When we were living in the UK, one of the easiest and exciting trips to make would be to the city of London.
It was only 2 hours away from where we lived which meant, if we ever wanted a taste of city life, all we had to do was hop on a coach or train and we were there.
For my birthday last May, my partner and I decided to do just that- we took a long weekend trip to London to celebrate my being another year older.
(What a weekend to plan it as what we didn’t realise at first was that it was the same weekend at the Royal Wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan!)
It had been a while since we had both visited London. Normally when I go, it’s to see a show (and I would only be there for a day), so it was nice for the first time in a while to actually spend a long weekend there and take the time to see more sights than I usually would.
So it was a Friday morning that we made our way to Bournemouth bus station to catch a National Express to London.
The tickets themselves were fairly cheap (being about £30 for two returns) and was a much better option than taking a train which can double in price just for one single person.
If you haven’t been on a National Express, they are one of the best forms of transport in the UK. They are not only relatively cheap, but they provide a very comfortable journey wherever you go with reclining seats, onboard toilets and the option to reserve the best seats on the bus.
Tea with the Queen
The National Express bus takes you right into the centre of London to Victoria Coach Station. If you’re not familiar with London, then it’s handy to know that London Victoria Coach station is only a 15-minute walk to the Queen’s house itself- Buckingham Palace.
So you can imagine, the first thing we did (even before we got to the hotel) was to take a detour to the grandest building in London. No matter how many times I visit London, I still find Buckingham Palace a wonder to see in real life. It’s such an icon of the Royal Family and the city that it is a must-see sight when in London. We were lucky when we there that a guard’s parade started as soon as we arrived. We sat just outside the palace and watched the performance- and, yes, we saw the guards with the tall furry hats!
After a bite to eat, we decided to carry on walking towards the River Thames. We looked on Google Maps and found that Big Ben was actually just down the road, so that was our next goal.
What we didn’t know when we got to Big Ben was that it was currently undergoing renovations. When we got there, the whole clock tower was covered in scaffolding! It was a bit of a disappointment but, hey, that’s our fault for not reading about it before we took the trip. Luckily, it wasn’t a sight we were too bothered to see, we just happened to come across it.
Pub on the Thames
Despite the scaffolding, we carried on walking along the banks of the Thames- and what a view. Across from us stood the London Eye (that large Ferris wheel) and in the distance, you could see the large jungle of towers that now make up the London skyline.
As we walked we happened across a little ‘Pub on the Thames’. You can imagine that by this time we were dying of thirst, so, of course, we thought we’d take a little break to enjoy the view and have a cheeky pint or two!
Trafalgar Square and M&M World!
A couple of hours later, we picked up our bags and decided to carry on looking around whilst we still had the rest of the day to do stuff.
We walked a little further on and headed inwards to find ourselves stumbling past Trafalgar Square. We took a
couple of pictures but didn’t stay long as just around the corner was Leicester Square. (It’s amazing how close everything is. The tube maps always make them seem quite far away, but it is honestly all in walking distance!).
Now, if you didn’t already know, Leicester Square houses a very popular tourist shop- M&M World! Now, when it comes to me and chocolate nothing can stop me, I just had to take a look inside!
As soon as you step through the doors, you are transported to a world of
colour. There are every colour and type of M&M imaginable! And just like at Disney where you get caught up in all the merchandise, it was a surprise that we didn’t buy anything. It might have been the fact that we were still carrying our weekend bags! Despite not spending anything, we made the decision to come back the next day to get gifts for people.
Before I go further, it is worth mentioning that there is excellent transport to get around London so even though you hear me going on about walking everywhere, there are a lot of options that don’t include walking. The London tube has connections to the biggest sights in London- we just like to explore on foot!
By this time though, we were so tired we had to get the tube to get to our hotel. It’s so easy nowadays to get onboard- you don’t even have to buy a ticket! With just a touch of your contactless bank card, you can take any train around London and, as long as you stay in Zones A and B, it’s a relatively cheap trip.
As I said, we took the tube to our hotel, The London Marriott Hotel West India Quay. We pre-booked this hotel
before the weekend after seeing some good deals online. The hotel itself is situated in Canary Wharf- what it is prominently known as the business quarters of London.
If you don’t want to be in the hubbub of London 24/7 then I would recommend you take a look at hotels in this area. It’s got a charm both of us liked and, where we were, there was still some nightlife to have with some local fancy cocktail bars and great restaurants.
One restaurant that particularly stays in my mind is the Big Easy restaurant, but we’ll get to that a bit later.
We couldn’t have asked for a better hotel and friendlier staff. They looked after us from the get-go including upgrading our room when they found out it was my birthday and giving me a gorgeous, delicious chocolate cake for
We took our first night in London easy after spending much of the day walking. It’s not a surprise to say that we were exhausted towards the end of the day. We explored the surrounding area and discovered a row of lovely bars and restaurants and chose to eat at a burger place where they served the juiciest burger imaginable before slipping to bed.
London: Day two
Saturday morning arrived and we were up at the first rays of sunshine (well, mist where we were at first). On the TV they were getting prepared for the wedding of the year- Harry’s and Meghan’s royal wedding and we were getting ready to set off to our first sight of the day.
One place we did plan to visit during our weekend in London was to go to the National History Museum. The last time I went to a museum was on a school trip. I don’t know what it is about museums, but I love them! There’s something fascinating about them.
The National History Museum:
If there was one museum you should visit when in London, it would be the National History Museum. The museum takes you on a journey of human evolution, the life of the dinosaurs, nature through the ages, and the future of science and exploration.
It’s massive. It took us around 2-3 hours to walk the parts of the museum that we did (and that wasn’t even all of it!). By the end, we had to leave, just because we got so exhausted!
We discovered that down the road was Harrods, the famous luxury department store. Seven floors of departments ranging from food halls to clothes, to technology, makes it the largest department store in Europe! Although our legs had started to ache by this point, we took a look around some of the departments and goodies displayed in the store. It is honestly a magical place to be although probably even better when you can afford to buy the products!
Moving onwards, we found ourselves walking towards Hyde Park, the largest of the Royal Parks in London. It’s a lovely park to walk through and you can imagine just how nice it would be just to spend the day relaxing on the grass or taking a stroll with your family on a nice summer’s day.
But my legs- oh, my legs!- they were so numb and sore from all the walking that day and the day before! I had to sit down every 15 minutes!
Espresso Martini Bar
One of the highlights of our London trip was attending a secret bar called the Espresso Martini Society. About a month or so before we took the weekend trip to London, I discovered a Facebook post about the exclusive bar which only opens between the months of April and May with limited spaces available. It was like a sign – we were going to be in London at the exact time it was there so I booked two spaces for the both of us.
If you walked past the building you wouldn’t have even known it was there. It was only because of the instructions we were given, and after clarifying with the man at the door, that we were able to find it!
The room was quaint and tiny (it was a bit of squeeze) but you feel extra special being one of the only few allowed into this little speakeasy. They sit you down in some spare seats and present to you their list of espresso martinis.
There were all kinds of recipes and unique creations available – I wanted to try them all- and we nearly did!
Here are just some of the flavoursome concoctions from the list:
The Ginger Beer’d:
A gingerbread flavoured twist on the classic
The Coco Loco:
Coconut infused espresso martini with a dash of sea salt
The Cherry Toffee:
A cherry twist with kirsch, toffee syrup, vanilla syrup, and salted caramel syrup
Avocado in an espresso martini? That’s right, this combined the usual ingredients with vanilla syrup, condensed milk avocado, and matcha.
The Royal Mint:
After-Eight in an espresso martini combining chocolate mint liqueur to the mix.
The Hot One:
>Feel the heat with a chili-infused espresso martini
The Big Cheesecake:
Decadence in a martini glass topped with cream.
They looked amazing and tasted even better, but you still can’t beat the classic vodka, coffee liqueur, and coffee that makes the traditional espresso martini.
The Big Easy Restaurant
After the seven odd espresso martinis between us, we left the espresso martini bar in search of food to dry up the
Right next to our hotel was a popular BBQ and lobster shack restaurant called theBig Easy. As you can guess from the name it’s famed for serving some of the best American BBQ food. From pulled pork, ribs and even a lobster, there is something for everyone to eat.
Once you’ve ordered your food, they prepare you with these adult bibs (there is no other word for them) and you will
honestly need them. We ordered a sharing platter which was massive- it included pulled pork, brisket, and lobster tail. (I had never tried lobster before). I could see why they handed out those bibs at the start; it was very messy, but I love food that I can pick at and play with (I am a child at heart).
With a bottle of wine between us, it’s fair to say that we had plenty of alcohol from that day, and it wasn’t much later until we found ourselves back at the hotel room (our last night in London).
Time to Go Home:
Sunday arrived and it was a morning to recover from the night before (let’s just say I was a little bit delicate that day!). As a result, we took Sunday morning easy, had a bit of a lie in and went to get a big full cooked breakfast at the Wetherspoons across the way.
If I’m honest there’s not much to say about our last day, well morning, in London. We didn’t have much time left to explore and our trip was coming to an end. We had just enough time to pack up and head back to the bus station where our bus was waiting to take us back to Bournemouth.
And so we said goodbye to London, but not for the last time. We knew that we would make plans to be back soon.