Matt had me stressed leading up to this trip to London. He had me thinking that traveling with his dad may be too much. Nonsense, having a pint in England is on his dad’s bucket list; we are going.
TRAVELING FROM AMSTERDAM TO LONDON
Waking up at 4am, we take a taxi to pick up Matt’s parents from their hotel; we are going to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.We are traveling from Amsterdam to London, taking a 45 min EasyJet flight for $80 roundtrip.
Getting to London’s Gatwick airport is quick. Getting through Gatwick, to our taxi, and to our hotel, turned out to be quite the excursion. There is a lot of construction at Gatwick Airport, so you have to walk a marathon before you can get out. If you need a taxi from Gatwick, you must request a taxi from the kiosk, located behind the taxi pick up area. In addition to all of that, the traffic getting to and through London, will take you a good hour and a half, minimum. Be patient, or take the train in to London.
Trip to London: Vacation Day 1
On the first day of my trip to London with Matt and his family we decided it would be best to explore the city’s northwest and northeast sights. Walking along the north bank of the River Thames we explored the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Globe Theater and the London Eye.
ARRIVING IN LONDON
Pulling up to our hotel, the Waldorf, we were instantly greeted by two amazing doormen. I chose to book our London stay at the Waldorf because it is extremely handicapped friendly (with a doctor on site), and the location is perfect. The hotel is situated along the River Thames, between Buckingham Palace and The Tower of London; with an underground tube stop (public transit system) is a block away.
After settling in, we make our way towards the Tower of London. Making it only a few block before we needed food, we stop at Jamies, a traditional British pub. 4 rounds of fish & chips and beer. I LOVE fish and chips with mushy peas.
THE TOWER OF LONDON
Moving on with our adventure to the Tower, we pass by Temple Church and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Walking for another 40 minutes, we finally arrive at the Tower of London. Getting through security, and accessing the Tower grounds is pretty easy; even with a wheel chair. I love the Tower of London, not because of the history but because of the people who still live and work there; the Yeomen Warders or Beefeaters. Seriously, these people are great. Part of the Beefeaters’ duties are to give free tours of the Tower to visitors. Take it. The tour is great, the guides are all entertaining, friendly, and knowledgeable.
Although the Tower of London is wheelchair accessible, not all buildings are accessible; there is a map that shows the accessible areas. In addition to access, certain areas can be quite difficult to navigate with a wheelchair: rocks, uneven ground, stairs, and just the amount of people. After spending a few hours touring around, and seeing the crown jewels, we decide to venture out to see more of London.
TOWER BRIDGE TO THE LONDON EYE
We make our way across the River Thames, by way of the Tower Bridge. The Tower Bridge is pretty magnificent; iconic when I think of London, especially when I see a red double decker bus drive by. Walking across the bridge you get a fantastic view of the city and the river. You are able to go to the top of Tower Bridge and get a tour, but it is not free.
Walking along the south side of the Thames River, Matt is growing ever so angry; either because he is thirsty and hungry or because he has to pee. It’s always so hard to tell. Suggesting we stop at the next place, we order 4 pints and snacks, and Matt gets to take a pee.
After settling Matthew down, we continue our journey towards the London Eye. We walk another 2 plus miles, passing the London Bridge, Southwark Cathedral, and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, until Matt is hangry again (I need to keep a snickers in my purse). We find a great spot on the water, Gabriel’s Wharf; decent food, but a bit pricey.
THE LONDON EYE AT DUSK
Walking another quarter of a mile, we make it to the London eye. The London eye is a great way to see the city; especially if walking impaired. The best time to go to the London Eye is at dusk. You get your very own light show, as all the buildings turn their lights on as the sun goes down. Magical.
Tired from walking 5 miles, especially Matt who has been pushing the wheelchair nearly the entire time, we get a taxi. The great thing about London’s taxis are that a majority of them are wheelchair accessible; flip up the seats, pull out the ramp, and roll right in. Brilliant. Back to the Waldorf we go. Since we are so tired we decide to order a casual dinner at the hotel: sliders, fries, pints. This is why we walk so much.
Trip to London: Vacation Day 2
On day 2 of our trip to London, we opted to tour the south east side of the city. Walking through The Mall straight to Buckingham Palace. Since the later half of the day was going to be rainy we decided to opt for museums. Making our way through St. James’s Park, past Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Big Ben on to the Churchill War Rooms.
AN AFTERNOON AT BUCKINGHAM PALACE
Waking up early, it is time to go see the Queen and Buckingham Palace. We walk around the corner to Wellington Pub for breakfast around 10am. I order an English breakfast, and it is delicious; just something about refried beans (you may be thinking gross..I get it). Matthew, of course, orders a beer at 10:30, justifying he is on vacation. Obviously, thinking that is a good justification, I order one as well. As the rain stops we finish our morning pints, head out, and make our way to Buckingham Palace via Strand Street.
Walking down Strand, we pass through the theater district, coming up to a traffic circle; home of Charles I Statue. From here, we pass through the corridor to the Mall, which is park like boulevard. Walking down the Mall, on our way to Buckingham Palace, we see the Queen’s guard parade through. What an awesome surprise…until we noticing Matt’s mother, Sandy, was nowhere in sight (this only gets worse). We find Sandy a block back taking photos. Matt, with no patience, scolds Sandy because he doesn’t want to lose here. The thing is Matt walks extremely fast (even while pushing a wheelchair). So if you stop to tie your shoe, you are now a mile behind Matt.
About a mile down the Mall, we arrive at the gates of Buckingham Palace; these guards are not letting me in to have tea with the Queen. Disappointing. The front square of Buckingham palace is chaotic: people everywhere, cars driving by beeping, security… it’s a lot going on. Snapping some pictures out front, we soon breaking away from the insanity.
BUCKINGHAM PALACE TO WESTMINSTER ABBEY
We relax with a stroll through St. Jame’s Park, the park in front of the Palace. We try and take in as much serenity before arriving to Westminster Abbey; Another cluster fuck. It doesn’t help that we have to cross a traffic circle, large groups of tourists, a protest, all while pushing a wheelchair. Fuck.
The lines to get into Westminster Abbey are way too long for us to even attempt to go in; wrapping around the outside of the building. Instead we took in the architecture of the Abbey, Parliament and Big Ben. We only stay for a bit, so Matt doesn’t totally freak out.
At this point, we leave and go in search of a bar. We all need to relax. Finally our first true English pints (cask ale) at an English pub, the Red Lion; up the road from Westminster Abbey. Enjoying our beers outside, cold yes, but the people watching is best. After enjoying a few pints, we cross the street to visit the Churchill War Rooms.
LOST IN LONDON
Walking along the building we come up to Queen’s guards on horseback, and Matt mother loves it. I mean so did I. I am easily amused. Sandy is taking a billion photos, Matt without patience is getting angry, walks away because of the crowds, to wait for her. Well Sandy does not hear this. She is under the assumption we just continued straight, so she walks ahead; for a long time. Oh no!
Matt was growing more angry, waiting for 15 minutes at this point, thinking his mother is just taking pictures of the same horse the entire time. I go to get her, and she is nowhere to be found. I am jumping up and down, walking back and forth. I can not find her. Matt goes to look for her, even walks up and down the block….nothing. We try calling Sandy’s phone, but nothing is going through. Matt is getting more angry, thinking she just didn’t turn her phone on. Ironically, it was Matt that turned her mobile data and roaming off the night before. Now she is unable to take or make any outgoing calls from London. Sandy is gone. Matts worst fear has come true. Sandra Jane is lost in London.
OMG. What do we do?!?! We figured we would go to the entrance of the Churchill War Rooms and wait. The building and grounds of the Churchill War Rooms are massive; finding the entrance is a pain. We wait here, since this is the place Sandy knew where we were heading towards. Matt’s dad and I wait in line, while Matt goes off in search of his mother. 30 minutes and many tears later, we see Matt and Sandy making their towards us. Matt’s mom is so upset, thinking we all left her. Matt is annoyed because when he finds Sandy, she is taking more pictures. Lol. Love it. Such a traumatic entry for the Churchill war rooms.
The Churchill War Rooms museum is interesting to walk through. You get to see the setup of the British command facility during World War II; seeing the sleeping quarters, and how tightly everyone lived underground. After walking through the war rooms, you get to a section of the museum dedicated to Churchill’s life. The museum is interesting in that it is interactive, but it’s a little too much information that you feel overwhelmed. If it could be sectioned off better, with a more defined flow, navigating the information would be easier. The museum is wheelchair accessible, and takes about an 1.5 to 2 hours to get through. Get the audio guide.
Finishing up with the Churchill War Rooms, we walk outside and it’s raining and cold. We are not having this and have no intentions to walk back to the hotel in these conditions. Looking up we see a pub a block away, so we book it. The Clarence was the best decision ever. Sitting at a large table up front, this place is cozy, the staff is nice, the food is great, and there is beer on tap. I cannot ask for anything more at that point. Several rounds of beer later, we are ready to head back to the Hotel.
Trip to London: Vacation Day 3
If it is sunny in London, take advantage of being outside. Day 3 of our trip to London turned into another wash, so we opted for the British Museum….doesn’t hurt that it is free and handicapped accessible.
THE BRITISH MUSEUM
Waking up early, we want to get the most out of the day before we have to leave. It is beautiful out, so we decided to walk to the British Museum, stopping for breakfast along the way. Another English breakfast please. Slamming my refried beans and our lattes, we head off to the museum which is also wheelchair accessible.
The museum is nice, especially for a rainy day. The museum is large, with many parts undiscovered by me. Certain areas require additional entrance fees, other than that the museum is free. However, if it’s sunny in London take advantage of being outside.
As time is approaching 1:30pm, I decide we have to leave in order to make our flight. We need enough time to walk back, get our luggage, and drive and 1.5 to the airport. Thinking our flight is at 4 PM, we arrive and we are not able to check in. My first reaction is we are late, but it turns out we are 3 hours early; our flight doesn’t leave until 6 PM. Damnit. Oh well…more fish and chips please.
Read my Top London Travel tips to help plan your trip to London.