London holds a special place in my heart. This is where my former airline employer sent me for my very first flight assignment after completing my Airline Cabin Crew Training Course. Since then, I've been constantly flying in and out of London and it became one of my favourite destinations.
Part of my benefits as a flight attendant were free travels with intermediate family, so in this vacation, I was able to take Rock Licker and my mom with me. During the planning stage, we were thorn between Marriott Swiss Cottage and Millenium & Copthorne Kensington as they were both our layover hotels in London in the past. But in the end, we picked Double Tree by Hilton in Marble Arch as our home away from home because of its central location and promixity to almost everything. It's just a few steps from the shops of Oxford Street and walking distance to Marble Arch Tube Station, West End Theatre, Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel is a quaint building with an old english interior design. As you enter the building premise, you know you are in London because of it's rich decor and classy ambiance. We were checked in at room 221, a deluxe room with a queen size bed. Our room was not too big neither too small for London standard. But it was clean and nice and it has everything that we needed for our stay. Daily breakfast and free wireless internet were all included in our rates.
Because I've been to London several times because of work, I volunteered to be the tour guide for this trip. Everyday during our stay, we followed a strict schedule. We woke up at 5:00 am, started our tour by 8:00 am, ended it before 8:00 pm and slept from 9:00 pm to ensure the three of us gets enough rest for our everyday adventure.
On our first day in London, we visited the Buckingham Palace, watched the changing of the guards, strolled through St. James Park passing Royal Horse Guard Building, London Eye, Big Ben, St. Margaret's Church and continued along Trafalgar Square, we visited the National Gallery and we ended our day with a hearty meal at Jamie Oliver's in Covent Garden Market.
Buckingham Palace has served as the official London residence of Britain's sovereigns since 1837 and today is the administrative headquarters of the Monarch. The Palace is also the venue for great Royal ceremonies, State Visits and Investitures.
We were fortunate enough that our visit to the Buckingham Palace coincided with Mexico State Visit. More so, we were able to take a snapshot of President Nieto and his entourage as they leave the Palace premises.
St. James Park
St. James Park is the oldest and one of the largest green spaces in London. The park features beautiful flower beds, grassy open space and a lake that's home to variety of waterfowl.
Royal Horse Guards Building
The Horse Guards Building is the headquarters of the Household cavalry whose duty is to protect the Queen.
House of Parliament
One of London's most iconic landmarks, The House of Parliament is the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords. It has three main towers, Victoria Tower, Central Tower and the famous Elizabeth Tower commonly known as Big Ben, which is technically the name given to the heaviest of the five bells it houses.
The Coca-Cola London Eye is centrally located in the heart of the capital, gracefully rotating over the River Thames across the Houses of Parliament. At 443 feet high, the Coca-Cola London Eye is the world's tallest cantilevered observation wheel.
Westminster Abbey is one of the most notable religious buildings in London and has been the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English and later British monarchs.
Trafalgar Square is a public square located at the heart of London containing Nelson's Column, Landseer Lions, the famous Four Plinth, fountains and a lot of pigeons. Cultural events, shows and other special activities are being held here.
Covent Garden in London's West End is a popular destination for visitors and Londoners who enjoy shopping, theatre, restaurants, bars, history and culture. Geographically, Covent Garden is located in Central London, bordered by the City of London and Leicester Square. It is within walking distance of Soho, the river Thames and Trafalgar Square.
On our second day, we drove a little bit outside London and joined PremiumTours guided tour to Oxford University, Warwick Castle and Shakespeare birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon.
Oxford University is the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the world's second oldest surviving university. Notable alumni include British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi, Scientist Stephen Hawking and US President Bill Clinton.
Over its 950 years of history Warwick Castle has been owned by 36 different individuals, plus four periods as crown property under seven different monarchs. In 1978, it was sold to The Tussauds Group, who transformed it to a tourist attraction.
This is the house where the world's most famous playwright, William Shakespeare was born, grew up and played. He ate meals in the hall and he slept and dreamt in these rooms. Shakespeare also spent the five years of married life in this house with his new wife, Anne Hathaway.
On our third day, our group embarked on a trip to see the Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Lacock Abbey & Village. In the afternoon, we did a walking tour around the old City of Bath.
Windsor Castle is the official residence of The Queen and the largest occupied castle in the world. The Queen uses the Castle both as a private home, where she usually spends the weekend, and as a Royal residence at which she undertakes certain formal duties.
Stonehenge is a massive stone monument located on a chalky plain north of the modern-day city of Salisbury, England. Research shows that the site has continuously evolved over a period of about 10,000 years. The structure that we call “Stonehenge” was built between roughly 5,000 and 4,000 years ago and that forms just one part of a larger, and highly complex, sacred landscape.
Lacock Abbey & Village
Lacock Abbey, located in the centre of the village was founded in the 13th century and dissolved in 1539. It was a home for the Talbot family including William Henry Fox Talbot 19th century, famous for his contributions towards the invention of the photographic negative.
Today, Lacock Abbey & Village is known for having been used as a location in TV and film productions of Wolfman, Pride and Prejudice, Cranford Chronicles, Emma and Harry Potter films.
Time flies when you're having fun. We didn't realize, we're already on our 4th day in London. So we're back in Central London and we went to see the London Tower, Tower Bridge, Platform 9 3/4 from Harry Potter, Portobello Market and Borough Market.
The Tower of London was built as a symbol of Norman power. The Tower represents more than any other structure the far-reaching significance of the mid-11th century Norman Conquest of England, for the impact it had on fostering closer ties with Europe, on English language and culture, and in creating one of the most powerful monarchies in Europe. The Tower has an iconic role as reflecting the last military conquest of England.
When it was built, Tower Bridge was the largest and most sophisticated bascule (see-saw) bridge ever completed. These bascules were operated by hydraulics, using steam to power the enormous pumping engines. Today, the bascules are still operated by hydraulic power, but since 1976 they have been driven by oil and electricity rather than steam.
Harry Platform 9 3/4
Platform 9¾ is a platform at King's Cross Station in London. Magically concealed behind the barrier between Muggle Platforms Nine and Ten, this Platform is where Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry students board the Hogwarts Express on 1 September, in order to attend school.
Notting Hill is a district in west London, located north of Kensington within the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. Notting Hill is known for being a cosmopolitan neighbourhood, hosting the annual Notting Hill Carnival and being home to the Portobello Road Market. It is also the filming location for romantic comedy movie Notting Hill.
Portobello Road Market
Portobello Road Market is one of London's notable street markets, known for its second-hand clothes and antiques. The market began as a fresh-food market in the 19th century; antiques dealers arrived in the late 1940s and '50s, and now have a substantial number of them trading mainly on Saturday mornings. It is the largest antiques market in the UK.
Borough Market is one of the largest and oldest food markets in London. It consists of up to more than 100 stalls selling British-reared meat and artisanal baked and dairy goods.
Realizing there's more time left to explore London, we did again another city tour on our fifth day. This time we decided to visit the Kensington Palace, Albert Hall, Albert Memorial, Natural History Museum, Geological Survey & Museum, Science Museum and Albert Museum.
Kensington Palace was the favourite residence of successive sovereigns until 1760. It was also the birthplace and childhood home of Queen Victoria. Today Kensington Palace accommodates the offices and private apartments of a number of members of the Royal Family, including The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.
Royal Albert Hall is a concert hall on the northern edge of South Kensington, London, best known for holding the Proms concerts annually each summer since 1941. It has a capacity of up to 5,272 seats. The Hall was originally supposed to have been called the Central Hall of Arts and Sciences, but the name was changed to the Royal Albert Hall of Arts and Sciences by Queen Victoria upon laying the Hall's foundation stone in 1867, in memory of her late husband consort, Prince Albert who had died six years earlier.
The Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens is one of London's most ornate monuments. It commemorates the death of Prince Albert in 1861 of typhoid.
Natural History Museum
The Natural History Museum in London is home to life and earth science specimens comprising some 80 million items within five main collections: botany, entomology, mineralogy, paleontology and zoology. The museum is a world-renowned centre of research specialising in taxonomy, identification and conservation. Given the age of the institution, many of the collections have great historical as well as scientific value, such as specimens collected by Charles Darwin. The museum is particularly famous for its exhibition of dinosaur skeletons and ornate architecture—sometimes dubbed a cathedral of nature—both exemplified by the large Diplodocus cast which dominates the vaulted central hall. The Natural History Museum Library contains extensive books, journals, manuscripts, and artwork collections linked to the work and research of the scientific departments; access to the library is by appointment only. The museum is recognised as the pre-eminent centre of natural history and research of related fields in the world.
Geological Survey & Museum
The Geological Museum (originally The Museum of Practical Geology, started in 1835) is one of the oldest single science museums in the world and now part of the Natural History Museum in London.
The Science Museum is a major museum on Exhibition Road in South Kensington, London. It was founded in 1857 and today is one of the city's major tourist attractions, attracting 3.3 million visitors annually.
Like other publicly funded national museums in the United Kingdom, the Science Museum does not charge visitors for admission. Temporary exhibitions, however, may incur an admission fee. It is part of the Science Museum Group, having merged with the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester in 2012.
Victoria and Albert Museum
The Victoria and Albert Museum (often abbreviated as the V&A), London, is the world's largest museum of decorative arts and design, housing a permanent collection of over 4.5 million objects. It was founded in 1852 and named after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The V&A is located in the Brompton district of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in an area that has become known as "Albertopolis" because of its association with Prince Albert, the Albert Memorial and the major cultural institutions with which he was associated. These include the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and the Royal Albert Hall. The museum is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Like other national British museums, entrance to the museum has been free since 2001.
Day 6 is shopping day for us so we went to Harrods and the gamut of shopping stalls and restaurants nearby.
Harrods is an upmarket department store located on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London. It occupies a 5-acre (20,000 m2) site and has 330 departments covering one million square feet (90,000 m2) of retail space, making it the biggest department store in Europe.
Finally, it's our departure day in London. Our flight was at night so we did a late check out and ended our trip with a little shopping at Selfridge before heading out to the airport.
Selfridges is one of the world's finest department stores and dominates the west end of Oxford Street. The shop has six floors offering 10 acres of shopping space, 11 places to eat, two exhibition halls and countless services.
From colorful neighbourhood of Nottinghill, gastronomic delights in Borough Market, incredible shopping experience in Oxford Street, and landmarks overflowing with history and culture, London is a must visit. There are endless things to do, places to go and beautiful sights to see. Another thing that adds up to its awesomeness is it's being tourist-friendly and safer compared to other major cities in Europe. Exploring the city is easy and jiffy, thanks to the ever reliable Tube, which is by far for me is the less complicated to take. London's weather is relatively nice too, but if you plan to visit, April and May would be the best months to go.
As for hotel, I highly recommend DoubleTree by Hilton in Marble Arch. It is a perfect place to stay in Central London. Its proximity to most of the attractions, trendy restaurants, shopping and theatre district makes it an ideal choice.
When it comes to guided tour, Premium Tours is an excellent choice. It delivers superior quality group tour, well-timed, knowledgeable guide and great destination options.