London! What a city! I absolutely fell in love with London. I'm a small city kind of gal and even though London is large and expansive especially compared to Boston, it didn't feel that way. London has this magical way of making you feel so cozy, like it's wrapping you up in one big hug. I don't know if it's the people, the old buildings that don't reach for the sky, or all the little winding streets and parks, but it just feels like one big neighborhood. We stayed in an Airbnb right by Kensington Palace which was the perfect spot for us: it was a cute neighborhood, convenient to the Tube, and just a short walk to Kensington Park. The number of parks and gardens throughout the city (and so many European cities really!) is my faaaaaavorite thing. I mean that and all the tea time. The history is obviously fascinating, but really there just aren't the same kind of meticulously maintained public green spaces back home. (Sorry Boston.) I was obsessed and we signed up for a membership to the Historic Royal Palaces be able to visit all the royal residences and buildings, most of which are in the London area. Plus, you save money (who doesn't love a deal?) and support future preservation!
Because it was the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana's death, there were special exhibits at both Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace. The exhibit at Kensington Palace had many of Diana's iconic fashion pieces and portraits of her from magazine shoots and other press. My favorite part was actually this special Princess Diana wallpaper which kind of told parts of her life story. The park around the area is lovely and the English roses are just astounding. How they grow so lush and big and full is a mystery to me! It must be all the rain and overcast days! While the palace is cool (I mean you can try on old uniform coats) the gardens outside are even better. I wanted to live in them. Palm trees, flowers, and a meandering path along hedges.
It worked out perfectly that while we were visiting, it was also one of the rare times that Buckingham Palace was open to the public! They also had a special Princess Diana exhibit with personal things that her sons had kept. The palace is obviously huge and I loved how there was an entire private park in the back of the palace. We also had the chance to catch the changing of the guards (along with every other person in London haha) which was a really cool experience. We camped out by the main gate where they come in to get the best view of them coming in and marching in perfect unison.
We also hit up all the typical London spots: British Museum, Tower of London, London Bridge, St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, walked along the river to the Globe Theatre, Big Ben (although he was under some construction), Trafalgar Square, St. James Park, Notting Hill, Piccadilly Market, and Banqueting House. I'm not much of a church person and don't really understand the fascination with old churches so we didn't do any tours or inside visits of those. The Tower of London is really cool, but the Banqueting House was a favorite. The audio tour is so informative about King Charles I and his execution. It's basically a giant room with the most intricate exquisite ceilings, tons of chandeliers, mirrors, and bean bags. You lay back on the bean bags and just admire the ceiling while you listen to all the history of the building and the reign of King Charles I. When you're there, definitely sign up for a Gett account - you'll get free rides and cab drivers can give you free credits for signing up! We didn't really pay for any taxi rides!
Royal Botanical Gardens Kew
Without a doubt, my favorite place was the Kew Gardens. This place. You could literally spend all day here. It has multiple greenhouses, an art gallery of botanical drawings, a treetop walkway, the Hive, and tons more! The Hive is a live sound and light exhibit in the form of a giant beehive! The purpose of the exhibit is to raise awareness about the honeybee crisis. The lights and sounds are connected to a real beehive at the gardens and changes in response to the bees! Even though the gardens aren't directly in London, it's just an easy Tube ride about 30 minutes outside of the city. Once you get off the stop, there's an adorable little bookstore and cafes and you walk a quick 10 minutes straight down the road to the garden entrance! We bought a little solitary bee home that we put in our garden at home and are hoping will attract solitary bees in the area to move in and help pollinate our flowers.
For this trip to Europe, I was really excited to bring along my 35mm film camera! So, my images below are a mix of film and digital, with the film being scanned by my pals at The Find Lab. I freaking love you London!