After our week-long visa delay in NYC, we weren’t sure we would still be able to squeeze in a visit to London. But, Brian managed to pull it off and we got to visit one of our very favorite places in the entire world. Our huge van picked us up eeeearly in the morning at our hotel in NYC and we loaded our 30-plus bags in and headed to the airport for our flight. So excited to be visiting our old stomping grounds again, I don’t think anyone even minded getting up at 4:30 am.
We landed late in the evening at Heathrow and Brian whizzed right through customs, but the rest of our passports got flagged because our old UK visas were never cancelled. So, we waited forever in the holding area while Brian grabbed bags and rushed to make it to a luggage storage store literally seconds before they closed. He barely made it, begged them to stay open until a porter was able to bring the rest of our stuff (he could only lug 2 bags with him), and safely got all of our luggage stored for our trip. We only brought our carry-ons into the city. We finally got to our hotel in Belgravia, where we crashed hard after a long day.
DAY ONE- TWO: We forced ourselves out of bed our first morning (jet lag is real!) on a very typically English cold and rainy day and walked to grab a late breakfast/early lunch across from Harrod’s. We waited out the rain while walking all over Harrod’s and then got ourselves to Queen’s Theater, where we had tickets to see Les Miserables! The show was amazing- although Tessa thought it was “so annoying” that they only sang and there was no talking. LOL. I’m sure I would’ve had similar thoughts when I was 6. It was still wet and yucky after the show, so we got home and ate some Indian food close to where we were staying. We checked into our airbnb near Paddington, where we’d be for the rest of the trip. On Sunday, we got to go to our old chapel on Exhibition Road to watch a session of conference. To be honest, we were a little bummed we wouldn’t be able to attend regular meetings because we were looking forward to seeing so many old friends. However, the session was great and we were able to catch up with the Checketts afterwards, who are the mission presidents there now. Brian stayed back to check out the renovated Victoria and Albert Museum (it was boarded up the entire time we lived there and its gorgeous now!)
DAY TWO: Freddie! Tessa and Freddie were in the same class at The Vestry Preschool in Maida Vale. They really loved each other and she has always talked about wanting to visit him again. Plus, they have some shared memories playing together at the park across from our our flat, so thats where we met up. Tessa got to play with a dear friend and we got to go back to our legitimate favorite part of the city…St. John’s Wood! It was SO nostalgic and happy being back where we used to live!
After getting off the tube in SJW, we excitedly pointed out all of the things we remembered and loved and even stopped to get some warm quarkinis at the Bread Shop on the way to St. John’s Wood Park to meet up. Once Tessa and Freddie spotted one another, they ran so fast and embraced for a full minute! It was the sweetest meeting of two little friends. They played while I caught up with Freddie’s mom and then we had to race off to meet Brian in Regent’s Park across the way. Brian’s phone had run out of batteries though, and we could not find him in the park. We didn’t know at the time that his phone wasn’t working, so we walked all over and ended up in Queen Mary’s Rose Garden, feet from where he was sitting on a bench waiting for us. We never saw each other though! Frustrated about not being able to connect, we headed off to eat dinner at Nando’s in Marylebone with just the 4 of us. Brian had to buy a charger, get his phone working again, and by the time we got ahold of each other, we were both headed back to our place for the night.
Queen Mary’s Rose Garden is the best place to take a gorgeous walk. The roses were still blooming all over and the park was sooo green. It was stunning. We smelled the roses (literally), chose our favorites and relaxed on a bench there while the sun set.
DAY THREE: Brian and I got up to do a long run in and around Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. We trained for a marathon together on these paths and it was so nice to be back seeing so much of the same scenery after two years away.
There were several times when we all made verbal lists of things we wanted to make sure and see and Borough Market was at the top of everyone’s. So many good, yummy memories! We explored our favorite market where we indulged in delicious custard-filled donuts and then hot ham and mozzarella sandwiches. We then walked over to the Tower Bridge, past the Tower of London and tubed to Big Ben (sadly, covered in scaffolding). We walked down Whitehall over to Trafalgar Square, where we hung out for a while just taking it in. This was always one of our favorite places in London and the weather today was amazing. So, we took advantage of just being outside in this glorious city. We made a quick stop in the National Portrait Gallery, where we split with Brian and Kate. They wanted to stay longer at the museum, and we wanted to take a bus from Trafalgar, through Piccadilly and Oxford Circus and down Regent Street (the best ride- and we even nabbed top deck front seats!).
We got out at Notting Hill and I stopped at my favorite cafe in the entire world, Ottolenghi. That place is a-maz-ing. I got a medley of their unique salads, a dark chocolate cookie and a slice of their molten chocolate cake for Kate. We sat by the flower stand on the High Street while we all nibbled on my salads and ate the most delicious cookie of my life (sorry, Levain, Ottolenghi has you beat by a mile!). After that, we walked down Portobello Road admiring all of the shops and made our way to the famously adorable Biscuiteers shop, where we met back up again with Kate and Dad.
We had a dinner with our friends, The Beesley’s, later that night, but we had some time to kill and the girls needed some “kid friendly” stuff after all of that walking. We found a nearby park, where they were able to play and run and climb. London has the best playgrounds and they’re surrounded by the most gorgeous neighborhoods. I could walk around this place all day long every day and never tire of it. We walked over to Nando’s to meet our friends and had another delicious dinner with them…it was so fun to see them again and to catch up on the last two years and hear about all that they had going on.
DAY FIVE: Our last day in London was actually spent outside the city. We rented a car and drove to the Cotswolds near Cambridge. We love this area and its a close drive from the city, so its justifiable on such a quick trip. It’s also one of the most gorgeous places on earth. ;) This day, the weather was unbelievable—a local even said it was the prettiest day he’d seen in the area in years. We drove to Stow-on-the Wold, parked our car and rented bikes for all 6 of us. We biked through Stow-on-the-Wold and over to the Upper and Lower Slaughters through the most gorgeous scenery. Man, this place is like nothing else. The quaint cottages, little streams, bridges, horses, green rolling hills and huge estates made this bike ride pretty unbelievable.
In the Slaughters, there is this huge descending hill that ends in this water-covered pass. If you’re on a bike, you can bypass the water via a little side path, but these girls decided that wasn’t going to be good enough for them. They rode through as fast as they could and as many times as they could, getting pretty soaked by the end. It was the perfect sunny time of the day and we were totally alone out there. It was a pretty perfect moment with lots of laughs and memories.
The weather, outside of that first rainy day, was perfect. We ate a lot of our favorite Hob Nobs, Digestives, and Cadbury Bars as well as a multitude of other delicious things. We walked a lot and saw a ton. This quick trip just re-confirmed what I already knew…London is such a magical place. There really is no better way to describe it. I thought I was over you, but I just don’t think I ever will be. We were so grateful to get to go back!