Lives in New Hope, Minnesota
Since Apr 2012
25-34 year old male
I travel a lot with my wife, Beth. I love planning our extensive trips cross-country. The two of us enjoy visiting new places and trying new restaurants. We have mostly traveled in the United States so far but plan to travel abroad more when we're older and can afford it. Our lone trip abroad together was our Honeymoon to London and Paris.
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Points of Interest & Landmarks
Points of Interest & Landmarks
Can't be missed when visiting London. One of the exit tunnels from the Westminster underground station led us to the surface right underneath the tower, it was awesome. Do not miss an opportunity to see Big Ben (technically named the Elizabeth Tower, Big Ben is the bell) from all sides and at different times of day. It is lit well at night glowing gold and green.
Took the first tour of the day led by Yeomen Warder David. He gave an hour long tour into the Tower of London and provided a lot of great background stories about the fortress. The tours are free and optional but I would definitely recommend taking one. After the tour we were set loose on our own to look around. The Crown Jewels, White Tower, and Wall Walks are highlights. You can walk around 60% of the outer walls without ever touching ground-level. The Tower of London is a must-visit for any history buff or tourist in London. We spent four hours there (perfect for us) but I would say you need a minimum of two hours to see the best parts. The river views are also fantastic.
My wife and I took the tour in September while the Queen was out of residence (probably in Scotland). There is no photography inside the tour and be prepared to go through security screening similar to an airport. We had to check our bags (no biggie) and got the free audio guides complete with 1990s headphones. The audio tour was helpful throughout. The state rooms tour was pretty cool. Lots of important people have wined and dined there with British royalty. My favorite was the music room. It had these great blue columns and except windows overlooking the Southwest lawn. All the rooms were pretty cool though. There are a number of rooms with colors for themes and each of the four art galleries were massive and filled with a lot of influential and expensive pieces. During your self/audio-guided tour be sure to pay attention to all the furniture too like the pink thrones in the throne room. The floors and some of the walls were covered by protective coverings, something I bet is temporary during weeks when tours happen. Up the grand staircase, for example, the walls and banisters are covered in plexiglass. Throughout the tour I did notice the door knobs were the only things left unprotected from visitors. I like to think I touched several door knobs that royals have touched (or at least their servants and assistants have touched). If you're in London when the tours are available (twice a year I believe) it is a good idea to check it out. It is well worth the price of admission.
The Tower Bridge can be seen from quite a distance down the Thames. We visited it during our week long trip to London. The bridge is part of a magnificent view and provides great views of the surrounding area as well. The structure of the bridge is painted red, white, blue, and light blue. I am afraid of heights and falling from bridges but the wide pathways allowed me to walk across without feeling too stressed (don't get me started on the Golden Gate Bridge). Half of the tour exhibit at the top was closed during our visit. We were lucky enough to see the road platform raised later in the week so a tugboat could haul a large ship through. It was cool.
MY TOURIST PERSPECTIVE: My research before the trip found conflicting opinions about the various options for using public transportation in London. The three different ways to buy tickets include buying single tickets when needed, putting money on a re-loadable Oyster Card, or buying a Travel Card for the amount of days and zones needed. The Oyster Card works well for locals but has different fares (peak vs. off-peak travel) and you pay for every trip. The Travel Card was a way better option for us because it works for unlimited travel via tube or bus throughout the zones chosen. The Travel Cards vary in price based on number of days and number of zones. We each purchased a seven day Travel Card for Zones 1-2, which covers the main tourist areas and where we were staying in Zone 2. The Travel Card does require a minimum £5 balance to purchase it but that amount is applied to your trip from the airport which is outside Zones 1-2. Finally, any money left on your Travel Card from the initial £5 can be refunded at the end of your trip if you take the time to do so (which we didn’t). Which option works for you completely depends on the type of trip you are planning. We knew we wanted to see a lot, all over the city, and did not want to be hampered by peak vs. off-peak prices and trying to decide if taking a particular ride was worth the money. My review now that we've been to London and used the underground for an entire week is that it is fantastic! The trains seem to run on time. The longest wait we ever had was ten minutes. One Sunday we experienced a line closure for maintenance but were able to get around despite that. The series of tunnels, elevators, and escalators effectively move people efficiently and provide a way to pop up on almost any street corner near the station. Only once did we find the station too busy to enter during peak evening rush-hour on a Thursday (we walking half a mile to the next station). Our trip - Our "home" station: Kennington. Most confusing station: Bank. Longest walk: Transferring trains at Waterloo. Most impressive tunnel art: Charing Cross from Admiralty Arch side. Most impressive tunnel alighting: Westminster, popped up right underneath Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben. Hope this helps!
The bar area is on the ground level but the main dining area is up on the third floor. The space has an industrial feel with high ceilings, open rafters, and catwalks between staircases. We were seated by a window overlooking the street. The place was pretty empty because it was way too early for dinner, an unfortunate flaw in our schedule. I ordered the short rib beef burger with monterey jack cheese and spicy sriracha mayo. The items are a la carte so I chose macaroni and cheese with garlic roasted crumbs for a side. My wife ordered the baked spinach, ricotta and artichoke cannelloni and a side of mashed potatoes. The restaurant had free wifi giving us something to do while we waited for our food. Our waitress brought us some bread and our meals actually arrived quite fast. My burger tasted great and the mayo supplied just the right amount of zip. The mac and cheese was my favorite. Not just my favorite item that we tried but also my favorite mac and cheese ever. For dessert we ordered the blueberry tart with crème fraîche ice cream. I went to the water closet (I still love saying that) and when I got back my wife told me that the restaurant manager had been around and had re-folded my napkin into a triangle. She had a trainee and showed her the proper napkin-folding procedure of MY USED NAPKIN because this place is so fancy everything must look good, even my used cloth napkin. It was crazy but also extremely classy. I do not expect that level of service and class from a restaurant but it is, indeed, impressive. Gordon Ramsay has so many businesses I would be surprised if he is onsite at Bread Street Kitchen more than once a year (if that) but I really would like to meet him some day. It would be an honor to have him insult my intelligence while flailing his arms and throwing something breakable. When we got the bill we found out there was a £2 cover charge per person and our presumably free water was actually £2.50 per carafe. It didn't ruin our experience but it is something to be aware of.
I can't believe a single wealthy family owned this entire collection! Nothing has been added or changed at the original owner's request and the collection is available for free entry. What a deal! Hertford House, home of the collection, is an absolutely massive property. At the front door an employee told me I had to check my backpack (free). A tour would be starting in half an hour if we were interested but that would likely take a very long time and we only had an hour. I knew this place was huge and that wouldn't be near enough time to see everything but I was determined to try. We started out by going right from the lobby and heading into the first room of sculptures, carvings, coins, and paintings. I am sure each room had a theme or time period represented but we were not paying enough attention in our rush to get through. There were more historical items on the first floor and up a flight of stairs I found several large art galleries. The rooms themselves were also extremely grand. The largest gallery was big enough for double-stacked paintings or ones as tall as fifteen feet. The art was fantastic and so was the furniture in the house. With the exception of the occasional chair or bench for visitors there was rare furniture in each room with signs saying “please do not sit on the art”. In addition to chairs there were couches, grandfather clocks, tables, vases, and a couple fantastic 17th Century armoires. On the second floor there was an interesting sun porch that didn’t really fit the rest of the house. It was a different color pallet than the bold colors of the rest of the house and there were palmy plants everywhere. It was like a cabana. Maybe Lady Wallace went on a trip to Cuba at some point and tried to bring it back with her. Back on the first floor the last few rooms were the armor and weaponry collection (because why not, they were rich). There were thousands of weapons including axes, spears, swords, crossbows, pistols, rifles, shotguns, and a cannon. A lot of the weapons were both pretty and deadly. Many of the pistols and rifles, for example, had ivory handles with painted designs. The spears were probably more useful for ceremonial or gift-giving purposes than killing simply because of their carved and/or sculpted handles. The armor displays were also expansive and ranging from plain plate armor to super-intricate ceremonial armor. A couple shields were basically beautiful paintings that just happened to be on shields. A courtyard at the center of the building has a large cafe (we didn't have time). It is covered with a glass roof now but it would have been a nice outdoor escape in the center of the building when the Wallace’s lived there. The bathroom was under the cafe in the courtyard. Each stall was unisex and enclosed with a full door and sink. I really like the European system of public restrooms. They’re not all as nice, of course, but it’s great to have privacy. Even the hallway outside the bathrooms had art displayed. At the bottom of the stairs near the bathrooms there were more art galleries (yes more, I couldn’t believe it either) and a studio for making new art (presumably for artists flocking to the Wallace Collection for inspiration). There were a lot of books for sale in the gift shop but not much else in the way of souvenirs.
What a massive place! We only got to spend a short time there on our visit but the next time I will dedicate a whole day. It is an amazing museum and I can't think of a rival anywhere. Wonderful blend of history and art. I can't believe entry is free!
Kensington Palace is a Royal Residence and only a small part of it is on available to tour. The public part of the palace is split into four parts (and the gift shop), the Queen State Apartments, the King State Apartments, Victoria Revealed, and a temporary exhibit that was called Fashion Rules when we visited. The State Apartments showed period-maintained rooms of Royals from the 1600's through the early 1800's. Victoria Revealed was all about Queen Victoria (and her husband Albert). Fashion Rules was showing clothing and fashion looks of the Queen and various other Royal women like Princess Diana (who also lived in Kensington). The exterior of the palace is beautiful with gardens and a hedge within the front gates. Kensington Gardens is huge outside the palace gates and can be accessed by the public during the day. We liked touring the palace and having seen Buckingham Palace (which is noticeably more grand) it became obvious that it was simply an older building and a different experience. Kings and Queens lived there before Buckingham Palace became the primary Royal Residence.
Well kept landscaping, probably a great place to exercise (at least we saw a lot of people doing so. We walked along the Broad Walk and fed the birds around Round Pond (because sometimes naming things is hard and you choose the easiest answer). We also visited Kensington Palace on the West side which was worth the time. Definitely give Kensington Gardens, and the attached Hyde Park to the East, a visit!
More people should check it out. For those that don't know, Cleopatra’s Needle is a 70ft obelisk dating back to 1450 BC surrounded by two black sphinxes (recreations). Each side of the obelisk has Egyptian hieroglyphs and the base told of its weird history (in English, I don’t read hieroglyphs). It was a gift from the ruler of Egypt in 1801 but stayed there until 1877 because no one in England wanted to pay for the transportation. Finally, a rich guy paid for a boat to bring the obelisk to London but it sank in the Bay of Biscay. The obelisk was protected by its sealed metal container and was rescued and erected in London along the Thames a year later. It also turns out that the name of the obelisk is a bit misleading as it was 1000 years older than, and had no connection with Cleopatra. A plaque said that a bomb during WWII landed in the road nearby causing shrapnel to hit the needle and the right sphinx.
It may be due to it’s location or the time of day we were there but the area was relatively quiet, something I wish I could duplicate in Trafalgar Square or Piccadilly. The memorial is fenced off so you can't walk under it or even very close to it. It was very respectful. It has a lot of brass/gold with a white sculptures all around.
Went here for a late dinner on a weeknight. The front room was packed but we were seated in the back area and had it all to ourselves. The restaurant is pretty small but when the locals are there we usually know we've found a good place. My wife had something spicy while I had the chicken korma. The wait was minimal and the service was excellent. Every employee we were helped by was professional and kind. I've only had Indian cuisine a handful of times but I liked their food. In the past my stomach hasn't reacted great to Indian but Ghandi's didn't affect me negatively.
We visited the Millennium Bridge because it was used in filming the sixth Harry Potter movie but it has also been used in other films. The bridge design is quite unique with the beams and support system established below the walkway providing a largely undisturbed view of the river and surrounding area. The location just South of St. Paul's and north of Tate Modern and Shakespeare's Globe (albeit not he original Globe) provides an easy opportunity to see a cool bridge and visit the nearby sights.
Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens to the West are a great change of pace right in the bustling city of London. During our visit we walked a lot through the parks. The landscaping, even in late September, was in excellent shape. My wife enjoyed feeding the birds, especially the swans, along the Long Water lake. The Princess Diana Memorial was peaceful but a little confusing in design. The Italian gardens at the NW corner were also cool. While we didn't get to see the entire park during our limited time, we did see quite a bit during the two miles of walking we did. There were lots of people using the park for exercise or leisure activities in addition to the tourists. It looks like you could rent bikes and boats too.
J.K Rowling used Leadenhall Market as an inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter series. We visited the market and it was easy to see how it could inspire her to write. It was the early afternoon and there weren't too many people around making it easy to geek out. If you're a fan of Harry Potter take ten minutes to check it out!
Platform 9-3/4 at King’s Cross was the place in the Harry Potter books where students caught the Hogwarts Express to get to school. If you're reading this you may already know that. Real life King’s Cross Station has embraced Harry Potter fandom and incorporated it into their terminal. Having hundreds of HP fans swarming all over the train platforms wouldn’t make a bunch of sense so the station has placed an “entrance” to the magical platform 9-3/4 in the terminal. We saw a queue of people with a sign and hopped in line. We had to wait about ten minutes for our turn but it was worth the wait. Two people were working the entrance. The first guy offers you a choice of Hogwarts house scarves to wear for your photo. You can take as many of your own photos as you want but the second worker was the official photographer. Both guys were dressed in themed clothing as a conductor and ticket-taker. The ticket-taker looked and sounded like Stan Shunpike, a character from the books that worked on the triple-decker Knight Bus. After our turn taking trolley photos we went around the corner to the Platform 9-3/4 shop. There was a good selection of items available including official stuff that we had seen for sale elsewhere and unique items special to this shop. The coolest things I saw were signed cast photos from the films. They were a bit too expensive for me but we did find some Hogwarts Express tickets and other items that we bought. There was a picture on the counter of Warwick Davis visiting Platform 9-3/4 wearing Professor Flitwick’s Ravenclaw scarf, which was awesome. On the way out of the station we saw the actual platforms of 9 and 10 although the brick walls used for filming were actually the ones between platforms 4 and 5 (which was not accessible without a train ticket).
The park is very pretty. You can walk from Buckingham Palace to Whitehall/Westminster area through this park. It's quite peaceful. The geese and ducks near the Eastern edge of the park are experienced at working the tourists for food. It was hilarious. One of them would walk by squawking at people while the other stood a foot back and just stared.
The Monument is a 203 foot spire/column dedicated to the 1666 Great Fire of London. I thought the location was pretty weird considering it is on a side street a block off the water. It would be much more picturesque along the Thames. Upon reading the informational signs, of course, I found out the location was where the fire started. People were walking up the stairs inside the column but the thought of climbing up and down twenty stories of spiral stairs in tight quarters wasn’t appealing to us. Maybe next time.
We only went through the South edge of the park during our visit. We crossed a little footbridge to get across a boating lake where at least one couple was paddling along. There were quite a few dog walkers and joggers out and about as well but the park wasn’t too busy that early in the day. Grey herons were relaxing along the water and on the left side we saw Regent’s University of London, a small private school right inside the park.A group of schoolchildren were doing track and field stuff for gym class and workers were working in Marylebone Green constructing what looked like a temporary concert venue. I wonder what they were planning for that structure? We saw some fountains before leaving the area. It was a nice little place to take a calm, relaxing walk.
Parliament Square is surrounded by important buildings. To the East is Parliament/Big Ben. To the South is Westminster Abbey and St. Margaret's. To the West is the Supreme Court. To the North is a small portion of the Treasury building. The square itself was pretty crowded. Lots of people were taking photos of the structures around and it was sometimes hard to get pictures without all the people in them. There are seven statues in the square; Winston Churchill, David Lloyd George, Jan Smuts, Edward Smith-Stanley, Benjamin Disraeli, Sir Robert Peel, and Nelson Mandela (Abraham Lincoln also has a statue across the street in front of the UK Supreme Court).
We ate lunch on a bench nearby before going through. The area is filled with war memorials including a Machine Gunner statue and war memorials of New Zealand and Australia. The arch itself is pretty big. I don't know much about the architecture but the overall perspective of the area is grand. I hope to visit it a little longer next time.
My wife and I wandered into the Sherlock Holmes on our first night in London. We were seated upstairs after a short wait. The place was fairly busy which we took as a good sign. She ordered the fish and chips while I opted for the lemon chicken (to be different). The menu didn't say anything about a full chicken thigh in the description just so you know. I do not like ordering bone-in meats at sit-down restaurants because you have to use your hands but I managed well enough. The chicken was good as were the sides. We did sample each other's dishes and the fish and chips were superb! The pub also appeared to have a decent selection of beers on tap. She tried something with Bonkers in the name. The staff was noticeably busy but did an excellent job of helping us and providing a positive experience. A small room by the stairs was made to look like it was where the great detective stayed and Holmes art and memorabilia covered the walls. I would recommend dining at this establishment to everyone, not just tourists.
You can't go to Piccadilly Circus looking for the UK's version of Times Square. It might be the closest thing they have but it's not going to measure up. The Piccadilly area, however, is a base for a lot of London’s best theaters and casinos. This area was also used during filming of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. Harry, Ron, and Hermione escape here when Bill and Fleur’s wedding is attacked by Death Eaters. It's a very iconic place to visit in London, which is, of course, why the area is also really crowded.
If you're near Westminster walk down Whitehall and you can't miss it. It is not on par with Big Ben or Trafalgar Square in terms of importance but it is important in what it represents. Good for the history buff.
Not much to see other than the ceiling but it is beautiful. We went during the 2014 London Architectural Open House. They had beanbag chairs available to sit and look up at the beautiful mural ceiling.
The view from the bridge is great. You can see Parliament, Big Ben, the London Eye and more. The South side of the bridge was less crowded than the North side, especially near where all the three-card monte games and street vendors were stationed. One of more well known bridges in all of London.
I had the bacon cheeseburger while my wife had a chicken burger with cayenne pepper mayo. We were seated next to the bar along the front windows and one of the bartenders came over to talk to us about our trip (the waitress must have mentioned that we were obviously from out of town). He wanted to make sure we were having a fun visit and suggested seeing his favorite museum, the Victoria and Albert history museum. Our food came and it was alright. My burger was good but unremarkable. She didn’t finish her chicken burger which meant I got to try and finish it. The chicken was a little dry while the mayo was nothing special. I'm not sure why but there were looney tunes characters drawn on the walls, which made for a confusing atmosphere.
The whole place has an old school vibe. The guards in full dress uniforms (fancier than the Buckingham Guards even). The horses are majestic. Not much else to say about that. The gravel area is so big. I guess it makes sense then that this area was used to house a temporary structure for the beach volleyball events at the Olympics in 2012. It's amazing this place is so close to Trafalgar Square and the center of the UK Government.
Breathtaking! It was closed when we got to the area but the exterior of the Church as gorgeous. The columns and structure were a sight to see. Maybe next time we'll be lucky enough to go inside. Must-see!
If you're visiting London you're likely going to see Parliament, you may just not know it. Parliament is housed in Westminster Palace, also home to Big Ben. The Palace is really cool and I recommend walking on all sides if you have time. Pay close attention to the architecture and especially the detail on the massive doors.
It was really nice and calm sitting in the area compared to the crowded Parliament Square. We sat and ate a small sack lunch in the Victoria Tower Gardens during our visit to the area. There were not very many benches around so we picked a spot that looked to be relatively bird-poop free and plopped down. The gardens aren't very big or packed with interesting things to see. There is a fountain and a memorial to the Burghers of Calais. Along the riverfront you can see the London Eye and the Lambeth Bridge.
A large park next to Buckingham Palace. Not the largest park in London, obviously, but well placed. My wife and I walked through the park when we found the Changing of the Guard to be too crowded to see anything. The park is well kept and the tree-lined sidewalks provided for a nice stroll in the morning.
Not worth a long visit but if you're in the area it should be seen. For an added tip, enter the Charing Cross Underground station from Admiralty Arch. The tunnel entrance closest to the arch is beautifully decorated with historical art and tile-work.
Trafalgar Square is a very well known location in London. We ate lunch there and when all the benches were full we ended up sitting along the fountain. It was crowded and dirty. The pigeons run the place. The surrounding area has a lot of history but the current version of what we saw doesn't fully embrace that. Panhandlers and street performers were everywhere. There were two Yodas and one of them was clearly six feet tall with work books and the worst Yoda mask every made. The fountains were nice but the rest of the square was decorated very strangely. What's with the giant blue rooster statue? I hope that thing is temporary. When in the area you have to visit Trafalgar to say you did but don't plan a long visit.