  We explored the beautiful architecture, outdoor antique markets and picked up some waffles and a cuppa:)  Shops to check out:  Alice's, Henry Gregory Antiques, and Stumper Fielding for the Englishman in your life, and several other's!  Find your favorite;)  You'll find vintage luggage, antique sports equipment, clothing, home decor, antique maps and other odds and ends! 

Later that afternoon, we made our way over to Buckingham Palace!  A truly royal experience, complete with English soldiers marching back in forth in front of the gate!  A definite must on your London Visit List!  Kensington Palace and Gardens are a wonderful trip too, and not too far away:)  Windsor Castle, a visit on our first trip over, sadly was missed this time around, but definitely worth a visit, not just to explore the castle and it's grounds but to visit the lovely, bustling town surrounding it!

Take a long, serene stroll through The Diana Princess of Whales Memorial Walk, it's lush and green surroundings will enchant you, great for photographs and an afternoon of leisure:)

The Next Day we went BIG!!!  Big Ben, that is, London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Tower of London, London Bridge and beyond!!!  We enjoyed the experience of these sights during our first trip over here, and we highly recommend them all!!!  We took tours through the Tower of London and London Bridge, we took tours through Westminster Abbey and booked a ride on the London Eye!  Even though heights bother me I convinced myself to get on the Eye, and it was a truly, amazing experience.  I got great pictures of London, including some timeless shots of Big Ben!!!  This being our second trip over here, we walked through these landmarks and enjoyed the views and a bit of nostalgia:)  The skylines here are incredible, grab a nibble and just sit and enjoy the views throughout your days of power walking the city.

Ahhhh, The Tower of London, an ominous place!  A place built long before the terrible deeds of Henry VIII!  The White Tower in the center was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and was a symbol of oppression to the city of London by the new power.  All who came to power after, expanded upon the castle and built up the land surrounding it, safely enclosing the tower and several other buildings behind two defense walls and a moat!  Not only did it serve as a palace and royal residence to the current King, but it also acted as a prison from 1100 all the way up to 1952!!!  This place has been here for YEARS and definitely is worth an afternoon's visit exploring all the many rooms, listening to the stories, swooning over the glittering brilliance of the Crown Jewels, and you get to see where Ann Boleyn was kept during her trial, and finally, where she was beheaded!!!!!  

Tower Bridge is magnificent and definitely should be the next stop on your list after visiting the castle!!!  This bridge dates back to 1886, when the official design by Horace Jones and John Wolfe Barry was chosen for the bridge, but it took 8 years to build before it was able to finally be used by the ever growing London population!  When it was built, this bridge was the most sophisticated bascule (french for "see-saw") bridge ever created!  With the major need for moving both street and river traffic, the bridge was a great success, being able to raise and lower in about a minute, through steam powered hydraulics underneath, it kept traffic in both directions going:)  Now powered by oil and electricity the bridge comes into modern times, but the exhibition and history tour of the bridge will fascinate and dazzle you, pulling you right back into the early 1900's!!!         

Next we jumped back on The Tube, and headed for Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and The London Eye!  When we arrived we were just as stunned the second time around, everything looked as though we had left it, a few years before;)  
The House of Parliament, or Palace of Westminster, where Big Ben is, hidden within the top of the beautiful clock tower here, refers to the bell inside!  If you visit long enough, your bound to hear it's song;)  The tower was completed in 1858 and in 2009 celebrated it's 150th year!  An iconic symbol of the United Kingdom, this is where The House of Commons and House of Lords, both houses of Parliament meet and it's a must shot for all tourists and filmmakers in the U.K. alike:)    

Westminster Abbey is another treasure that sits just next door!  Just mere steps away, you'll be standing in front of a towering facade of religious figures and angels.  As stunning as the outside of the cathedral is, take a tour through it's interiors and prepare to be breathless as you feast your eyes on a grand inner nave and arcade, meticulously set stained glass windows and priceless pieces of art and sculpture:)     

No trip to London would be complete without a ride on the London Eye!!!  What a grand experience!!!  I remember well, our first trip to London, walking with Steven, hand in hand up to this huge, moving wheel and feeling incredibly small and a little terrified of the extreme height!  We bought our tickets and he gave me the pep talk the whole time while we waited in line, watching this thing go round and round like a gigantic Ferris Wheel!  It was finally time for us to hop on, literally, the wheel just slows down and has a long exit for people to unload, and load all while moving!!!  So with much hesitation, I did it, I jumped on with Steven and we slowly made our way to the top!!!  WOW!!!!!  I'm sure glad I got on, because the views were spectacular and the memories will be with me, forever!!!   

A walk along the River Thames opposite the Eye and down around the corner off to the left onto Northumberland Ave. is a great place to get a bite, at The Sherlock Holmes Public House and Restaurant, just in time for dinner!!!  You'll really feel like an Englishman after a hearty meal like Steak and Mushroom in Ale Pie and a beer or rich red wine;)  Enjoy!!!

London also boasts some of the world's best museums!!!  Here's your Top 10 Picks.  Enjoy walks through The National Portrait Gallery, which is shown below for over 150,000 portraits of famous British men and women from the 16th century to the present day!  There are always special exhibits going on, so be sure to check their website prior to going to get a sneak preview!  The British Museum, is another must see for any visitor to London, not only home to the Rosetta Stone, but also many other ancient arts and artifacts, you'll be amazed!!! 

The next day included an afternoon in Angel!  Angel is every antique shoppers dream, much like Notting Hill, this neighborhood is lively, artistic and crowded with open air antique and vintage clothing street dealers as well as some well appointed shops and boutiques featuring new, freshly designed clothing and home decor!  The area is also peppered with pubs and restaurants, you'll find everything from Thai, Indian and Italian joints to strictly London faire, like The Barrowboy and Banker;)  

THE FARAWORKSHOP won my heart from the outside and then completely dazzled me on the inside, this place is a MUST on your Shopping List!!!  This boutique features it's own, in house designers who work while you shop on creating beautiful clothing for men and women as well as accessories out of donated and vintage fabrics.  Talk about breathing new life into something old!  I wanted to walk out with one of everything, but thinking my money should last me more than just 2 days into our 2 week long vacation.  I decided to leave with a darling black and white blouse and a charming chateau garden skirt, both of which you'll see me in as I explore France in another post, or find my pictures on Instagram under Twiggyjacqua or #chezjacquablog;)  

A few blocks away is Camden Passage and all the tiny alleyways filled with antique/boutique heaven!  I got the chance to mingle with some lovely, British shop owners and talk antiques and uniques with the best of them!  Take your time and walk around, go in and out of all these wonderful shops, you're bound to find amazing treasures to take home for yourself and your friends and loved ones!!!  And when you get hungry, step inside a 1950's Diner for a burger and Shake or make your way over to Banana Tree for some Pad Thai;)

If your heart's desire is Vintage clothing, step into Fat Faced Cat, where you'll find everything from Top Hats to Mink Coats and everything in between!  If you enjoy a more modern twist on funky vintage patterns and fun, eclectic home decor, SMUG is for you!  I found the cutest china pattern here, featuring a 1920's gal, riding on the back of a hare while smoking on a pipe that had a bird sitting on top!  It doesn't get "cheekier" than that!!!! ;)

You'll find many small shops, some nameless, but just as exquisite!!!  Browse the windows, pine over the goods and step inside to immerse yourself in the beauty:)  Treasures like antique tiaras will glitter in the windows, old pocket watches will stop you in time and in your tracks and vintage china, glassware and silverware will flash in front of your eyes, pulling you in every direction!!!

Photo Op Musts while your out and about: the iconic telephone stands, double decker buses, farmer's markets and London's street art!!!  Keep your eye out, for even on the slimmest of streets and the skinniest of old doors, you'll find works of art throughout the cityscape:)

While experiencing all that London has to offer, don't forget the PIMM'S;)  The official adult beverage of London, PIMM's is an interesting mix of Gin, lemonade, fruit and herbs and spices!  It's quite intoxicating, so easy does it;)  Not my favorite, since I'm a wine drinker and not a liqueur drinker, but I gave it a shot!  You'll have to try it for yourself, and tell me what you think;)

Don't forget to write your friend's and loved ones, back home in the USA and tell them all about YOUR experience!  Book your LONDON vacation NOW!!! ;)  Cherrio my Darlings!!!

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