1. The Queen's Walk
As a first-timer, my number one desire was to see as many major landmarks as possible. London's Queen's Walk made this easy. We found convenient parking under St. James Park, starting our day-long tour at Buckingham Palace followed by seeing Big Ben. We then took a stroll across the Westminster Bridge and got up close and personal with the London Eye. We ended this portion of the day at the Tate Modern.
2. Tate Britain & Tate Modern
Art museums exhibits and tours often give me an opportunity to gain a more visual history of my travel destination. The Tate was no different. With two locations in London, the Tate Modern is London's official museum of Modern Art, and the Tate Britain is the official home of British art from 1500 - present. At Tate Britain, we got the opportunity to see the David Hockney exhibit (which was phenomenal and showing until May 29th). I was also pleasantly surprised to stumble upon Stan Firm Inna Inglan : Black Disaspora in London, which was a time capsule of photographs highlighting the black British experience during the 1960-1970s.
3. Camden Town, Camden Market
Even across the pond, there were bits and pieces that reminded me of home. To me, Camden Town was reminiscent of Philadelphia, sprawling with mom and pop shops that made me feel less like a tourist, and more like a Londoner. My favorite part of this area was the Camden Rock Market. Similar to Philadelphia's Reading Terminal Market, the Camden Market was a two floor building packed with (at least) hundred stalls and live entertainment sprinkled throughout. We were able to pick up some locally made gifts for our family and friends, and as a special treat, sampled some gin at Half Hitch microbrewery.
4. Akeman Inn (Kingswood)
Prior to arriving, we expressed an interest in trying food at a local pub or restaurant. Tammy and Alex, had been interested in trying Akeman Inn (a pub in Kingswood, a short drive from their town, Aylesbury) for quite some time, but waited for our visit so we could experience it together. I'm happy to report that we thoroughly impressed The pub (formerly a 17th century Inn) served a menu of traditional British fare (fish and chips, bangers and mash), as well as some unique dishes like the Scallops of the Days (which still had the beard attached!)
5. Picadilly Circus
Although I tried to resist, our stroll through Picadilly Circus, brought on strong desires to feed my shopping addiction. Affectionately referred to as "Times Square" of London, the streets of this posh neighborhood were buzzing with people. Tall buildings with more colonial facades had been transformed into modern shops for some of the biggest brand names. For those who aren't into the shopping scene, you can still are in luck, this district is also full of street performers and artists, theaters, and it is a short walk from Chinatown, SoHo, and Covent Garden.
As the old saying goes, I left my "heart in London." We are already plotting our next trip, hoping to see much more!