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London Travels: Top New London Experiences from our Last Trip to Britain

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The View From The Shard

Last week we wrote about our top new experiences our on recent trip to Britain but we left a lot of things out – London! We wanted to write a separate article about our top new experiences in London.

Sometimes you get into a travel rut and if you’re not careful, you’ll do the same things over and over when you travel to London. This leads to being bored – yes it’s possible to be bored in London – and can also lead to a kind of malaise. So, every time we come to London we write to mix in new experiences with our old favorites.

Here are a few things we did for the first time on our last trip and loved to bits.

Taking a Thames Cruise

Taking a cruise down the Thames was always on my ‘would be nice’ to do list when planning London travel. Mrs Anglotopia has a tendency to get seasick so we just never made it a priority. But a quirk in trip planning made the boat trip very attractive. We planned a whole day out in Greenwich but our flat was located near Earl’s Court. That’s a rather long journey to make. It’s too far to take a cab – it would cost like £30 ($55 or so). Taking the Tube would take a very long time and require several changes. Our good friend at About London, Laura Porter, suggested we take one of the boats instead. It takes about half an hour and is a nice way to see London from the river. We immediately loved the idea after she assured Mrs Anglotopia that as far as boats go, it’s not too bad.

So, on our Greenwich day out we took the tube to Westminster pier and took a boat from there to Greenwich, using our Oyster Cards we got a nice discount. The boat ride was very comfortable and Mrs Anglotopia felt all right the whole journey. Anglotopia Jr enjoyed running around the boat and the commentary on the loudspeaker was very enjoyable. It took a little longer than we planned and we almost missed our timed slot at the Turner Exhibition but overall we enjoyed it very much!

Going to the Theatre

Confession time: despite London being the theatre capital of the world – I’ve never been to a play in the West End. I once saw a musical (Les Miserables) but I’d never been to a play. When we learned that the new Jeeves & Wooster play starring Stephen Mangan and Mathew MacFayden was playing, we knew we had to go. We went to a nice dinner before the show and then arrived for the play on time. The Duke of York’s Theatre is over 100 years old and is very cool to see. The play itself was magnificent and we’re now theatre fans, already wondering when we can get back to the West End!

Hyde Park Winter Wonderfest

We’d heard about this event for years and we always wanted to be in London for it. The Hyde Park Winter Wonderfest takes over a corner of Hyde Park and it comes a strange German Christmas Village complete with food, rides and market stalls. It’s a rather bizarre thing but when we went, we found it very enjoyable. Anglotopia Jr loved all the rides. We enjoyed eating the carnival street food as well as browsing the market stalls. It’s free to get in to. However, once inside it’s rather expensive and it was pretty crowded. Still, we enjoyed ourselves!

Seeing London Through the Eyes of My Son

Anglotopia Jr is almost three years old now and he doesn’t miss much. So, it was really interesting to watch him experience London for the first time. He loved every bit of it. He loved our ‘London house’ as he called our flat and riding in black taxis. He was thrilled to ride on the Tube. The highpoint of his trip was seeing Big Ben for the first time and listening to the clock strike twelve. It really made me see London differently. Being a London veteran after a dozen trips, it was a breath of fresh air to see someone enjoy London so innocently and it really rejuvenated my love for the place. We can’t wait to take him back. Now, three months later, he still talks about the trip and wants to go back to ‘London Britain’ as he calls it.

Exploring the Houses of Parliament

By far the biggest high point for me personally was taking a tour of the Houses of Parliament. It was an amazing experience to be able to go inside the Palace of Westminster and see every detail of the building – to stand the House of Lords and to stand in the House of Commons was something else. The buildings are amazing – beautifully decorated and filled with beautiful art. You can just feel the history oozing out of the walls. It was amazing. You can take your own tour of Parliament but it must be booked in advance and expect to go through airport style security to get into the building.

Eating at a Fancy French Restaurant in Covent Garden

As we would be in London for Mrs Anglotopia’s 30th birthday, we planned to celebrate with style. We chose to have a nice dinner out with our friends at Clos Maggiorre in Covent Garden. The whole evening was a wonderful experience, the food was amazing and the restaurant was the kind you dream about. It was the perfect place to celebrate such a milestone and we did it with good friends. Can’t beat that.

Driving in London For the First Time

This is something I was rather terrified about. We normally pick up our rental car at Heathrow but as we spent the first part of our trip in London, it was not practical to get the whole family out to Heathrow with all our luggage to pick up a rental car. So, we rented from the central London location and I had the unenviable task of driving from the garage to our flat. I was terrified. But it was late morning, the roads were clear and the SatNav took me right to our front door. It was not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. In fact it was rather nice to cruise through the streets of London listening to British radio.

National Maritime Museum/Cutty Sark

Until I visited the National Maritime Museum, I didn’t realize how interested I was in Britain’s naval heritage. I simply loved the NMM – especially the new Nelson’s Navy exhibit that details what life was like in the navy during the Napoleonic Wars. We also saw the Turner and the Sea exhibit which was exquisite. It’s my new favorite museum and we can’t wait to go back. We also paid a visit to the newly restored Cutty Sark and we really enjoyed that as well. The ship is beautiful and you can still smell the tea in the hold! It was also an attraction than we could wheel our strollers through which after dealing with difficult children all day was a welcome relief!

The View from the Shard

It’s hard not to miss the Shard looming over London’s Skyline. Personally, I rather like the building so I was rather excited to visit The View From the Shard, which is the new viewing level at the top of the building – which is Europe’s tallest tower. The views from the top were simply amazing. You can see all of London below and around you. And if you want a bit of a thrill, you can go up a level to the open air viewing deck. This is definitely worth visiting if you want to see London from above.

What new thing did you do on your last trip to London that was your favorite? Let us know in the comments!

jonathan
Author: jonathan

Jonathan is a consummate Anglophile who launched Anglotopia.net in 2007 to channel his passion for Britain. Londontopia is its sister publication dedicated to everything London.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. I took an Emirates Air Lines cable car over the Thames from the north to the south. That was a lot of fun and rather scary too! Great views from up there.

  2. Have you been to the Museum of London in the Docklands? If not, you might want to check it out. There were exhibits about the importance of the Thames and shipping in the growth of London. The first time that I went, there were schoolchildren on a field trip, and I was not able to move through the exhibits at my own pace. I went back at another time, found the museum less crowded, and enjoyed that visit.

  3. I like to walk through the City of London and visit the churches. There is The Cafe Below at St. Mary le Bow. I picked up the City Events newsletter that is published by the Friends of the City Churches; I got a copy at the City of London Information booth across from St. Paul’s Cathedral, but you can look on-line. It lists church services, talks, special events, and concerts. Also, I joined a tour of St. Bartholomew’s hospital and St. Barthlolomew’s Church. Another church to visit is St. Martin in the Fields, across from the National Gallery. You can slip in away from the bustle of Trafalgar Square and enjoy a lunchtime concert, or enjoy lunch in the crypt.

  4. I saw a Harlequins rugby game at The Stoop, near Twickenham, which was fantastic. I’ve seen England play at Twickenham before, but this was my first premiership game. Loud crowd and great atmosphere; overall great time.

  5. Love, love, love Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense! Met Stephen Mangan and Matthew Macfadyen (not MacFayden!) at the stage door – both lovely guys! So glad you got to see it!

  6. My English cousins took us to the Savoy for a Champagne Tea where they serve you champagne first, tea and savories next, and all kinds of pastries with more tea. It was such a treat.

  7. After taking 4 trips to London I was thinking there wasn’t much left that I hadn’t seen, but after reading your list, I realized there will always be experiences I missed. On my last trip my sister and I went to the Harry Potter Studio tour. We both loved it and it was refreshing to see some oldsters like us along with young people taking the tour. It was so interesting! It made a Harry Potter fan of my sister after she took the tour! I can’t wait to plan my next trip to London and see the things you mentioned.

  8. What I liked during my last London trip was going to the Tower of London. After being 09 times in London I decided to go to the Tower of London on my 10th trip.
    What I liked too was going back to Borough Market and having lunch at http://www.manze.co.uk/.
    It is one of the companies where you get pie and mash.

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