10 Days in London - Days 3 & 4
Day 3 - Wednesday
We had much more free time today, which is great because yesterday was so action packed.
We started at the Tower of London, and I’m glad we got there early (around 9am). We got to walk the grounds, see the Crown Jewels and explore White Tower almost entirely to ourselves. Then from about 10am onwards, the school troops started coming through and the place was packed.
The Tower of London’s history is quite interesting. And I say that walking in somewhat skeptically as to whether I was going to be interested in the history. I learned that the Tower grew significantly over time, survived the great fire of London in 1666 and is still (partially) home to the the Queen today.
We spent approx 3 - 4 hours at the Tower of London, including stopping for a scone with jam and cream half way through.
From the tower we took a walk along the Thames (which Ash has been struggling to pronounce correctly) and then into the city, making our way down Regent St towards Sketch for a late lunch.
We’d been strongly recommended Sketch by several friends, and it did not disappoint. The interiors looks as if Alice in Wonderland was crafted into a restaurant, and the curiosity factor had been turned up by 25%.
We dined in a room called the Glade which has carpets that mimic a grassy and greenery filled forest floor. The staff are all exceptionally fun and energetic, but not in a contrived or cringe-worthy way - which I find exceptionally had to pull off.
Most importantly, the food was amazing! I had a parsnip volute with chestnut ice cream and gingerbread crumble to start, followed by a main of lemon strozzapreti pasta with cherry tomatoes, Paris mushrooms and carrots. And finally dried prunes, pu-erh tea, orange salad and pear sorbet for dessert. All three courses were divine, with the strozzapreti pasta being my favourite. I also stole a bit of Ash’s grilled cauliflower starter and gnocchi main, which were both equally delicious.
We were told that we couldn’t go to Sketch and not go to the bathroom - a rather odd request, but we obliged, and glad we did. You open the doors to an all white room and as you ascend the stairs past a bar (yes, a bar in a bathroom) you come upon a room filled with egg-like pods underneath a rainbow ceiling. Overall a very surreal experience. If you’re planning on travelling to London, you should definitely plan a visit to Sketch.
With stomachs full to the brim, we decided to forgo the luxury of the train and walk the several kilometers back home to Lambeth. We clocked the most steps so far, with our watches saying roughly 21,000 steps and 16km total.
Day 4 - Thursday
Today was our most touristy day yet. We left shortly after 9am and headed straight to Westminster Abbey, where we’d reserved tickets for a 9:30am entry. Having booked online already, we got to skip the large queue that was waiting outside and head straight in to the Abbey - if you’re planning to head there, I’d definitely recommend booking in advance.
My exposure to Westminster Abbey has largely been confined to seeing it on television during royal weddings and funerals. As well as probably some things I learned in high school history class, which I’ve long since forgotten. None of this truly encapsulates the size, grandeur or significance of the Abbey.
The inside is immense, and littered with graves of great significance. From the Kings and Queens of old, to important scientific minds like Charles Darwin and literary figures including Charles Dickens.
The Abbey is also a stunningly beautiful place, with architecture that is the grandest of sizes but contains the intricacies and attention to detail of something much smaller. It’s this kind of care and craftsmanship that makes the feel of being in the building so much more magical.
In addition to walking the floors and many rooms on the abbey’s ground floor, we paid the extra 5 pounds to see the Galleries as well. The entrance is opposite Poet’s Corner and there’s a tall flight of stairs that takes you to the upper levels of the Abbey. The galleries are just as wide and spacious as the halls downstairs, but looking down the length of the abbey from above gives it a somewhat more ethereal feeling.
After leaving the Westminster Abbey, I couldn’t help but feel in awe of the sheer amount of history and culture that resides there. Comparatively, Australia only has approximately two hundred years of colonial history - so being able to look back upon almost a thousand years of history in one place is a foreign yet fantastic feeling.
From Westminster Abbey, we made the short walk (around 15 - 20 mins) to Buckingham Palace through St James Park. With Cherry blossom season in full swing, the parks are looking especially beautiful and we stopped to take lots of pictures of the flowers (Ash was in her element, pointing out the names of each flower in bloom).
I had been to Buckingham Palace previously when I was in London for a short work trip a few years ago, but this time the gates and turning circle at the front of the palace were far less crowded with other tourists. After a few photo snaps were about to move on until one of the gates opened. A police motorcade exited the Palace grounds with two cars trailing behind. To our surprise, Prince William was in one of the cars and we we able to catch a quick glimpse of him as the car drove past us.
We then made our way to Hyde Park where we had a packed picnic lunch by the water and enjoyed the sun. We’ve been incredibly lucky with the weather, so we’re trying to enjoy it as much as possible.
After lunch we popped on over to explore Harrod’s, particularly the food hall. As we made way through the counters, drooling at everything in sight, we decided on some sweet little meringues to take back home for dessert. I picked out a watermelon, and a salted caramel meringue and Ash picked a peach bellini, and a coconut meringue (in the shape of an Easter bunny’s butt). I also found a couple of things to add to the cooking list, including a doughsant (a full croissant made like a doughnut, not to be confused with a cronut) and a lemon meringue danish.
After heading back to the flat for a bit, we went out in London at night for the first time since we arrived having finally overcome the jet lag to meet up with some friends in Moorgate for a few drinks.
Read about the rest of our trip in London: