On the 6th of October I flew over from Ireland to the UK, with my boyfriend, to attend the Cosmo Blog Awards 2014. In my short time in the UK (I returned home on the 8th) I soaked up the beauty and the unique surrounds of London City. It really is a very beautiful place, with breath taking architecture, a rich history and uber trendy people and shops! What’s not to love?
Upon arriving at Blackfriars train station from Gatwick airport, my boyfriend and I left the station excited to see the sights and soak up the British culture. After wandering down the road for about five short minutes, we realized that our hotel was a stones throw from the train station! We were booked in to the charming The Mad Hatter Hotel on Stamford Street. The hotel was originally a gentleman’s hat factory and shop, in the little quaint the reception area there are a few old fashioned hat advertisements hung on the wall. The lady who greeted us with reception was very polite and even pointed out to us that there was free WiFi at the hotel, should we need it!
Upon entering our hotel room, the first thing I noticed on the wall was the Alice In Wonderland picture above the bed. I believe that all rooms in the hotel have a different Alice In Wonderland themed painting. Our bed was comfortable and surprisingly, we heard no noise at night time, despite being insanely close to a train station and the city center. The hotel was in a fantastic location, as we soon found out the next day, we were right beside the OXO2 Tower. Which was where the Cosmo Blog Awards was to be held. Which was very handy indeed!
That evening we had dinner in The Mad Hatter bar, I had Nacho’s and Eoin had a Pie. He was seriously impressed with the pie, so if you ever get the chance to eat at The Mad Hatter, give the pie a try! While we were eating, we decide to try and book tickets (last minute!) to a west end play. Initially, I wanted to go see Speed The Plow. Which is a production that Lindsay Lohan is currently preforming in, sadly, it was sold out. So we took advantage of the free WiFi and found another play to attend. We booked tickets to Charlie and The Chocolate Factory at Theatre Royal on Drury Lane. We got a taxi to Drury lane and on the way we saw many signs for different theatre productions in the West End. Once we arrived at Theatre Royal, it was clear that there was a buzz of excitement in the air. Employees of the Theatre Royal were selling Wonka Bars and other Wonka themed goodies to excited children and adults alike.
Soon enough it was showtime and we took our seats at the front row of the balcony. The show was spectacular, the cast really captured the magic of Roald Dahl’s characters and the live orchestra moved and enchanted the audience with each note they played. The play was a lot different to what I expected, the Oompa Loompa’s were not orange and Willy Wonka had a moustache but it didn’t take away from the joy of the story telling, whatsoever. I can not begin to tell you how happy I am, that I got to tick see a West End play off my bucket list. Delighted!
The next morning we woke up early, to take advantage of the time we had during the day to get in a bit of sight seeing. We purchased two very expensive tickets for the Big Red Bus Tour. Two tickets, plus commission cost us approx £60-70. Which in the end, for us, wasn’t really worth it. It would however, be worth it for anyone who was staying for more than two days in London.
We only got to use our ticket for one day, not getting to take advantage of the cruise in the River Thames, which was part of the ticket price. If you do buy a tour bus ticket, use it to your full advantage. The bus stops in all the major spots and on the Big Red Bus Tour, there is a bus every 2o minutes or so from each stop off point. On the bus tour you get free headphones and ponchos to wear if you are sitting on the top floor of the bus. On one of the buses we took on our way to The London Bridge, there was an almost amusingly posh British man who was the announcer, he was very interesting to listen to and spoke about the rich history of London.
The London Bridge was one of the first sights we witnessed on our Big Bus Tour trip, it was a beautiful day in London, which allowed me to take some really nice pictures of the poppies in the moat at London Tower. The stunning art work represents blood swept lands and was created to mark the centenary of the start of the Great War. It’s visually stunning to see in person.
The next stop on our agenda was Big Ben! Every time I think of London I think of Big Ben. It’s always been a symbol of British culture for me and I was over joyed to see it in person. Big Ben is actually the name of the bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster. The architecture of the entire building is astounding and the size of the Palace of Westminster is grandiose, displaying the power and wealth of the British empire.
The next night we attended the Cosmo Blog Awards which you can read more about by clicking the pink text. I previously posted a blog all about my experience at the award ceremony, so there is no need to go into detail in this blog. I was held in the super swanky OXO2 Tower, which had a beautiful view of London city at night. It was quite a beautiful scene to witness.
Soon after we got off at the stop for Buckingham Palace, one thing I will say about London is that all the major sights are very close to one another. Chances are, if you are at one major tourist site, there is another close by. Buckingham Palace was crowded with tourists and strangely enough, a lone bride in a wedding dress! The palace gates are guarded by heavily armed guards, the giant guns they carry are quite intimidating. There was other guards outside the palace gates, who were also carrying guns among tourists who were taking photographs and admiring the beauty of the palace. It was a little off putting but that’s what you get when you visit the home of the Queen!
Beside Buckingham Palace is a small gift shop, which sells many touristy goodies and trinkets to remind you of our time in the United Kingdom. Including corgi teddy’s, the Queen’s guard lip balms & even an etiquette guide on how to greet the Queen herself! What more could you want?!
One of the places I would recommend anyone to visit while in London is The London Dungeon. Upon entering The London Dungeon you will be taken though a 90 minute journey through London’s history, brought to life by professional actors, a series of special effects and even two creepy underground rides. I for one was terrified while cowering though the fake hallways and sets of The London Dungeons, waiting for actors to pop out of the shadows and scare the life out of me! It’s not all horror and heart attacks though, there is lots of humor and fun to be had in the dungeons. The actors interact with the crowd, making learning history fun for once.
Even at the end of the tour, the people who work in the souvenir shops are completely in character! It’s an all round fun experience and it’s something that is not to be missed when visiting London city. A ticket for an adult costs £25.20 is well worth the money!
The last place we visited, before rushing back to make the train on time, was Covent Garden Market. Which is situated in the West End, beside all the theatre’s and plays. Eoin and I were annoyed that we hadn’t found this place sooner, as it was full of life and wonderful market stalls.
Covent Garden Market is unique in the fact that it is equally as quirky as it is trendy. There are loads of different shops around, including designer brands like Chanel and Burberry. Jamie Oliver even has a little restaurant within the market place, should you wish to stop for a bite to eat.
One of the best shops I came across in Covent Garden Markets was a Moomin shop, dedicated to the popular Finnish children’s cartoon series, which was based off a comic book and book series. I used to watch it as a child but never knew anyone else who watched it, so I was pretty astounded to see a full shop dedicated to the Moomins. The shop was full of everything my childhood self could have dreamed of! I bought a sparkly moomin pin & three beautiful postcards with artwork from the series, which I am trying to convince Eoin to let me frame & hang up in our place! haha.
Just across from the entrance of Covent Garden Market is Jubilee Market. Which is full of clothing, souvenirs and some unique finds. The Jubilee market is a little less elegant than Covent Garden Market but I did find a pair of TARDIS salt & pepper shakers for a steal at £5 which I was pretty pleased about! Next time I got back to London I am going to spend more time browsing these interesting markets and probably return to the Moomin shop and buy some more Moomin memorabilia, like the big dork I am. Don’t judge meeeee!
When I return to London in the future I really want to do the Harry Potter Tour at Warner Brothers Studios and possibly the walking tour, which allows you to see where some scenes from the films were filmed on the streets of London. There is so much to see and do in London city that you’d need at least four straight days there to see and experience it all. Eoin and I did a pretty good job seeing what we could in the limited amount of time we had in the city. We saw loads of other famous sights like Westminster Abbey, Downing Street and the London Eye to name a few.
I had fantastic experience visiting London city and i’ll certainly be back again!