When we originally planned our itinerary for 2019, our third stop was London. However, once we got to the business of actually finding and booking a place to live in London it became clear that the city was way outside of our budget.
We made a quick change of plans and decided to head to Edinburgh. An interesting, yet more affordable city. But, long before making this itinerary change, I signed up for a conference in Cambridge, England.
So, in the second week of our Edinburgh stay, I packed up my bag and headed to the train station for a five hour journey from Edinburgh to Cambridge. On my way, I had the idea for Jonathan to come meet me on Saturday in London, so that we could experience the world-city that neither of us had ever been to.
And, so began a quick London getaway.
Meeting on Saturday morning in the King’s Cross station, as I got off the train, I was met by a throng of people waiting in line to take a picture with the 9 and 3/4 platform from the Harry Potter stories. It was mayhem.
There were hundreds of people queued. We did like any good tourist might and we took a picture of other tourists waiting in line and made our way out of the station to start our 42-hour adventure.
Here are some of the highlights of our trip, for anyone making a quick and (attempted) cheap trip to London.
Hostels won't break the bank
Given that we booked our lodging just days before arriving, I needed to find somewhere affordable to stay and so I hit up the abundant hostel options in the city and landed on Clink78, a huge restored prison.
It was packed with people of all ages and we were able to find a place to stay for under £150 for two nights. While a bit loud, it was a fun place to crash for a quick weekend and was pretty centrally located.
A look at the palace and a walk through St. James park
The weather was relatively nice for our weekend trip, which made it easy to walk all over the city to get a look at the sights. We stopped by the palace, the parliament, the Thames, and attempted a look at Big Ben, but it’s currently under construction.
On our walkabout, we made our way through St. James park and I might say that the park was the highlight for me.
They have a bird sanctuary that is incredible. It was so fun to see the variety of birds in the park. There is even a pelican in the park! Nature creates so many incredible colors. It’s truly amazing.
A last-minute show with tickets from TKTS
While sitting at a pub, it occurred to me that we should go to a show. I googled a couple of musicals that were happening and quickly found that most things were sold out. So, we headed out to find some food and on our way passed a TKTS stand. If you’ve ever been to New York, you know that the TKTS stand is the best place to get last-minute cheap theater tickets. It only took five minutes of standing in line to get our super-discounted tickets to the Matilda musical. Score! (get it? 😜) And, whoa.
I hadn’t heard much about Matilda, but I knew from reading the Roald Dahl book that I loved the story. Holy shit. This show is fantastic. It’s one of the best musicals I’ve seen since Wicked. And it was even better because it was a total surprise! I laughed. I cried. I laughed some more. For anyone who grew up in the 90s and likes the story of Matilda and appreciates a good show, this is a must.
After our incredible theater experience we headed to Dishoom for tasty Indian food.
Funnily enough, prior to boarding my train in Edinburgh, Jonathan had walked me to the station so we could grab lunch together before I left. A quick google search led us to Dishoom on St. Andrews square. In a hurried lunch, I told Jonathan that we had to come back to this incredible Indian restaurant. It was SO GOOD.
Then, while at the conference, I shared with one of my fellow attendees that I had plans for a quick weekend away in London and he said, “you must go to Dishoom”
Well of course! So, tickle-me-thrilled that Dishoom was only a block from the show and ended up as our obvious post-show dinner location. If you visit London or Edinburgh, and you enjoy Indian food, Dishoom is a must. The vibe is great, the cheese naan is fantastic, and all of the food from the curries to the grilled meats are phenomenal.
Sunday morning brought more walking around, exploring, and tubing. The tube is so easy to use. We made it all over the city, so easily, it was crazy. We enjoyed breakfast in the most adorable little neighborhood, in the area of Islington, near the City, University of London at a place called Exmouth the Grind. I ate my first bowl of porridge. It was delicious.
After breakfast we walked around the neighborhood and poked into a couple of stores, played in a park and then attempted to make a stop into the Charles Dickens museum, but unfortunately they were having a special exhibit.
So, we made our way to the British National Library where we spent a few hours exploring the floors and a literature exhibit that had some incredible pieces on display like Shakespeares first folio and parts of the Magna Carta. This library is beautiful, and huge.
There are reading rooms on every floor, but they are closed on Sundays and required a Readers Card. So, if you are looking to spend time in the reading rooms, you can only visit them through a tour.
The Thames, Shakespeare’s Globe, and the Millennium Bridge
If you make your way toward Shakespeare’s Globe on any day other than a Sunday, I highly recommend that you visit the Borough Market. It’s one of the largest and oldest food markets in all of London. And then you can make your way over toward the Thames for a visit to the Globe and a walk over Millennium Bridge.
Our last tourist stop was 221b Bakers St. As viewers of the BBC Sherlock show and a long-standing fan of Sherlock generally, we had to make a stop at the renown 221B. It was fun, if a bit uneventful. We took the train to Baker Street. Walked about two blocks and there we were. We took our selfie and then went to the Pub next door for a pint.