Today was perhaps my favorite day in London so far. Our first week flew by—weekdays were so busy it felt like I was constantly running out of time, instead constantly adding to a never-ending list of places to go and things to see. Emily and I very ambitiously planned a full day of sightseeing—as I sit here, exhausted and immensely relieved to finally be stationary, it certainly feels as if we walked through all of London today. But our tour wasn’t quite that extensive.
I wish I could convey to you how amazing it smells once you step into radius of the market hall.
Our day began with breakfast at Borough Market, just early enough to miss the crowds on the tube. Londoners don’t seem to be morning people (at least not Saturday morning people). Don’t be fooled by the rather unimpressive outer appearance of the market hall—even at 10:00 on a Saturday morning there were crowds buzzing around with the type of fervent, fluttering energy evoked only by the promise of incredible food. Clearly, we had come to the right place.
Fruit so fresh if looks fake—the apples and carrot sticks I bought at Sainsburys later that evening pale in comparison.
Borough Market was chaotic, loud, and almost too exciting to handle. Emily and I moved beyond “kid in a candy store” within the first two minutes. Every few seconds one of us would give a squeal of delight and rush towards a stand more captivating than the last. We walked around the entire market, agonized over what to buy for a good ten minutes, and then sat at one of the picturesque purple fold-out tables to eat, and tried not to stare too obviously at the other market-goers.
Giant loaves of bread that I would have looked ridiculous carrying around for the rest of the day—I nearly bought one regardless.
I look ridiculously pleased with myself in this picture. Can you blame me? As if it weren’t enough to be holding a chocolate croissant and fresh cranberry-apple juice, I also have a giant chocolate brownie in my bag for “later”. I have no self control when it comes to chocolate. Let’s move on.
We were sad to leave—the market hall felt so authentically British. The hodgepodge of cultures that make up this amazing city is perhaps best evidenced by the array of stalls at Borough. I will definitely be returning for breakfast next weekend (maybe even sooner—that brownie was incredible!)
From Borough we walked along to Tower Bridge, weaving in and out of traffic and the quickly accumulating crowds. London streets are never quiet for long. We stumbled this little café (at least we thought is was a café…) called the Bicycle Club near Southwark Cathedral. Lovely.
Slightly impromptu, slightly patriotic feeling, utterly charming.
Needless to say, we’re going to try and bring daybed cafés back over to the States. People will be skeptical at first, but we’ll win them over in the end. Eventually we made it to Tower Bridge.
I apologize for taking up space in this picture. Let’s just focus on how nice the bridge looks, and what a miracle it is that it wasn’t raining.
Tower Bridge is absolutely breathtaking in its own right, but it also gives an unparalleled view of the city, including our next stop—the Tower itself!
This picture doesn’t do it justice—the Tower is monstrous!
After waiting in several lines for what felt like forever, we were finally allowed to enter the Tower *cue ominous music*. Which, contrary to what you might believe as you sit and daydream about visiting monuments around London when you should be studying for exams, is not simply a single tower where they locked up Elizabeth I and a few other less important people several centuries ago. It is in fact an enormous complex of towers, each of which boasts its own unique history and set of entirely too narrow spiral staircases (and it is unknown which tower was used to hold Elizabeth I—we asked!)
You can barely see it thanks to my ridiculously large head, but I promise there’s a palace behind us.
From the Tower we headed to Buckingham Palace, where we were a) happy to learn that the guards do in fact wear those hats that look like beavers and b) sad to learn that they were too far away for us to take pictures with and/or try to make laugh.
I know. I wish I was there now.
We opted not to pay for a tour, which left us with more time than anticipated to explore the parks around the palace (which I can only assume essentially serve as her Majesty’s back yard). First up was the Green Park, which I spent a good deal of time thinking was St. James’s Park. Yes, with two s’s.
Aforementioned tunnel. We took selfies here but I don’t want to ruin the picturesque setting for you.
We leisurely made our way to the Wellington Arch, which serves as a divider between Green Park and Hyde Park. Hyde Park is massive. We walked, and talked, and laughed our way through the entrance, and after fifteen minutes were struck by how profoundly isolated Hyde Park feels. It’s unnervingly easy to forget that you’re in London, one of the largest urban cities in the world. Hyde Park is large enough, and wild enough, to make you feel as if you’ve stumbled into another world. (This feeling is somewhat stronger in the secluded garden tunnels than, for example, while on the walkways next to the Serpentine, where madmen are rollerblading every way you look.)
I wanted to stay here forever.
We spent nearly two hours in Hyde Park, every minute of which was completely magical—a kind of breathtaking, awe-inspiring, indescribable beauty. I’ll leave it at that.
The Italian Gardens. A favorite of couples and exhausted college students alike.
We exited Hyde Park to find ourselves in Notting Hill–all a part of our cunning plan, I assure you. We had two goals 1) to find Portobello Market Road and 2) to find the house where Hugh Grant lived in the movie that surely gave the neighborhood its name. No? That’s not how it works you say? Moving right along then.
We may or may not have gotten sidetracked by cupcakes. I’m blaming this on Emily. Check out the Hummingbird Bakery if you’re ever on Portobello Market Road.
We decided that this was Hugh Grant’s house. Also, this selfie was taken entirely too close to my face.
By this point it was about 6:00 (or 18:00 as the British would say), and we were utterly knackered. Fans of a certain British literary icon (and more recently, televised series) will therefore appreciate our final stop on today’s whirlwind journey. 221B Baker Street!
Phew. I apologize for how ridiculously long this post was. Emily, today was a wonderfully crazy day that I will remember forever. I can’t believe we walked that far—I reckon we’re practically proper Londoners by now!