Day 1. A Festive London Break

It’s always fun to spend time in London especially at Christmas and with exceptionally good timing we just managed to squeeze in a short break days before the Government announced stricter COVID-19 measures.  Hotel rates had dropped significantly in recent months meaning that we were able to book a bargain stay in the affluent borough of Kensington & Chelsea.

IBIS Styles London Kensington
The Ibis Styles London Kensington

We’d arrived late the previous evening, giving us two full days to soak up the festive atmosphere.  Our hotel, the Ibis Styles London Kensington offered a grab and go breakfast comprising of a croissant, chocolate muffin, oatcakes, fruit and a carton of juice to take back to our room plus free use of the hot drinks machine until 10.00 a.m.

Natural History Museum, London
The Natural History Museum

It was a bright, sunny morning and rather than take the underground we decided to start the day with a walk along to the Natural History Museum on Cromwell Road.  The museum is housed in a magnificent Romanesque style building with gothic arches and terracotta ceilings which has been described as a cathedral to natural history.

Volcanoes and Earthquakes Exhibition, Natural History Museum
Entrance to the Volcanoes and Earthquakes exhibition

It’s a museum that we’ve had the pleasure of visiting many times and as it’s so big we tend to turn our focus to specific galleries.  The Volcanoes and Earthquakes section had been redesigned since my son’s last visit so we decided to head there.  In COVID-19 times it was pleasing to find that many of the interactive exhibits could still be used so we had fun pressing buttons trying to work out some of the answers.  There’s even an earthquake simulator demonstrating what it felt like during the 1995 Japanese earthquake in Kobe.  Three years ago we visited Taiwan which is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire.  Near the top of the Taipei 101 building we inspected the world’s largest and heaviest damper that acts as a giant pendulum to counter any motion to the building.  You might be interested to read about my visit here.

Royal Albert Hall, London
Royal Albert Hall, London

Both the Science Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum were closed so we strolled past these fine buildings and continued along to the Royal Albert Hall.  This magnificent Grade II listed building is famous for hosting such events as The Proms, a world famous 8 week summer season of daily classical music concerts.  I have fond memories of attending my son’s graduation ceremonies on two occasions in the Royal Albert Hall which were very proud moments in such a marvellous setting.

Entrance gates to Kensington Gardens
Entrance gates to Kensington Gardens

Just across the road are the entrance gates to Kensington Gardens and as the weather was so nice, it was a perfect opportunity for a stroll through one of the capital’s eight Royal Parks.

Queen Victoria Statue in front of Kensington Palace, London
Kensington Palace

The park covers 265 acres and with miles of paths and bridleways to be explored ranging from formal avenues lined with magnificent trees to narrow paths crossing open grassland there’s plenty of room for everyone.  Our walk took us to Kensington Palace, the official residence of the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge.  Queen Victoria was born in the palace and Diana, Princess of Wales also had an apartment there.

Kensington Palace, London
Kensington Palace

 The state apartments and gardens are usually open to the public but temporarily closed, more information on visiting can be found on the Historic Royal Palaces website.  To the front of Kensington Palace lies the Round Pond, a large ornamental lake created in 1730 by George II and home to large numbers of wildfowl.

The Round Pond, Kensington Gardens
The Round Pond, Kensington Gardens

Our stroll continued through the park to West Carriage Drive where we crossed the road into Hyde Park, the largest Royal Park in central London stretching from the edge of Kensington Gardens as far as Hyde Park Corner.

Swans in front of The Serpentine Bridge, Hyde Park
The Serpentine Bridge

The Serpentine Bridge marks the boundary of Kensington Gardens, with the upper western part of the lake being called the Long Water.  Near the Italian Gardens close to Lancaster Gate we spotted some bright green parakeets sitting on the top of a low fence and even eating nuts out of people’s hands.  These birds are not native to the British Isles but don’t appear to have a problem with our cool climate as they actually seem to thrive in our chilly conditions.

Parakeet in Hyde Park, London
Parakeet in Hyde Park

Moving on, we continued to the Diana Memorial Fountain, a loop of water created from Cornish granite.  This unusual fountain was opened in 2004 as a memorial to the People’s Princess.  The fountain wells up from its highest point creating a water table from where it flows in both directions cascading over small ridges until it reaches the calm pool at its base.

The Diana Memorial Fountain, Hyde Park
The Diana Memorial Fountain, Hyde Park

Before leaving the park we enjoyed a stroll by the side of the Serpentine, finding a sunny bench to sit down on to eat some sandwiches we’d bought earlier from a nearby Waitrose.  The Serpentine was the world’s first artificial recreational lake and was used as a venue for the Triathlon and marathon swimming events at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Harrods Department Store, Knightsbridge
Harrods, Department Store, Knightsbridge

Just south of Hyde Park lies Knightsbridge, synonymous with luxury with its upscale hotels and high-end shops.  Harrods, one of the world’s largest and most famous department stores is located on Brompton Road and is the epitome of luxury.  Established in 1849 by Charles Henry Harrod, it started life with humble beginnings in a single room with just two assistants and a messenger boy selling tea and groceries.  It’s now owned by the Qatari Royal family, and employs 4,000 staff.

Harrod's bear and car
Harrod’s bear and car

We popped in for a look around and for some much needed Christmas shopping inspiration which has been sadly lacking in recent months.  Although it brands itself a luxury retailer, it sells reasonably priced goods too, fulfilling its motto ‘Omnia Omnibus Ubique’ which is Latin for ‘all things for all people everywhere’.  Another claim to fame is that the store featured one of the world’s first escalators in 1898, known in those days as moving staircases.

Harrods Food Hall
Harrods Food Hall

It’s very easy to get lost in such a vast emporium so we just looked in the Christmas Shop and magnificent food halls which were perhaps not quite as busy as in more normal times but still had a reasonable number of shoppers around.

Earls Court Underground Station, London
Earls Court Underground Station

A little more window shopping in Knightsbridge followed before taking the underground the short distance back to our hotel near Earls Court Station.  Rooms at the Ibis Styles Kensington are compact but well equipped and of a reasonable size just as long as you don’t bring along some large suitcases.

Chinatown arch at night, London
Chinatown, London

After about an hour’s rest we were raring to go again, enjoying an evening meal in the Oyster Rooms at Fulham Broadway.  We then took the underground across to Piccadilly Circus to view the Christmas lights.

Piccadilly Circus London
Piccadilly Circus, London
Christmas decorations Piccadilly Circus, London
Christmas decorations at Piccadilly Circus
Christmas lights in London
Christmas lights in Covent Garden

Feeling festive, we continued along to Leicester Square and Chinatown before ending our evening at Covent Garden with its vibrant atmosphere, twinkling lights and street entertainers.

Ibis Styles London Kensington Reception
The festive reception area of our hotel

 

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Edinburgh at Christmas

Manchester’s Magical Christmas Markets

 

115 thoughts on “Day 1. A Festive London Break

  1. Hello dear! I felt myself missing London and was sure you’d have been there recently so opened your blog to see. These photos bring back so many lovely memories of my visits. The parakeets are quite a bizarre sight in London but they sure are cute! At work we have been “travelling” around the world to all the countries our kids are from and when we had England, I showed a video of the Christmas lights there and one of the kids got so upset because he felt it was unfair that the lights in London are so grand compared to Helsinki, LOL! Well, maybe he can travel there himself when he’s old enough to see them in person. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi Marion, I’m glad to say I am still enjoying the job! It’s not easy and it’s quite exhausting at times but every day is different and has it’s joys. Also, it’s nice to be around people all day 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. This post brought back warm memories of a month-long stay in an apartment in Kensington which let us leisurely sightsee. I did my run through Kensington Park most mornings. There is an estate just down the road from Kensington Palace that I found intriguing – portions are still in ruin from WWII bombing. I fell in love with it. Next trip to London, I recommend taking a look. I wrote about it here. https://stillarunner.com/2016/11/15/a-walk-through-london-parks/

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    1. How lovely to have had the opportunity to spend a month in an apartment in Kensington and to run through Kensington Gardens mist days. I’m pleased that this post brought back some fond memories and I’ll definitely take a look at your post too.

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  3. jasonlikestotravel

    This was a fun read. You mirrored much of what I did in December too. I’d never normally stay in Kensington but I really wanted to visit the Natural History museum and I was pleasantly surprised to find hotels were pretty affordable by usual London standards so it was an ideal base for a couple of days 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

      1. jasonlikestotravel

        Yeah I remember you saying that was your plan. Glad you made the most of it before everywhere went in to lockdown. I’m glad I squeezed in a trip before Christmas too.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Aaagh! I’m so jealous. I would have spent a couple of days wandering around the city if it hadn’t been for tougher regulations where I live which stopped all travel out of the area. I just love London in the run up to Christmas. It sounds great that it was a little less busy than normal. That was a great review of your time in London, and I’m enjoying working my way through you visits to parts of the world that I’ve not been to yet.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It must have been a bit different seeing London at Christmas during Covid, compared to your other Christmas visits. Still, a great visit and city nonetheless. Lots of memories from one of our spring trips where we stayed near Paddington. Thanks for sharing Marion. Allan

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I left my heart in London, and I’m looking forward to be able to travel again! It’s surprising that museums and stores are still open, it’s quite different here in Italy even with less cases of Covid (museums have been closed since summer)

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Sadly everything has now had to close here too, since 31 December. Let’s hope the nightmare is over soon and we can all get back to travelling once again. By the way, I love Utaly too. Whereabouts are you based,. Thank you for taking the time to comment, it’s much appreciated.

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Visiting London was wonderful Sue but so sad to see the city so quiet. I’m confident towns and cities around the globe will bounce back into life for us all to enjoy once again. Let’s hope it’s not too long coming Sue. Hope your weekend went well. It’s icy cold here so I assume you are sweltering!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. SF_Safira

    Feeling like u had spend a amazing and beautiful new year…off course London is a beautiful city no doubt…after seeing your i really want to go this place🤗
    Happy new year!☺

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Glad to see you managed to squeeze in another short city break before the new lockdown. I’ve enjoyed reading about my hometown, especially as there are a few spots I still need to tick off. Hope that you are doing well in these challenging times. Take care, Marion.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you Tom for your welcome thoughts. We were fortunate in being able to fit in a few trips in the weeks before the new lockdown. Let’s hope that it’s all over soon. Hope you’re doing well too and are able to stay in Serbia. Any more news on that yet? Hope it all works out for the best. Take care too! Marion

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You are more than welcome. By the way, I think this may be the point in which I tell you that my name is Leighton, ha ha. Current prognosis on Operation Belgrade is that we have been granted a visa processing extension until February 3rd. If we get the green light I can stay for a further six months. If not, I’m guessing a customary seven days to get out of dodge. All digits crossed.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. Apologies for getting your name wrong Leighton, but will remember in future. Hopefully you’ll get the green light to stay in Belgrade, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you too! Never visited Serbia so somewhere else to look forward to visiting one of these days.

          Liked by 2 people

  9. I love all of these places, been to them a few time. I find it interesting though to see pictures of London that empty! I mean I know it’s because of Covid, but still. I am looking forward to going back to London again once Covid is contained.

    Liked by 5 people

      1. Haha as someone living and working in/around London, I was always complaining about too many people. Now I am complaining of not seeing enough people 🙂 But London is not the same without the bankers, the tourists and so on. Thanks for your wishes and stay safe, too Marion!

        Liked by 3 people

    1. London is absolutely wonderful at any time of year. Let’s hope it’s not too much longer before we are all able to travel wherever we please once again and you can come over. Thanks for your kind words and taking the time to comment. Take care, Marion.

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you for your kind words Arnold. I’m so pleased my post brought back some happy memories of your visit a year ago and I do hope that it won’t be too much longer now until you can return. In the meantime take care and best wishes for a Happy and better New Year. Marion

      Liked by 2 people

  10. London looks lovely when you visited! I was in London over five years ago just after Christmas. My time was short there, but I remember visiting many of the sites you went to (Piccadilly Circus, Hyde Park, Harrods…). I hope to return someday to see more of the city, and to spend a little bit more time doing so! Thanks for sharing your festive time in London. 🙂

    Liked by 5 people

    1. It’s my pleasure Rebecca. I’m glad that my post brought back some fond memories of your own visit to the capital. I do hope that it won’t be too much longer until everyone can travel freely once again and that life can return to normal. In the meantime take care. Marion

      Liked by 3 people

  11. London is a one of a kind city where even a week would only scratch the surface of interesting places to view. But its a very sad city at the moment along with major cities of the rest of the world where this pandemic is creating havoc.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you for your welcome thoughts. What a coincidence that we were staying so close to your former home. Our hotel was nearby on the Hogarth Road. London may be deserted right now but otherwise it’s still the same and a wonderful city to both live in or to visit. Best wishes for 2021, Marion

      Liked by 1 person

      1. How curious. I worked at the Hogarth Hotel several times between 1978 and 1981. Lots of stories to tell from that experience! And I’m reading a biography of Queen Victoria (by Julia Baird) at the moment. It says that all those museums were (caused to be) built by Prince Albert from the profits of the Great Exhibition in 1851. You probably know that trivia. . . but I just thought it co-incidental to be reading about them in your blog at the same time.

        Liked by 3 people

        1. What a coincidence Gwen that you worked at the Hogarth Hotel around 40 years ago. It’s a wonderful part of London. My son studied at Imperial College and had the pleasure of living in a student hall on Prince Consort Road overlooking the Royal Albert Hall one year.

          Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your welcome thoughts. London might be lacking it’s beating heart of commuters and tourists but it’s still lovely all the same and waiting patiently to welcome everyone back. Let’s hope it won’t be too much longer now! Take care, Marion.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. You were so lucky to get that trip in before the lockdown, London is a great place to visit at any time of the year. We just love to walk and walk and you discover so many wonderful little places that you’ve never seen before every time you visit.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. That’s so true Jonno, there’s always somewhere new to discover or old haunts to be re-visited. I just love our capital so much. Have you managed to sort out accommodation for the next few weeks as I assume your housesits are unlikely to be happening. Do hope it all works out for you both. Marion

      Liked by 1 person

    1. We did indeed, they came into force the following day so we were very lucky. London was of course much quieter than usual but still a wonderful place to visit. I hope that soon we will all be able to travel wherever we wish once again. Take care Han. M.

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Reena Deshmukh

    I am sure, the whole day would have been delightful. With the Christmas decoration still on, walking around was I guess a lot of fun. Happy New Year, Marion

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Reena Deshmukh

        Yes, this new year was different. We were home with family due to “no gathering allowed” in the course of pandemic. Nonetheless, we celebrated our family dinner with some traditional cuisines. Although we were only the family members, but we really had great time, cooking. Haha..

        Liked by 3 people

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