I've been asked more than once, "how do you stay so thin when you eat out so much?"
There's probably a complex answer to that. I'm sure everything from genetics, exercise, portion control, and being a super slow eater who also talks a lot, play into why I am able to "stay thin." Despite all that, I will put on weight if I eat a ton and don't exercise. The worst is when I travel for a food-focused trip with an itinerary filled with top-notch restaurants. I eat A LOT during those trips. So much so, I often don't have a chance to even get hungry before it's time for another meal. In some ways, it's actually a bit exhausting.
To counter all that eating, I try my best to be as active as I can on these trips.
That means walking as much as possible.
I did a ton of walking while I was in London. Except for one instance where I took the tube (their subway system) out into a distant neighborhood in London to visit a friend, I went everywhere else by foot. If you stay near Picadilly Circus (which is where we stayed), you can really walk to almost all of London's most famous sites.
I love walking because the pace is slow and relaxed. You can look around and take in the vibe and energy of the city. One of my favorite things to do is to bring my camera with me and just capture moments. It's fun to try to be creative with the camera, something I learned to do so much more after a photography workshop in Argentina (which I applied during my brief 12-hour stopover in London less than a year ago).
So please join me, virtually, on a walking tour of London. I split this walk over two afternoons, but you could easily do it in one day if you start early in the morning. You'll get a sense of how many of London's famous sites are actually pretty closely bunched together - all accessible within a day's walk!
DAY 1: Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, London Eye
I told Bryan I wanted to revisit many of the famous sites in London. These were sites that I hadn't seen since our first trip to London (15 years ago!) when our college a cappella group came here to serve a local church. My subsequent trips have been short business trips, which leave little time for sightseeing.
So we started walking.
From Piccadilly Circus (where our hotel was), Buckingham Palace is only about a 15-minute walk away. There are always a bunch of tourists near the palace. People come to watch the changing of the guards, which happens once a day at 11:30am.
The famous clock tower, Big Ben, is just another 15 minutes away. You can walk along the beautiful St. James Park all the way there.
Westminster Abbey and Big Ben are right around the corner from each other, and both are stunning buildings. If you come at the right time (Sunday afternoon at 5:45PM), you might even be able to catch a free organ concert!
Finally, from Big Ben you can walk yet another 20 minutes along the Thames River (see the London Eye across the water!) before reaching Covent Garden.
Covent Garden is one of London's most famous marketplaces, and it's not hard to see why. There are outdoor performers, indoor and outdoor shops, and tons of really famous food places.
You can pick up gorgeous macarons at the famous French bakery Ladurée, sample excellent Spanish tapas at Opera Tavern, or enjoy a meal at Lima Floral, the sister restaurant of Michelin starred Lima London (which I loved!). I spent time exploring a shop dedicated to Moomin, a cute hippo-like creature from a set of famous Finnish children's books and cartoons.
It reminds me of Fanueil Hall in Boston, but much bigger, a bit more upscale, and more British (love the telephone booths!)
I felt like I could meander through the shops for hours.
It's the type of place I revisit every single time I'm in London. I don't tire of it, largely because I just love the general energy of the place.
What I didn't know about, was an area called Seven Dials right next to Covent Garden. Seven Dials refers to a shopping area where seven streets come together into a circle (see map above).
I only discovered this place after inquiring about the coffee I had enjoyed at Opera Tavern. The server told me it came from Monmouth Coffee, which was on Monmouth Road in the Seven Dials area.
After lunch, I meandered over to the Seven Dials area and just started exploring. I loved the colorful brick-lined zig-zag roads, quaint shops, and outdoor cafes.
I stopped in a Spanish ham shop that was giving away free samples of jamon iberico!
I found Monmouth Coffee, a super cute little shop where you can sample any bean before you purchase it.
Pictured above, the woman behind the counter is making me three different pour-overs with three different coffee beans (you can see the ceramic coffee drippers on the left). It was so fun to sample so many different types of coffees before purchasing. She even gave me a glass of water after I talked about getting dehydrated from drinking so much coffee! What friendly service!
I brought home two bags of coffee, which made my luggage smell heavenly the whole rest of the trip!
I decided I wanted to visit the National Gallery next (10-minute walk away), which houses an impressive collection of art.
Across the street from the National Gallery, I discovered this stunning church. I stepped in, took a moment, and just enjoyed the beautiful and uplifting music from the small orchestra at the front of the stage.
This is why I love walking. Sometime you stumble upon such beautiful and spontaneous moments.
I then quietly stepped out and walked across the street to the National Gallery, which also faces the very famous Trafalgar Square.
The inside of the gallery was beautiful. It's free to visit, though they do encourage donations.
The collection is huge. I had given myself about an hour and a half for the visit, and I definitely felt rushed.
"I'm in a car on my way to hotel. Should be there before 5."
Oh no. Was it already time to go back?
Time goes by quickly when you're having fun. London has some of the best museums in the world, and you can really get lost in history while exploring.
This is why I never tire of visiting and walking in London. Even though this was my seventh time in the city, I still found new things to explore. Plus, I still love revisiting my favorite areas, whether it be meadering through the stores at Covent Garden, walking down Oxford Street, or just exploring yet another museum, there are just endless things to do in this wonderful city.