While subsequent days in London were a tad more relaxing, our second day in the city was a full-on, touristy extravaganza. We saw many of London’s most famous landmarks and walked seemingly everywhere, staggering back to our hotel in the evening absolutely exhausted from the day’s adventures.
We began our day with one of the true highlights of our three week trip: a tour of Buckingham Palace. While I’d seen the Palace’s exterior before, I had never been inside, and when I realized our trip coincided with the time of year when the Palace is actually open to the public (i.e., when the Queen’s away on vacation), I knew we had to go.
Our visit started with a tour of the staterooms, which were as lavish and gorgeous as you would expect (and where, sadly, photos were strictly forbidden). But the real highlights came at the end of our tour. First, we saw a special exhibit commemorating the 60th anniversary of the Queen’s coronation. The exhibit included the Queen’s coronation gown, robe, and crown, as well as the outfits worn by the Queen Mother, Princess Anne, and Prince Charles. It was so cool to see all these perfectly preserved, extraordinarily beautiful pieces.
Second, after we left the Palace, we found a lovely little cafe on the back terrace that was just perfect. It was decorated in robin’s egg blue and featured super yummy scones with cream. Plus, check out the latte art in my cappuccino – a crown! Every detail was perfect.
We lingered at the cafe for quite a while, soaking the experience up. Reluctantly, we made our way to the exit, passing through the gift shop (where serious damage to my wallet was done) and the gardens.
We then made our way to the front of the Palace (you enter for the tour through a side entrance, so we hadn’t even seen the famous front facade of Buckingham yet). I took a million photographs of the ornate, golden details on the front gate, which I just adore.
From Buckingham, we hopped on the Tube and headed to St. Paul’s. As it was a Sunday, the church was only open to worshipers, but we were still able to admire it from the exterior. I also love the below sequence of photos because they illustrate London weather in a nutshell: the skies were perfectly blue and bright over St. Paul’s, and within literally 5-10 minutes, they had turned grey and ominous.
For lunch, we stopped at Le Pain Quotidien, which has a location conveniently near St. Paul’s. I enjoy Le Pain because, even though it’s technically a chain, it never feels like one to me; the food is always fresh and seasonal and delicious.
After lunch, we experienced what was – for me – the real low point of the day, the Tower of London. The Tower is, of course, filled with such incredible history, which I certainly appreciate as a history nerd. Unfortunately, it’s also filled with tourists, and the crowds were just too much for me that day. I’ve now visited the Tower twice in my lifetime, and I can safely say I feel no desire to return ever again, regardless of how impressive the Crown Jewels are.
From the Tower, we walked to the Tower Bridge, crossing over it onto London’s South Bank. We walked along the South Bank for quite a while until we reached the Millennium Bridge and our dinner location. In fact, the walk was a bit longer than I had remembered it being and it’s possible that my mom was a little less than pleased with me…
However, as we settled down to our dinner at The Real Greek, where we dined al fresco with lovely views of the Thames and prime people-watching position, I like to think mom forgave me. Plus, our dinner was pretty tasty and featured all our Greek favorites: pita bread with tzatziki, a heaping Greek salad, chicken souvlaki for mom, and a chicken gyro for me.
After dinner, we made our way across the all-pedestrian Millennium Bridge, leaving the South Bank behind and heading back to St. Paul’s.
And after taking the Tube back to our hotel, we collapsed for the evening, having trekked about ten miles that day (per my pedometer) and feeling exhausted from a very busy day in London (baby!), a city so awesome that a little exhaustion is more than worth it, in my book.