Monday, December 28, 2015

Europe at Christmas {London}

I embarked on my Europe at Christmastime trip on December 14th.  I caught a flight out that would put me in London on December 15th at 7:25 a.m.  Initially, London wasn't part of the trip, but once I found out that in order to fly to Prague, I had to change planes in London, I wasn't capable of not stopping over for the day.  I discovered if your layover was 24 hours or less, then it didn't cost any more for the ticket.  So I booked a 23 hour and 55 minute layover in London.

If you know me at all, you know that London is my favorite place on this entire earth.  I love every little thing about it.  Turns out, I love it even more at Christmastime!

I stayed at the Hilton Heathrow Hotel since I had to be at the airport so early on the 16th.  Once I made it through customs, I went straight to the hotel.  I lucky to be able to check into my room that early.  I showered and changed and then headed into London for the day.  I took the Heathrow Express for the first time since I was short on time (I was not impressed by the way, and wouldn't do it again).  The Heathrow Express goes into Paddington Station.  At Paddington Station, I loaded money on my oyster card and set out from Paddington to the Charing Cross tube station.  First stop:  Trafalgar Square...

The reason Trafalgar Square was on my itinerary for the day, was because I wanted to see the tree that sits in Trafalgar Square every Christmas.  The country of Norway has been gifting the British with a tree every Christmas since World War II.  In fact, the Queen spoke of this tree and the tradition this year in her Christmas Day Address.
It certainly isn't the most impressive tree in all of Britain, but I love the sentiment behind it.  
From Trafalgar Square, I set out on foot down Whitehall toward Westminster. 
Along the way, I pass the Horse Guards Parade, and the Cenotaph.
Some of the wreaths are left from Remembrance Sunday that occurred the prior month.  The Queen and Prince Phillip, along with Prince Harry left wreaths that day.  
I'm a sucker for flag pictures of any kind, but especially the Union Jack.
It was a gloomy looking day, or as I described it on instagram "the most London-y looking day ever".  It wasn't cold, but the temps were around 53'.  I wasn't even wearing a coat...Just a vest and a cardigan.
Loved the Christmas trees everywhere including the Parliament building and Westminster Abbey.





A video from Westminster Bridge...



{iphone pic}

From Westminster Tube Station, I headed to Knightsbridge Tube Station with Harrods as my destination.  
{pretty much all of these Knightsbridge & Harrods pics are iPhone pics}
The Harrod's windows were each dedicated to one designer.  They were so fun!

Burberry Window...

Burberry Window Video (you can see it in motion)...


 Christian Louboutin Window...
This was just a Harrods window...
Jo Malone window....
Ugg Window...
Chanel Window...

Then I walked down to one of my favorite places to eat in London.
I've been eating at Patisserie Valerie since 1996, and it's still just as good as it was almost 20 years ago with too many amazing choices.
{all iphone pics}

My dessert of choice...Strawberry Gateau
Once I was done in Knightsbridge, I set out to the Mayfair area of London.  The Ritz was decorated in it's Christmas finery...

Bond Street was decked out in peacock feather lights


The Burlington Arcade

Piccadilly Arcade 

I had to make a run through Fortnum & Mason, and then a shopping trip to Cath Kidston

After Cath Kidston, I headed over to Regent Street...
While on Regent Street, I popped into Jo Malone and purchased myself a fragrance that is only available at their Regent Street store....Assam & Grapefruit 

I mean, you wouldn't believe who I saw shopping on Regent Street!
{iphone pic}



   
 From Regent Street, I walked to Carnaby Street to see their display.  It was THE BEST!


Next stop was Liberty of London, where I was certain I was going to die on their ancient elevators since so many people crammed onto it.  It literally stopped working properly, but I survived and got to visit their famous Christmas shop.
From Liberty, I headed down to Oxford Street to see their Christmas lights.


John Lewis had a great display too


At that point, I knew I needed to call it a day, but it was one of my best days ever!

Stay tuned for Prague, Vienna, and Budapest!

Here is a my review of the Hilton Heathrow Hotel (Terminal 4):  It is great for convenience.  It probably does not live up to the Hilton name, or the price I paid.  I didn't even take pics of the room (the carpet was stained, and the tub didn't appear very clean).  But I knew that I needed to be at the airport by about 5:20 a.m., which would have been difficult from Central London.  For my purposes it was good, but I wouldn't stay there unless in a similar situation.  

As for the Heathrow Express, well I was sold on it's "15 minutes to Paddington Station" claim.  I knew that time was a precious commodity to me that day, and I didn't want to spend the 45 min to 1 hour, that the tube normally takes.  It is much more expensive than the Tube; however, they offer discounts based on how far in advance you book online.  The first train I was waiting on was "cancelled", so I ended up having to wait about 25 minutes for the dang train.  Then there were several slow downs and stops on the way, so we didn't get to Paddington in 15 minutes.  All in all, I spent a bunch of money to get to London no quicker than if I had taken the trusty tube.  You live and learn, but Heathrow Express will never get my money again. 

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