London is one of those places in the world that I felt I had been to already without ever having stepped foot in it thanks to a lifetime experiencing it as the setting or even main character of thousands of books, movies and songs. While it sits firmly on many traveler’s bucket lists, I had felt fairly neutral about this capital city until just a few days before our arrival, when I got the usual pre-travel excitement butterflies.

Union Jack Cab

Our trip to London was our final goodbye to the UK before parting ways temporarily as I flew off on a two week adventure with my Mom and Mark went ahead to Thailand. Our budget and time was limited, yet we had a list of family and friends to catch up with and just as many chain restaurants to enjoy for the last time in who-know’s-how-long. I’m looking at you, Wagamama and my all-time-favorite-borderline-obsession Chipotle. Unfortunately our glorious Chipotle visit was undocumented as I was too excited to take out the camera after six weeks of Googling “Chipotle (insert location here)” for our every destination. Also, Mark has pointed out I will never be able to lend out my London guidebook after he flipped to the Soho map and found Chipotle’s location circled and surrounded by copious hearts and arrows.

Wagamama London

My next priority was taking as many quintessentially London photographs as possible. Double decker buses, telephone booths, and the union jack were the London I knew ever since my first viewings of Spice World and Mary Kate & Ashley blockbuster Winning London.

 London tourist

Okay, so that on the right isn’t necessarily specifically a London thing. But it was basically the best costume ever in the history of the world. (Other than my stint as Alice, obviously.)

But we did manage to squeeze in a few things other than meeting up with people, eating semi-fast food,  and annoying souvenir shop vendors by taking photos without purchasing. This is the roundup of what me managed to do in three days in a city that surely deserves years to explore.

Museum of London

Despite reading basically every book in the London based Confessions of a Shopoholic series, I knew surprisingly little about London’s history. A trip to the free (woo hoo!) and fascinating Museum of London sorted that right out and helped me piece together what was left over from high school history class.

Museum of London

The museum takes you chronologically through the city’s history from prehistoric times to present day. It’s well laid out and sign posted, and I loved learning more about everything from the Great Fire to Beatles Mania. The one thing I could have used more of was a little Jack the Ripper love. But maybe that’s my CSI withdrawal speaking.

Museum of London

The Tate Modern

As an art school graduate, I am legally bound to visit major art museums in every city I visit. Well, not technically, but I may as well be because I always make a point to pop in and impress myself with how well I’ve retained the information from my art history final flashcards. The Tate was no exception.

I absolutely loved this (free!) museum. We opted against paying the extra £15 to see the Juan Miro exhibit, and though I admit it kind of killed me to miss it, the permanent collection is so crazy impressive it healed all wounds. We also skipped the audio tour so that I could bore fascinate Mark with my art smarts instead. I could have spent a day here but after a few hours someone (not naming names) gave me the No More Museum Face and so we moved on.

The Tate Modern, London

St. Pauls

Okay, so, um, we didn’t actually go in. But we admired this famous cathedral from at least three different vantage points. So that must count for something, right? Honestly, its a beautiful piece of architecture and a great addition to the London skyline.

St. Paul's Cathedral, London

Getting Lost

I think one of the best ways to get to know a city is to just strike out on foot and let yourself get lost. We loved wandering down the riverfront and across bridges we couldn’t name, just soaking in the energy of this new place.

While I didn’t find in London a place that I would want to live (too much rain, not enough Chipotle locations) I did discover a city that I hope I am able to return to over and over again. Like any great metropolis, London will need to be peeled like an onion and discovered layer by layer. While this short visit only skimmed the surface, I can’t wait to dive in deeper next time.

Stay tuned for Part II, where we explore the city by bus and boat!

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Are you planning a getaway to the UK? Search for cheap hotels in London and save your cash for double decker bus rides instead!

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  • Danielle
    August 29 2011

    Omg, I still totally own Winning London from when I was a kid. Great pictures as always! Those museums look fab. 🙂

    • Alex
      August 30 2011

      Ha I love the Mary Kate and Ashley travel series…. what a Oscar winning performances!

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