London Literary Tour in an Afternoon

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

 

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

In a city as old as and historically and culturally rich as London it should come as no surprise that it is also one of the densest literary destinations in the world. 

If you’re a reader you can almost certainly find something in London to suit your fancy. 

Some of it is free, and some locations will set you back several quid. During our trip we spent an afternoon chasing this book lover’s whimsy, and it was so much fun! This London literary tour only took a few hours and kept us around central London, so it’s easy for a quick trip.

The British Library

Just wow. This was one of the most undersold, but most exciting (for this book nerd and her equally nerdy husband) museums we experienced in London. 

From the Magna Carta to Jane Austen’s glasses to lyrics scrawled on a loose piece of paper by John Lennon to the world’s oldest known Bible, this small museum just inside the unimpressive brick British Library a five minute walk from Kings Cross/St. Pancras station. 

Sup, Beowulf manuscript. (Wikipedia Commons)

After you’re done gawking at the beautiful foundations of the English written word pop into the library’s cafe for locally roasted coffee and a pastry. My lemon tart was fantastic! We enjoyed our snack in the shadow of this huge bookcase, which kind of took my breath away. 

There were no pictures allowed in the museum, but believe me when I say it’s worth the trip if you’re a reader. Like all public British museums, it is free but has a great gift shop 🙂 

Visit Platform 9 3/4s at Kings Cross Station

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

(Oh hey, I’m wearing my favorite travel shoes! Learn more about them here.)

Harry Potter is one of those magical stories (pun fully intended) that is simultaneously universal and extremely personal for the people who have read and loved it. 

It is truly difficult to find a person between the ages of 13 and 35 who hasn’t read the seven books in the series, and even rarer to find someone who has read it and didn’t love it. 

Platform 9 3/4s captures a little bit of that magic, and it’s evident that every person who works there is 100% bought into it. 

It was a little piece of the fictional Harry Potter World tucked into a very real London. 

We stood in line for about 20 minutes with lots of other fans waiting our turn for the perfect picture. 

I’m a sucker for a picture, so we bought the professional ones, as well as having the opportunity to take our own. Then we ambled around the gift shop (where they conveniently funnel you after you have your picture taken). James bought me this beautiful gold-plated silver time turner 😍

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

Overall, this was definitely worth the time, but particularly if you’re already going through Kings Cross/St. Pancras station during your travels!

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson’s Apartment at 221B Baker Street 

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

Next stop on our London literary tour was the most famous address in the world! From Kings Cross jump on the Underground and take either the Circle, Hammersmith & City, or Metropolitan lines over to the Baker Street Station. The whole area embraces the fictional consulting detective, from the murals in the tube station to the dry cleaner across the street from where the Sherlock Holmes museum resides. 

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

We didn’t actually drop the £15 per person that the actual museum costs, but we did go into the good shop right next door. All the employees are wearing period garb, and there are some really cute souvenirs and interesting Sherlock pieces you likely can’t find anywhere else in London. 

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

PS, you’ll actually have to purchase your ticket in the gift shop before you go next door to enter the museum. 

Hatchard’s Bookstore – Piccadilly Circus

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

From the Baker Street Station get back on the tube and get on the Bakerloo Line down to Piccadilly Circus. 

Now, the evening we spent walking around Piccadilly Circus was probably the only time in London I felt a little wary because of the crush of tourists. There’s so much to see in the area and it’s a very popular place for some very intense shopping. 

(I got some great teas from Fortnum and Mason, whose big main store is also in Piccadilly Circus!) 

You won’t find any clowns or talented elephants here, though! It’s called a circus because of its circular shape. It’s kind of an equivalent to Times Square, with lots of souvenir shops, talented street performers, and bright electric signs. 

But we trekked down Piccadilly to Hatchard’s Bookstore, the oldest bookstore in the UK.

Book Lovers: Follow along an afternoon literary tour of central London!

It opened in 1797, meaning they’ve been selling books in this spot for nearly 220 years! I picked up one book, but only because I didn’t have room in my luggage for all the ones I wanted to buy…. There are FIVE stories of books! 

Book Lovers: Follow along on an afternoon central London literary tour!

 

For us this was the end of our afternoon London literary tour, but there are so many other spots to see! You can probably spend an entire London trip just visiting the haunts of British writers and settings they wrote into their books. 

Buzzfeed has some more ideas 🙂

OR if you’re really ambitious, check out this gorgeous typographical map of London I found!

Book Lovers: Follow along on an afternoon central London literary tour!

Keep Calm and Bagpipe On

Keep Calm and Bagpipe On

Keep Calm and Bagpipe On

2017 in Photos Day 84

This Bagpiper was on Westminster bridge every day while we were in London, and I could help but think of him when the news began spreading about the terror attack at the Palace of Westminster last week. 

Was he safe? Did he witness the incident? Was he one of the Londoners who helped pull others to safety as the madman was plowing through the crowds of tourists and workgoers? 

I do know one thing, Britons are not easily budged. Keep Calm and Carry On is more than a slogan, it is a reality that was hammered into their fibre over centuries of defending the islands we now call the United Kingdom. 

Immediately after the attacks I began seeing people I know in the UK say the only way to respond was to keep going about their business. One person even commented the Underground was just as busy on the way home that day as it ever was. 

What a message to the people who would do harm! It’s hard to terrorize a group who refused to submit to terror. 

I learned this afternoon that the dear bagpiper is still out there on Westminster Bridge today. 

Keep Calm and Bagpipe on, my friend. 

My 100% Unbiased eBags Professional Weekender Review

eBags Professional Weekender review

 

eBags Professional Weekender review

While we were planning our trip to London I found myself continually being fed ads from eBags for their professional weekender backpack

I was instantly intrigued… Space for two days of clothes, a laptop, tablet, and all the other gizmos, wires, and accessories I need for a weekend trip? It sounded too good to be true!

eBags Professional Weekender review

Now, while eBags in no way solicited this review, I have signed up for their affiliate program, so if you decide to purchase a bag from them after reading this (by clicking this link!) I will get a very small portion of that sale. 

James and I each decided to get the eBags Professional Weekender, and I’m so glad we did. Mine is heather grey, and he went with the black :).

The backpack itself is pretty big, and on first glance I was a tad afraid it wouldn’t be comfortable enough to wear. But the quality construction of the bag and its components actually made it very comfortable, even when I had it packed completely full!

eBags Professional Weekender review

While this is perfect for a weekend getaway or a quick road trip, I’ve found that when I travel internationally or am otherwise checking a bag on a long flight, I like to be able to keep a change of clothes with me in case any number of fashion emergencies happen. 

I also want to make sure my precious laptop is kept nice and safely padded! 

Speaking of padding, there is a hardshell case in the lumbar region that I found perfect for putting snacks and sunglasses in… No smooshing! 

For our London trip I packed my laptop, iPad, DSLR, extra camera battery and charger, a change of clothes, a toiletry bag, fuzzy socks, eye mask, passport, neck pillow, computer charger, and my phone/iPad/Apple Watch (what can I say?) chargers. 

Phew! That really is quite a bit. And it was still comfortable, and just as importantly, it fit very easily into the overhead bin both in our large transatlantic jet and the smaller regional one that took us from Birmingham to Atlanta. 

Another great perk is that in most airports you can unzip the bag in half and put the whole thing through the x-ray without having to take out your laptop! It also comes with a clear zip bag for all your teeny tiny liquids. No one enjoys the security line, and I’ll take any travel hack that makes getting through easier! 

This is me being happy because security is simpler with this backpack!

Bottom line: I am extremely happy with the eBags Professional Weekender and can’t wait to take it on dozens of adventures. 

The Very Best Tower of London Tour

The Yeoman Warders Tower of London Tour is the best way to experience the Tower!

The Yeoman Warders Tower of London Tour is the best way to experience the Tower!

I love it when the stars align and you’re unexpectedly given a gem of a travel tip! That’s exactly what happened when our boat tour guide told us how to experience the best Tower of London Tour. 

Every 30 minutes a Yeoman Warders, also known as “Beefeaters,” leads a behind-the-scenes Tower of London tour

At no additional cost over the price of admission to the Tower, you will be treated to great stories and a few peeks at areas other tourists aren’t allowed to go, including the Church of St Peter ad Vincula, where Anne Boleyn is buried. 

The Yeoman Warders Tower of London Tour is the best way to experience the Tower!

The Yeoman Warders Tower of London Tour is the best way to experience the Tower!

Did you know there’s a legend that if the Ravens ever leave the Tower of London the Crown will fall and the British Monarchy will be no more? As the story goes, 6 Ravens must guard the Tower at all times… And the Yeomen take it very seriously, there’s a Rookery where 7 Ravens live the life of kings, just in case!

The Yeoman Warders Tower of London Tour is the best way to experience the Tower!

 Another fun fact: Ravens often mate for life! Awwwwww!

The Yeoman Warders Tower of London Tour is the best way to experience the Tower!

This little monument stands where Anne Boleyn, the mother of Queen Elizabeth I, was executed by a French swordsman under orders from Henry VIII.

Inside the White Tower, which was built in 1076(!), there is lots of cool armor and other historical artifacts… Including this suit of armor that belonged to Henry VIII. 

The Yeoman Warders Tower of London Tour is the best way to experience the Tower!

As is obvious from so many of his other life choices, Old King Harry was really preoccupied with his… manliness. 

While I can’t show you any pictures of the Crown Jewels (they take the whole no photography thing in there very seriously), they were great!

Appropriately, right next to the Tower of London is the Tower Bridge, one of the most iconic bridges in the world. 

The Yeoman Warders Tower of London Tour is the best way to experience the Tower!

This was the perfect way to spend 3-ish hours on a beautiful London Day. Just don’t forget to get a Tower of London Tour from a Yeoman Warder!

My very favorite shoes for travel

My favorite travel shoes for winter

Having the right shoes for travel meant I got to see all of London without achy feet!

One of my biggest anxieties when I travel is whether or not my feet will be able to keep up with the pace my heart wants to set in a new place, so my shoes for travel have to be perfect. 

There are a few criteria I have for footwear, particularly anything that is lucky enough to make it into my suitcase for a trip.

  1. I have some arch issues, so I need a good supportive shoe that won’t have my arches screaming after just a few miles.
  2. They need to be CUTE.
  3. They need to be versatile… Can I wear them with shorts and a t-shirt AND a cute dress AND jeans and a blazer?
  4. Will they hold up to several days of walking 8+ miles and being on my feet for 10+ hours at a time? I’m not interested in shoes that will fall apart after one season of wear.

Thankfully, after spending more money than I’d like to admit trying out different sneakers, sandals, tennis shoes, and boots I’ve finally found the two pairs shoes for travel I love the most: one for summer and one for winter.

Shoes for Travel in Summer

Naöt Gladiator sandals are my favorite summer shoes for travel!

I wore these Naöt gladiator sandals a lot last summer in Italy and they check all the boxes for me. I did run into some blister situations when wearing them on an impromptu hike through Cinque Terre. So for the record, I DO NOT recommend them for hiking. But if you’re going to be walking around the city all day then these are your shoes. 

They’re a little pricy, but they have held up beautifully through a full year of use and abuse. 

Read more about what I packed for 10 summer days in Italy (and what I wish I hadn’t!)

Shoes for Travel in Winter/Spring/Fall

My favorite winter shoes for travel

I wore these Jack Purcell leather sneakers almost every day during our trip to London, and on the days I didn’t wear them I wished desperately that I had. They provided the perfect amount of support, were pretty dang water resistant, and kept my tootsies warm without getting sweaty. While these are pretty casual, sneakers are having such a moment right now that I was able to get away with wearing them in even some of the nicer restaurants we went to without feeling the least bit out of place. 

There's something about having the right pair of shoes for travel that makes it feel like you can take over the world.

There’s something about having the right pair of shoes that makes it feel like you can take over the world. 

There are a few other shoes I’ve found (including the über popular Adidas Superstars) that I can wear all day with no problems, but these are by far my two favorite. Do you have a favorite pair of shoes for travel? 

Please Mind the Gap – 2017 in Photos Day 69

Mind the Gap while in London!

Mind the Gap while in London!

It’s our last night here in London (SAD FACE :().

I snapped this picture on my phone while boarding an underground on our way to a pub near the Tower Bridge where we’re meeting up with a new friend. It’s really fun to me just how real of a concern the whole “Mind the Gap” thing really is. It isn’t consistent across all tube stations, but in some places there is a good 8 inch gap between the coach and the station platform!

I’ll be writing up a first timer’s guide to public transit in London here soon, but in the meantime, please do mind the gap!

Elizabeth Thames on the Thames – 2017 in Photos Day 67

Exposure: 1/200th of a second
Aperture: f/7.1
ISO: 200
Lens:Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4
Treatment: SOOC

One of my goals for this trip was to dip a figurative toe in the Thames.

Thames is my middle name. And my mom’s middle name… and my great aunt’s middle name. Shortly before that it was a last name going back for centuries in my family. 

One of the funniest things about being here is that everyone actually knows how to pronounce my middle name! It makes me strangely happy. 

The Shard – 2017 in Photos Day 66

Exposure: 1/500th of a second
Aperture: f/11
ISO: 100
Lens:Nikkor 16-80mm f/2.8-4
Treatment: Clarity, contrast, and curves in Photoshop

One of the things I’m finding I love the most about London is how there are 500 year old buildings right next to some of the most stunning and innovative modern architecture in the world. The Shard is the tallest building in western Europe, and is really striking part of the London skyline!

I snapped this picture while we were on a boat cruise Monday down the Thames that has been one of the highlights of the trip. I can’t wait to share more about it.