After an awesome few days in Paris we hopped on a train for London. It was a short ride though the French countryside before plunging below the English Channel on our way to the UK. When we arrived we immediately noticed a difference in the subway system. Everything was clean, orderly, and easy to follow. Of course it helped that everything was in English not French. Still though, the London Underground is obviously famous for a reason. Paris is a beautiful city and their metro works well enough, but it was at times crowded, dirty, and confusing. The contrast of walking into the London Saint Pancras station felt great. The first place we went was a visitor information center where we talked to the most cheerful and helpful woman. I’ll just say that asking for information or help in France was always a much different experience.
We stayed in Notting Hill partly because of the Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts movie of the same name, and partly because of the more recent movie based on Paddington the bear. The neighborhood was even more amazing than you might expect. We stayed in a top floor apartment of a building covered in purple wisteria that happened to be in full bloom while we were there. It was on the perimeter of one of the many private gardens that dot the neighborhood complete with a key to get in! We were able to recreate the ending to Notting Hill rather than the earlier scene where they have to jump a fence late at night. We also visited the bookstore from the movie just off Portobello Road. In fact, the famous Portobello Road Market was just a few blocks from our place. It was in full swing the day we got there. The next day we visited Paddington Station (where Paddington bear was supposedly found) but the usual shop was closed for renovations. We instead returned to The Notting Hill Bookshop were we bought a collection of Paddington stories. I think that ended up being even cooler than buying a book from the station in a way. Also found in our neighborhood was our favorite cafe from Stockholm, Fabrique! Apparently it had just opened so we had to stop in for a reminder of our time in Sweden.
We also spent a lot of time in more central London. We met up with some friends who live in the area and they showed around various markets as well as more touristy places like Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Those last two were very cool. The former might be the best looking bridge I’ve ever seen and you could spend all day in the latter. We ended up dedicating most of a morning to it later on. One of their best suggestions was the Monument to the Great Fire of London. As I’ve said, I love finding somewhere high up in a city to take photos and the Monument was fairly inexpensive. Walking up the steep spiral staircase to the tiny viewing platform felt very similar to the Astoria Column that we visited earlier in the year. Before that though we went to Oxford Street, a famous shopping district in the city. The flagship Lush store is located there. Tay used to work for the company and many of the products at the Oxford Street location can’t be found elsewhere, so she was really excited. It was by far the biggest Lush I’d ever seen, with three huge floors. We also visited the giant flagship Selfridges department store. It seriously put the Nordstrom in Seattle to shame. The last place we went before leaving London was Kensington Gardens/Palace. It was such a huge park that we barely scratched the surface of what was there. We also stopped by Nandos since Tay loves it and we can’t get it at home. After that was another train ride to our last stop, the coastal town of Brighton!