Arriving on the train from Bath where we started our Girls Trip 2022, we got settled into our ARBNB in Goodwin’s Court. This lovely historic lane in Covent Garden was used by the Harry Potter set designers as one of their inspirations for Diagon Alley. The curved front windows of the townhomes and gas street lanterns illuminating the cobblestones is indeed lovely and very Harry Potteresque. We stay in ARBNBs for our Girl Trips so that we can each have a bedroom and a bath. However, next time maybe we won’t book a five-level townhouse. It was huge, fancy, and in a great location but way too many steep stairs we had to crawl up after busy days wandering around London!
We had timed our visit to occur in mid-November after London had turned on their spectacular Christmas lights. I’ve travelled all over the world but never have I ever seen a big city light up like London does for the holidays. Streets are strung with lights, entire building facades are decorated and don’t even get me started on the lavish decorations inside the classic huge department stores like Harrod’s. It is THE most wonderful time to visit London. Besides shopping and taking in theater performances (see my separate posts on those!), we planned out an agenda to include Parliament (we are political junkies), a private taxi tour (vs. taking the Hop On, Hop Off bus), a fabulous museum (only time for one this trip!) and grabbing a view at Sky Garden. London is an awesome city that requires multiple trips to even begin to see it all. For This first time visit to London for Becky and Patti, they got a great overview. I’ve been to London many times in the past for both business and pleasure and I always look forward to a return visit to see new things!
Our first morning in London, we journeyed across London to visit Parliament. The House of Commons and the House of Lords were both in session so there were no tours of the building going on because they were working. If you come when they are not in session, you can take a self-guided tour and see all the beautiful historic rooms, which I highly recommend. Thom and I did that a few months ago and loved it. But this time it was all about seeing Parliament debates. Ah, the political drama! After standing in the rain until the appointed time that we were told we could enter the great hall to get ready to go into the gallery, the security guards finally took pity on us and let us in about 30 minutes early. We checked out the great gift store (yes, they sell booze and lots of other cool stuff), used the facilities and waited while the docent warned us about the protocol involving the Speaker of the House Processional. About a hundred of us tourists lined up in the entry way to the House of Commons and stood at attention while all the pageantry took place. The Speaker walked right by me and said hello. Nice chap! Then, after he entered the Chambers, we all went up to the gallery after leaving our possessions (no cameras allowed) checked outside the gallery in the secure cloakroom. You sit above the action and can also watch on several monitors. The day we were there the representatives of the Treasury were discussing the energy crisis with members of Parliament and how they were going to help citizens stay warm this winter and pay their energy bills. We are political junkies so enjoyed seeing their government in action.
PRIVATE TAXI TOUR
We arranged a two-hour private Black Taxi Tour instead of taking the Hop On Hop Off bus, which I often take on trips depending on how much time I have to see the top sites in the place I’m visiting. We had a week in London and wanted to see specific sites, so the personal tour worked well for us to get the lay of the land. We booked our tour through Viator and told our tour guide to meet us at St. Ermin’s hotel, which was close to Parliament. We walked over after our Parliament experience and had a quick bite and tea at the hotel before our tour, which ended up being in a bright green taxi not the classic black one. At least the other cars could see us coming to get out of the way!
The guide was anxious to tailor our trip to what we wanted to see and also guide us to the top sights in London. We requested Buckingham Palace (of course) and the Princess Diana memorial. We got to see all the sights, jump out quickly while the tour guide waited with the car so we could get pictures and walk around. It was a full two hours of the best of London. It didn’t cost much more per person than the hop on, hop off bus would have been, and it was just our party of 3 in the car. Our guide dropped us off in our neighborhood afterward. Fun day!
VICTORIA AND ALBERT MUSEUM
We could only work in one museum on this trip, but I hope in the future to see all of the London museums. Good reason to return! So many fine museums in London and the entrance is FREE! From the moment you walk up to the Victoria and Albert Museum V&A · The World’s Leading Museum Of Art And Design (vam.ac.uk) you are impressed. The building is majestic and beautiful. The thing that makes this museum so unique is that there is something for everyone. Tip: this museum (and others) are open late on Fridays and are less crowded then. Also, make sure you have lunch in the V & A café. Not only is the food good but it’s gorgeous-oldest museum cafe in operation in Europe. Also, shop in their gift store. I bought a few Christmas presents from the wide variety of jewelry collections they offered. They carry various European designer collections to choose from including my favorite from Italy, Angela Caputi.
The best view in town at Sky Garden – London’s Highest Public Garden is FREE. Just reserve timed entry tickets online in advance (released 30 days in advance) and show up, get in line with your tickets, and go through security. Then you are whisked up to the garden view. You can go outside on the balcony, but we enjoyed coffee and treats inside while getting some great pictures. I love the comfy couches that you can relax into and rest while enjoying the view. There are tiered levels, and they often have events on the upper level like yoga classes. Enjoy the journey!