And that’s officially a wrap to my London/Norwegian vacation for this summer! The fjords absolutely took my breath away and all the land exploring we did certainly didn’t disappoint either. What did disappoint was definitely the weather. The cruise made 9 stops in Norway and it rained for pretty much 7 of the ports of call. To make things worse, it wasn’t just a little drizzle; it was sheets of rain, and often times, we walked back to the cruise ship completely soaked. However, despite the bad weather and all, I got to experience the real Norway: rain, cloudy skies, and cold temperatures. Everything was so serene, and the peace of being in the fjords was such a refreshing breath of air from all the stress of our lives. I loved every minute of the trip and I would definitely be up for a journey back.
3 full days were spent touring London and the rest of the journey was spent aboard a 14 day Princess Cruises ship. Out of the 14 days, there were 9 ports of call (Stavanger, Olden, Trondheim, Honningsvag, Tromso, Gravdal, Aalesund, and Bergen) and 5 “At Sea” days. For this “Escape to Norway 2016” blog series, I will be doing a separate blog post for each day spent in London, and each cruise port in Norway. Make sure you stay tuned for all the posts!
Let’s kick it off with the first day in the city across the pond from Canada. We got off the plane at around 6:30 am London time and right after we got to the hotel and settled in a little, we were out the door exploring. We decided to just forget about jetlag. Our first stop was Buckingham Palace, where we wanted to see the changing of the guards at 11:30 am. This event typically happens daily, with the exception of unsuitable weather conditions. Make sure to get there at least 30 minutes in advance so you get a good view of the guards. I didn’t do this and the only view I got was of people’s selfie sticks raised high in the air. The entire square is filled with people and all you see are phones, cameras, and heads. It’s crazy.
After we “watched” the changing of the guards, we purchased tickets for the tour of the Buckingham Palace State Rooms. The Buckingham Palace is the residence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Fun fact: You can tell whether or not the Queen is currently in the palace. If you see the British Flag waving above the palace, this indicates the Queen is NOT in residence. In the picture below, the Union Jack means the Queen is absent. Usually, during the summer months, she’s vacationing somewhere else. The tour tickets allow you to view the inside the palace and see the various rooms used for welcoming guests, dining, lounging, etc. I was blown away by the amount of gold in all the rooms. If you’re planning a visit here, I recommend buying the tickets online first. This was our second time in London and the reason we didn’t go in the first time around was because of the lineup for purchasing tickets.
After this important stop, we took a stroll through Hyde Park. Our plan was to walk from one end of the park, which is where Buckingham Palace was located, all the way to the other end of the park where Kensington Palace was. In the middle of the park, you can find Serpentine Lake where many swans, geese and little ducks like to call home. On the lake, they offer the option of renting a paddle-boat to kick back and relax for an hour or two. If you’re up for something a little more active, there are loads of bikes available for rental around London and especially, in Hyde Park. If I remember correctly, it’s 1 or 2 pounds per half hour and you’re free to ride around the park! There are designated bike paths and it’s a great way to explore the area.
Kensington Palace is another royal residence (I think we have an obsession with the royal family) and it is the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Harry, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent, and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent. Just like with Buckingham Palace, you have the option of purchasing a ticket to tour the interior, however, we decided to simply admire the palace from the outside.
After we took our pictures and said our goodbyes to the palace, we headed off for Notting Hill. Many of you might have seen the 1999 Notting Hill film starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. It is deemed an affluent district in west London, located north of Kensington. From Kensington Palace, it’s about a 20-25 minute walk and the walk allows you to see the little “nooks and crannies” of London, such as the street containing all the international embassies. Perhaps the most famous, and recognizable, part of Notting Hill are the streets with all the pastel coloured houses. The houses are in such close proximity to one another and they vary in different colours, ranging from pastel pink to a light grey. These make great Instagram pictures! If you do find yourself in Notting Hill, the Portobello Road Market is a must-visit. Portobello Road is also a popular street with the pastel houses, as pictured below. Market opening times include 09:00 – 18:00 Monday To Wednesday, 09:00 – 13:00 Thursday, and 09:00 – 19:00 Friday and Saturday. This road market offers various antiques, fruit and veggies, second hand items, clothes, accessories, and much more. The best day is to go on either Friday or Saturday, when all the markets and booths are open.
And that is it for the first day in London! Keep an eye out for the next few posts coming up shortly!