In late spring of 2018, I had the good fortune to accompany my husband on his business trip to England. This included nearly a week in London, where I attempted to see as much as possible before my feet fell off! On one the days, I logged nearly 20,000 steps. Even though my feet were swollen and it felt like I was walking on glass, I was happy. London is one of my favorite cities and it never fails to utterly delight me.
Prior to London, I spent a week staying with my mother-in-law, while my husband traveled throughout Europe, so for the London portion of the trip, I had to take a bus from the town of Newbury to Paddington Station. It only takes about an hour, but it is just far enough that it is not a given that we visit London, every time we travel to England. London is a treat. A big treat!
At Paddington Station, I found a few nods to the famous bear of the same name.
in a kiosk at Paddington Station, I purchased an Oyster Card, which is reloadable and serves as a public transportation pass for London. Since we often visit England, I opted for the Oyster Card, rather than a London City Pass. The city pass is great if you have a limited number of days in London and won’t likely return in the near future. I’ve visited England so many times since I’ve been with my husband, that it is really beginning to feel like a second home.
Another tip for using the tube is to download the London Tube App. My niece Pippa, a local, told me about the app and it was a lifesaver. You just need to type in where you are and where you want to go, and the app will set the route for you. it makes navigating the tube- Easy-peasy!
The only taxi that I took all week was from Paddington Station to our hotel, The Hilton Double Tree West End. I planned to walk and use public transportation while touring, but with all of my suitcases, it would have been a nightmare to get from Paddington to the Double Tree.
We spend a lot of time in Hilton hotels and the Double Tree West End is nearly identical to my experiences of Double Trees stateside. They even served the customary warm walnut chocolate chip cookie. Our room was comfortable and clean with a view of the main road below.
Location is the biggest plus about this property. It’s in a safe neighborhood, with tons of restaurants and shops just feet away. I often returned to the hotel late at night, alone, and never felt in danger. The Holborn Tube Station is just a five minute walk, making it easy to connect to all of the London attractions.
My phone plan didn’t penalize me for using my phone abroad and I essentially had the same access to data as if I had been using my phone in the states. However, this is not the case with everyone and speaking from personal experience from when we had an eight-hundred dollar phone bill (gulp!) from using our phone data in the UK ( previous phone carrier), I’ve often simply not used my phone. The Hilton Double Tree West End solves that issue, by offering a free-to-use phone for tourists. Such a great idea!
My husband was already hard at work and I basically didn’t see him for a majority of our time in London. I dumped off the luggage and headed out to explore.
I discovered an adorable street bizarrely named Lambs Conduit, that was filled with boutiques and cafes. I felt very much in England while admiring a clothing store with an Alice in Wonderland themed window display.
I went to a cafe called Tutti’s for lunch and sat by a large glass window, where I people watched and ate quiche with a Greek salad.
While enjoying my lunch, I researched the area and discovered that I was very close to Tavistock Square and Gordon Square Garden. Which, my bibliophile readers will appreciate is the area where celebrated author Virginia Woolf and The Bloomsbury Group lived. Belly full, I set off on a literary adventure.
Even if this was not an area famous for its literary past, it would still have been a very lovely place to visit. The garden, the size of a city block, is a gorgeous green space in the city and many Londoners were out enjoying a sunny day. As I looked for the Virginia Woolf bust, I admired colorful spring flowers and a serene Buddha statue.
London is full of blue circular markers that identify the homes of historic famous or important people. Sometimes the names are unfamiliar, yet intriguing.
and others are very familiar.
Switching gears, but also nearby, is a showroom for my favorite furniture designer: Timothy Oulton. To say that my husband and I love Timothy Oulton would be an understatement. We have filled our home and wiped out our bank account in the pursuit of collecting his gorgeous pieces. I headed over to Heal’s, a designer home furnishings store, to check-out their Oulton offerings.
I always love Timothy Oulton showrooms, but as an overall impression, Heal’s, which sells many designers, its a fabulous place. I explored it all and ended up parched. It was time for afternoon tea, which having married a Brit, I’ve grown to require.
The Ambrose Cafe, located inside Heal’s was filled with designers sipping tea as they worked on projects or took meetings with clients. The vibe was definitely artsy! I had a pot of Earl Grey and a slice of cake.
The best part of the experience was when a very happy designer popped a few bottles of champagne and insisted that everyone in the room have a glass. I’m not sure what he was celebrating, but we all toasted him and enjoyed a splash of bubbly.
My 2018 London trip was off to a smashing start!