We landed in London early on Saturday morning and after collecting our bags we took the Gatwick Express downtown. After a long flight we usually take a cab straight to the hotel, but we heard from friends that the cab ride from the airport to downtown London would be up to an hour and would cost around $125 each way.
Instead we sucked it up and took the Gatwick Express downtown to Victoria Station. It set us back about £40 for two adult return tickets, but since we had ordered a pre-paid Oyster card before we left Canada didn’t need to wait in line to buy a ticket. We just tapped and got on. The Gatwick Express train leaves every 15 minutes and it only took about 30 minutes to get downtown. Even jet-lagged it was a pleasant experience.
Amba Charing Cross
The Amba Charing Cross hotel is located beside an extremely busy train station and at first we weren’t too sure about the location. It wasn’t long before we realized that being right above the Tube was super convenient. On top of that, we were within walking distance to Covent Gardens, Trafalgar, SOHO and a thousand other incredible places of interest. Amba’s exterior is weirdly charming, and the interior felt modern and luxurious. The room itself was fairly standard, but it was very clean, quiet and really spacious. Amenities were great – we splurged on room service a couple of times, Wi-Fi was lightning fast, and the fridge was stocked daily with with complimentary snacks and beverages.
We didn’t go into the palace for a tour, but after a long walk through Hyde park we were exhausted and we stopped at the Kensington Palace cafe to dodge the rain and enjoy some tea and a scone with clotted cream and jam (so good!). Princess Kate offered free WiFi so we checked Pokémon GO before walking through the gardens.
Palace of Westminster & Westminster Abbey
We were a little leery of our walk around the British Parliament because of the attacks just two months before our visit, but we felt that we couldn’t miss out. We didn’t have time to go into either Westminster Palace or Westminster Abbey, but they’re both visually stunning from the outside.
The British Museum
The Louvre in Paris has always been my favourite museum…until now! I was so impressed by the British Museum…The Egyptian Mummies, the Rosetta Stone, the moai from Rapa Nui. I felt like Lara Croft from TombRaider and it was incredible.
Victoria and Albert Museum
Did I mention that museums in London are free to enter? All they ask for is a voluntary donation and you’re able to enjoy the museums for as long as you’d like. We nearly skipped the V&A, but we were in the area and dropped in as a whim. I’m so glad we did because this was my second favourite museum in London. The plaster cast of the original statue of ‘David’ was a particularly nice surprise.
The Making of Harry Potter
After several days of wandering through museums and castles we decided to get out of the city to do the “The Making of Harry Potter” experience at the Warner Bros. Studio. We took a train from London to Watford Junction and then a 15 minute shuttle ride from the station to the Warner Bros. Studio. What should have been a 45 minute trip took us way over an hour because we took the Overground instead of the regional rail. Still…it wasn’t too bad. Not sure I’d do it again, but it was fun to walk through the sets and prop museum for the Harry Potter movies. We spend about 3 hours there including a lunch stop halfway through.
London did not disappoint. Like New York City and Paris the city has a vibe all of it’s own. It’s massive and hectic, but it was full of quiet moments where we could enjoy it all on our own. Can’t wait to go back, but I’ll probably wait until the GBP isn’t quite so killer. With the Canadian Dollar only buying £.60we really had to watch our spending.