June 08, 2016

Travel Guide: London In Four Days



Preparing for our Barcelona trip in two weeks time (eeeee!) has taught me a whole new love and appreciation for travel blogs and guides, especially Em Talks! The low-down on the destination and the ins and outs of everything helps take away some of the travel anxiety. So since I've had my fair share of travelling over the past year - Venice, Rome, Verona and London to be exact, I thought I should give my two pence on the do's and don'ts in these cities..

So by demand London is first up..

Getting There.
Since I live in Northern Ireland this required an exciting trip to the airport (FYI I love airports). Scott and I flew from Belfast International straight into London Stansted. Obviously London has a range of airports, so it's really about finding the best deal. Try Sky Scanner to try and find the best prices for any of the airlines, it helps reduce the number of google tabs and patience required to compare prices.

From Stansted we got a coach service with City Link which cost £20 return for both of us. This honestly was quite a bargain, we walked straight to the bus terminal and waited for 5-10 minutes for the next bus to arrive. An hour got us from Stansted right into the centre of the city at Kings Cross & St Pancras Station where we were staying. 


Accommodation
For our four day visit we stayed at The California Hotel, I honestly cannot recommend this hotel enough. The room was extremely clean, although not the largest room it was warm and cosy and just enough to put our heads down in a safe place each night, and not to mention in the BEST location. 50 meters down the footpath took you straight to Kings Cross Tube Station and across the road were two of the main train and bus locations in London, Kings Cross and St Pancras stations. 



If you research Kings Cross it is full of eateries and cafes, Nando's is just a two minute walk across the road and the staff there are extremely friendly. There are also a McDonald's and Burger King 30 seconds from the hotel door, (which we guiltily made use of). On our first day in London we took a five minute walk to the local Tesco Express store to pick up some snacks for the room for whenever we had just finished a full day of walking the city, this was probably the best idea of the whole trip...

The breakfast was kept simple but delicious, each morning there were a range of cereals, fruits, yogurts, toast with any possible topping (including mini pots of Nutella which I may or may not have stocked up on) and an English fry up situation, all of which were tested and approved! 

The staff of the hotel were always willing to help and answer any questions about the room or how to get places in the city. There is a free bag drop off service which we made use of if you arrive before check in or you have to check out before your flight. Each time we left or came back to the hotel, no matter the time of day or night, we were always greeted with a friendly smile and a Hello or Goodnight, which I personally think reflects how enjoyable it was to stay at this hotel. 10/10 in my books, I will 100% stay here again when I go back to London!

Transport
The tube was probably the thing we spent most of our money on while in London, but we also spent a lot of time on the tube and it really made our whole experience so much easier and enjoyable. 

When we arrived we both got an oyster card and topped them up with £25 each, before we left to come back home we topped up another £10 again but still had a little left over that we hadn't used. It was slightly heartbreaking spending so much on travel but I cannot complain about the tube system, everything was accessible within 10 minutes, especially staying in Kings Cross.

The staff in the stations, particularly Kings Cross, are SO helpful and knowledgeable about the underground system. I was double charged a fair and ran out of money on my Oyster card at one point and the lovely man at the Tube Station gave me back my fair and then a little extra, which was more than expected of him! If you are stuck or have any questions the staff are more than willing to point you in the right direction.

Things To Do
Obviously if it is your first time visiting London it is a must to do all of the touristy things possible. On our first evening there we headed straight for the London Eye - Kind of pricey at £50 for a twenty minute turn but I couldn't visit London and not experience it. I actually thought I would be too scared to get on it but this is probably my fondest memory of the trip, a must-do to see the beautiful city from above. After hopping off the eye we took a short walk across the bridge to The Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. We walked around the area for a while and ended up strolling along the bank of the Thames, which by the way is so beautiful in the evenings! 










On Friday evening we went to Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square and ended up in China Town. The best thing about this part of the city was that it was full of fellow tourists so everywhere felt safe to be in and the atmosphere still gives me goosebumps thinking about it. (I don't get out much..). You can watch the vlog to see my reaction to Piccadilly, I honestly was mesmerised and actually felt a little emotional.




Saturday was shopping day and I made straight for Oxford Street. I think this one speaks for itself, jump on the tube and spend the day walking up and down Oxford and Regent Street. Every girls dream, every boyfriends worst nightmare. As if Scott wasn't fed up enough, after a freshen up at the hotel and a quick rest to watch a little of an Ireland rugby match, we headed for Westfield. There wasn't many more shops or brands in Westfield than there were on Oxford Street so this trip wasn't completely necessary, but it was nice to experience how huge the shopping centre was. We grabbed some dinner in a Mexican place in the food court and spent a little time just watching the world go by which was nice after such a hectic day. 






On Sunday morning we headed to meet some family in Shoreditch for breakfast, we originally planned to go to The Breakfast Club but since we're Irish and the queue was down the street, our patience and hungry belly's couldn't wait that long. So we had the nicest pancakes at a place called The Diner which was just a few streets up on the right from The Breakfast Club. A really nice place to get a good breakfast before a day of exploring. 



From Shoreditch my cousin Stacey walked us through Brick Lane Market which was amazing to experience. Instead of going for breakfast I would recommend holding off and getting a really good lunch from one of the many world cuisine stalls at the market. I can still smell how good it was! 

After leaving Stacey at Liverpool St Station Scott and I headed for the Gurkin to take some pictures and gaze at the high rise buildings. We were going to head to the Sky Gardens which are also in the same area but unfortunately we didn't.. major regret!









The rest of the day was spent exploring the richer side of London - Kensington. We jumped on the tube and headed for Kensington Gardens. The next time I visit London I have every intention of hiring bikes and going for a cycle around the gardens and having a picnic, an absolute must do. 

Later we visited Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace and Harrods. After getting some gifts in the food court, because that was the only thing we could just about afford to buy, we took a frightening walk around the more luxury side of Harrods. I can honestly say I have never been more scared to breathe around furniture, crazy expensive! But totally worth the snoop just to see how the other half live.








On Monday before we headed back home we made a trip to the National History Museum. Obviously not everyone's cup of tea but Scott and I are both nerds at heart. I really enjoyed the museum, although the large crowds and hundreds of school children were not favorable. 

Eating and Drinking
The only night we went out for dinner was the Sunday. After being over whelmed with reviews on google we decided on Flat Iron Steak House in Soho.

This was a great shout but a little of an unusual experience for both of us. Tables were just like garden benches so there were six people to a table and so personal space wasn't exactly a thing in this place, but thankfully the couple next to us felt so strongly about the lack of breathing space they left, leaving us with some extra elbow room.


There was only a set menu of steak in this restaurant and the chef only cooked it rare, which was not exactly to my preference but we were too tired to go in search of anywhere else. Despite the lack of leg room and the one option menu, the food was great and I don't think I've ever eaten a nicer steak. The atmosphere of the restaurant was really relaxed and chilled, and the staff were really helpful despite my lack of understanding that I was only allowed to order one thing.. 

On our last day we stopped by a Pizza restaurant near the Natural History Museum for lunch before we headed to the airport. It wasn't anything special, but again the staff were very welcoming. 

Over-all we didn't spend much time in bars and restaurants but when we did head out places to eat or grab snacks everyone was extremely helpful and friendly which always makes the experience a lot better.




All in all I had the best trip to London and I cannot thank my Mum and Dad enough for the experience, an amazing 18th Birthday Present and one I will never forget! 
London has well and truely stolen my heart and I cannot wait to get back again, but until then I'm going to have to keep day dreaming..

In addition to this blog post you can check out my London Vlog and Travel diary which is on my second YouTube Channel by clicking here! Keep your eyes peeled for the rest of my travel guides, including one after I get back from Barcelona! If you found this helpful then please feel free to share with anyone else who might find it useful!

If you have any questions about my trip to London or need any advice then please comment below or drop me an email at beautysarabelleza@gmail.com.

Thank you so much for listening to my rambles, it's nice to be back blogging again! :-) x



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