London is one of my favorite cities to visit. Most of the time, my travels to Europe from the US take me through Heathrow, and I always look for the opportunity to do a long layover.
I don’t know if London has grown on me because of my many visits, or if I visit London so frequently because it has grown on me, but it doesn’t really matter because I have developed a small level of familiarity with this cosmopolitan metropolis.
One of the reasons I like to visit London is because it is so easy to get into the center of town. After a sleepless overnight flight, it is simple to hop on the tube and take the Piccadilly line to my hotel. I always make sure to book accommodations that are close to a train station in the Earls Court or South Kensington area so that I do not have to walk far once I get off the train.
If my visit to London is longer than just a day, then I do look for something new to do. But I also indulge in some of my favorite repeat activities that make London unique.
I adore a good British afternoon tea and I have had some amazing ones in London. I try to find a new spot for afternoon tea each time I am there. I have had some great experiences, but my favorite has to be the afternoon tea in the Diamond Jubilee room at Fortnum and Mason. With over 300 years of experience as purveyors of fine food and drink, the folks at Fortnum and Mason know how to put on a lavish spread which includes over 50 varieties of tea.
Afternoon tea is supposed to be a light meal to tide one over until dinner later in the evening. But I have found these special event afternoon teas to be very filling. I usually skip breakfast, have an early afternoon tea and then am usually still too full for any other meal in the evening. But just in case I get peckish, Fortnum and Mason sends me home with an extra treat or two.
Another favorite event that I indulge in on any long stop in London is a performance at the Royal Albert Hall.I love the London theater scene, but there is something about sitting in the historic Royal Albert Hall that just speaks to me. One of the reasons I like to stay in the South Kensington neighborhood is because I can easily walk to and from a show at the Royal Albert Hall. At home I have to drive as long as an hour to get to a concert or a theater event and then also deal with the hassle of parking. It always feels like such a luxury to just walk out the door of the hall and 15 minutes later be in my hotel room bed.
Staying in South Kensington is also convenient for visiting the nearby museums.There is always something new to see at the Natural History Museum or the Victoria and Albert Museum, and since they are free to visit, it is easy to just pop in for a quick stop and check out another exhibit or two. I’ve heard the Victoria and Albert referred to as England’s attic, so it is always fun to discover another unique treasure or two that had once belonged to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.
I also love visiting English gardens and one of my all-time favorites is Kew Gardens just outside of London.The train station drops me off right in front of the Kew Garden’s entrance which makes it very easy tospend a morning or afternoon strolling through the historic greenery. When Kew recently had a special exhibit showcasing the glass art by Dale Chihuly, I made sure to plan my travel schedule so that I had a day to explore the works of one of my favorite artists.
I like to end a day in London with Evensong at St. Paul’s Cathedral. It’s a calming and meditative experience to listen to the choir’s harmonious voices as I stare up at the impressive dome designed by the renowned architect Christopher Wren. Then, from St. Paul’s I cross the Millennium Bridge and walk along the South Bank of theThames till I find a restaurant that takes my fancy where I grab an outdoor table and people watch as all of London strolls by.
London has so much to see and do that it is always a pleasure to travel there. But I have my favorites which makes a visit there both special and familiar and I can’t wait to go back.
A Perfectly English Day in London