Our first stop on our European adventure was London, we travelled to Heathrow Airport via Singapore – another place we have yet to visit but that will have to wait for another time! We left in the afternoon and arrived already tired and travel worn in Singapore for a 3 hour stopover. It wasn’t pleasant trying to stay awake when all you wanted to do was sleep but we explored Changi Airport seeing the food halls and a bit of souvenir shopping. We boarded our flight to Heathrow and promptly fell asleep for a few hours which was just what we needed, only trouble is we woke up about 5-6 hours later and still had another 8-9 hours to go!
Bleary eyed but excited at our first stop!
We finally arrived in Heathrow at 7.45am in the morning, excited but tired. It felt surreal to be standing there on the other side of the world! We made our way to the Underground station to catch the tube to the apartment which would be our home away from home in South London. Catching the tube was also a mini adventure for us – it was something I thought I’d never experience and yet here we were doing just that! We were already enjoying being in England, albeit very tired!
After asking for directions , we found we had to change lines to get to our line which was the Bakerloo line – when we asked for directions, we were given a map of the Underground network which became very handy during the coming week. We found the transport staff to be very helpful while we were finding our way around for the first day or two. Once we knew the stop, direction and lines – we were travelling around London like locals!
We arrived at our stop and found our way to the correct exit which was 5 minutes away from the apartment. The first thing we were excited to see when we were walking on the streets were the red double decker buses which are quintessentially London! There are things that we relate to a country – the red double decker buses and black taxi cabs were the things we related to London and were excited to see! We checked into our apartment and were very excited with our view from the 30th floor!
Views from the 30th floor!
Looking out over South London
Our home away from home!
We were able to relax a little before heading off for the first item on our itinerary – the Warner Bros Harry Potter movie studio tour! My daughter is a huge Harry Potter fan and very excited to start our adventure there. After a little hiccup in the directions provided by our concierge, we found our way to the correct underground line and stop, making it in time for the bus! Luckily we left earlier which gave us plenty of time even though we had headed in the wrong direction!
Even the bus was exciting to see as we lined up waiting to board – it added to the anticipation! The bus ride was about an hour and a half, as the studio tour is located 20 miles north-west of London in Leavesden. We were advised the tour would take 3 hours and would have some free time after the tour to visit the shop and cafe before our departure. Harry Potter was the highlight for my daughter during our visit to England. It was amazing to see the props, sets and costumes used in the films. We were able to board the Hogwart’s Express, walk through 4 Privett Drive, see the Knight Bus, the Pensieve, Dumbledore’s office, the Gryffindor Common room and so much more! For Harry Potter fans, we found this an amazing experience!
After the tour, we visited the cafe and shop for a few choice purchases that my daughter had already advised she’d like to make when we booked the tour – which was before we even left home! We left the tour excited and animated at what we had just experienced, it helped keep our jetlag at bay for the day. I was advised by friends to go out and not sleep during the day no matter how tempting it was to help us adjust to the local time there. We all crashed that night by 9.30pm and slept for about 11-13 hours! Luckily we didn’t have anything booked until after lunch the next day!
We woke up late morning feeling quite refreshed. We self catered for breakfast which we found to be cheaper and easier being in an apartment with a shopping centre just across the road. We found the quality of food we bought when out and about in London to be sub-par and quite expensive! That was the only drawback visiting London. Today we were heading to Buckingham Palace for the tour of the State Rooms – a dear friend advised to visit them and we were glad we did. Such amazing rooms, decor and art viewed as we wandered through! It was also the perfect day to do something indoors as it was typical London weather – wet and cold even though it was summer! We recommend it if visiting in summer as it is only open for about 8-10 weeks and worth the visit!
Our next day trip was my highlight of our visit to England – Bath and Stonehenge. It was an early start but so worth it! The city of Bath was our first taste of European architecture and cobblestone streets – so pretty! We visited the Roman Baths and after being to Rome, could see the Roman influence had spread across many of the countries we visited. Roman architecture is ornate and beautiful – decorated arches, domes and statues dominate.
A colleague of mine asked where we were going in England and when I mentioned Stonehenge, she said “they’re just rocks”! I found it amazing to be in such an historical place where the true nature is still a mystery! There are “theories” to consider and I feel it is up to you to decide which one you decide fits. I sent my colleague some photos and she admitted that it did look pretty amazing.
For the next two days, we toured London via the Hop on Hop off bus which was great to see the city from a different perspective! We visited Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, the Tower of London, St.Paul’s cathedral and Westminster Abbey. We were also fortunate to catch the changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace!
Madame Tussaud’s wax museum was a bit of fun – it was also my daughter’s choice and was excited when she saw her favourite actress. We enjoyed seeing some iconic wax statues and historical figures.
The next morning we visited the Tower of London, it is great – so much history and the Crown Jewels are a must see! A tip when visiting is to arrive for opening which is at 9am and head straight to the crown jewels to avoid the long queues! There were so many jewels and gold items – bling galore and worth a visit! The Tower of London has quite a macabre history especially the Bloody Tower! I feel learning ‘live history’ makes it all the more fascinating and interesting then reading it from a book. All in all, it was fascinating to learn history in a live environment – would recommend a visit if you are visiting London for the first time. We also caught a ferry ride on the Thames clippers from the Tower of London to Westminster which was an added extra that we enjoyed!
We took a train ride to St. Alban’s which is a beautiful city where a dear Uncle spent his early childhood. It is a beautiful city, we had brunch there, roamed the markets in the town square and visited the St. Alban’s cathedral which was quite impressive. We were surprised to find Roman influence in this city too which is about 30 mins away from London.
We also caught up with my cousin and his family while we were in London which is lovely. It’s always nice to be able to catch up with family especially since we live so far from each other, it was nice for both our families to meet! They live in South England about an hour away from London so we appreciated them travelling in to meet us for lunch and enjoyed the afternoon with them before we left.
We visited Covent Garden, Chinatown, Southbank, Big Ben, Borough Market, Platform 9&3/4 at Kings Cross station – we felt we visited and did so much, but also felt we could have easily visited more places. We took a mental note for a return trip in the future!
We had a wonderful time in London and felt we could have easily stayed a little longer. Although a little sad to leave, we were excited to embark on the next part of our European adventure – catching the Eurostar to Belgium! We loved the fact that you could be in a different country in just 2 hours! In Australia, we travel 5 hours across the country and we’re still in the same country – just in another state! We also found St. Pancras International train station to be a beautiful building. As it was our first visit, we had plans for each day except one or two – it was a busy week but so much fun! Our main aim was sightseeing – taking in as much as we could to Laugh. Love. Live each moment! We look forward to returning to see more of England in the future. Hope you enjoyed coming along for the ride on the first leg of our European Adventure! Peace and blessings!