We were only in London proper for about 2 days (Friday afternoon/evening through Sunday morning), so we didn’t have a ton of time to see the city.
What’s the best way to see as much of the city as possible in a short amount of time?
A double-decker bus tour, obviously!
We bought tickets from the concierge at our hotel and after a lovely breakfast on Saturday morning, set off to catch our bus. They gave us each a pair of ear buds and a map. G also got a kids’ pack with a coloring book and stuff in it. The bus route we were on didn’t have a live tour guide (hence the ear buds), but they offered two recordings in English: the regular one and one geared towards kids. I was pretty impressed by that!
Andy and I kept referring to our maps and, without fail, every time we would, we would also say, “So I was in my map…” (I know at least one person will get that reference. What’s up, Erin?)
I have just a ton of pictures from the tour. Both of these London posts are really picture heavy, but what I’m showing you is just a tiny fraction of the number of pictures that I took. So I just picked some of my favs to share with you guys, and I’ll also throw in some of the facts that I learned on the tour!
Andy and G on the bus! We were the first ones on!
I don’t remember what this gate was to, but I liked it! It was the first lion and unicorn combo I saw, which I later learned is the royal seal, so yeah.
The front of the Animals in War Memorial.
And the back.
I think it’s super awesome that animals have their own war memorial.
This Marble Arch used to be located at Buckingham Palace but was relocated to this spot near Hype Park. The tour told me it was because Queen Victoria didn’t like it and had a carriage built that was too wide to fit through, but Wikipedia is telling me that’s wrong. Who knows?
This toy store is awesome. We didn’t go in (I didn’t want to fight G about not buying everything), but the history of it makes me want to go there sometime.
Hamleys toy store operated during WWII, despite being bombed five times! The employees wore tin hats to protect themselves and would run in to get the toys and bring them back to the customers waiting at the door. Now that’s dedication!
Sadly, this was the closest I got to seeing Bradley Cooper.
Our tickets on the bus tour also got us a ride on a City Cruises boat. So after taking a break to ride the Eye and grab some lunch, we hopped on a boat to see London from the Thames.
Speaking of the Eye…
Shakespeare’s Globe. In my mind, this was outside of the city. (I don’t know why.) So it really caught me off guard to just see it right there in the middle of everything.
Going under the actual London Bridge.
Not to be mistaken for this bad boy, the Tower Bridge.
OK, so the insurance nerd in me finds this interesting. Because the Tower Bridge is on a body of water and moves, Lloyd’s of London insures it as a ship!
We got off the boat at the dock near the Tower Bridge and walked around the Tower of London for while before getting back onto a bus.
Given more time and/or an older child, I would like to tour the Tower of London some day.
These dragons guard the border between the city of London and the city of Westminster.
Back on the bus. Here you can see the Walkie Talkie, the Cheese Grater, and the Gherkin.
London City Hall, aka the Armadillo.
Driving over the Tower Bridge. It was hard to get a pic of this that didn’t have a bunch of heads in it.
The OXO Tower. Advertising isn’t allowed on the Thames, but OXO conveniently designed a building with their logo made out of windows. Clever.
There was a large demonstration going on at Westminster Bridge. We saw lots of people carrying signs protesting austerity measures.
And one of the two sphinxes sitting at its base. These were installed backwards, meaning they’re looking at the “needle” instead of guarding it. You can also see shrapnel damage on the base of this sphinx from a WWI bomb.
We were stuck in some pretty crummy traffic at this point, which was boring for us, but it gave G more nap time!
A levitating trio: the Grim Reaper, some sort of golden man, and Yoda.
I can’t remember for sure what building this is (I think it’s part of Lambeth Palace), but I just love all the textures in this pic. I (heart) old buildings.
Hey, look! It’s the MI6 (SIS) building!
I swear the tour recording said something about some of the Titanic Disaster Hearings taking place here, but now I can’t find anything online to back that up, so maybe I’m just crazy. Anyway, now this is a hotel. Pretty swank.
Not long after we passed St. James’ Court, G said she needed to go potty, so we got off the bus and walked to find a public restroom. Then we had dinner (which was delicious) and got rained on on our way back to the hotel.
Our tickets were good for two days, though, so on Sunday morning, after crêpes and time spent at the playground, we got back on a bus so we could go see Buckingham Palace.
Spotted this on a Burberry building on our way to the palace. Must be nice to be the royally-declared official weatherproofers (or anything, really)!
Andy and G in front of the gates. They’re kind of fancy.
They do stand really still. Way to go, sir.
We got there just before the changing of the guard ceremony was supposed to start, which is why there were a million people around. I would have loved to see the whole thing, but we had to get back to the hotel to check out and catch the train to the airport. Oh, well.
The tour was really great. I’m sure it’s even better without a three-year-old 😉 I would wholeheartedly recommend it to someone visiting London!