London Day 2: Museums, Crowds, Walks & Pubs

The sun from day 1 on Saturday quickly and aggressively disappeared on Sunday and I soon realized that I was ill-prepared for the volatility of London weather. It was down pouring first thing in the morning and all I had packed were shorts and light sweaters. Nevertheless, we trudged down to the Tube stop when it was solemn and quiet out in search of a breakfast spot before the British Museum opened.

England is very literal and obvious... there are no "exits," just "Way Outs..."

You wouldn't guess it (or maybe you would...) but there are literally Starbucks stores on every corner here in London. I have tried to find more authentic British shops and besides Pret-a-Manger (which seem to be not nearly as present as Starbucks), we haven't had much luck going for anything but Starbucks when it comes to coffee and muffins. So lo and behold, what did we stumble upon while wandering the streets of the British Museum before it opened? A Starbucks that is very near and dear to my heart-- the Starbucks that my best friend Lexie and I visited nearly every single morning of our vacation 7 years ago. It is the Starbucks directly next door to the Goodge Street tube station in the Bloomsbury district. It was so surreal to be getting coffee our first official morning in London at the same spot we loved so much before either of us were married and just traveling through Europe on our own.

After a leisurely breakfast, we walked to the British Museum to explore and also wait out the rain, where it appeared that every tourist and Londoner in the city had the same idea that we did on how to enjoy a rainy Sunday morning and were all crammed like Sardines in the museum. The British Museum isn't quite on the same scale as say, the Louvre, but it does have some amazing artifacts and is a great sanctuary of historical preservation. That being said, there is no way to take it all in in one day, and after three hours of soaking in knowledge, your brain is basically like rubber. Instead of trying to see everything possible, we downloaded a great app for our phone from travel guru Rick Steves which is called "Rick Steves Audio Tours," and he has dozens upon dozens of walking tours and podcasts of areas all over Europe. It's like having a personal tour guide in each city for free.

Rick Steves's British Museum audio guide is fantastic and is just over an hour long. However, it takes time between each "stop," so really it took us a good 2 hours to see and experience everything on his tour. He takes people to the "must-sees," and then includes some important pieces of information as well that people might not have known about. All in all we were very happy with the audio guide and aside from the masses of people, we also really enjoyed our experience at the British Museum. We saw mummies, preserved bodies, the Rosetta Stone, the Elgin Marbles, Assyrian gates and guards, beautiful mosaics and much more. It was definitely worth a two hour visit.

A picture of the crowds of people around the Rosetta Stone...

A discovered statue of Ramses II, Pharaoh from the book of Exodus

And to think, this is only a small part of his original body from the statue...

A Sarcophagus

The mummy of Cleopatra. It was so tiny! 

Mummies, mummies everywhere...

Buried in true form...

The Elgin Marbles

After we left the museum, we were fortunate enough to have the rain stop because we had a tour planned for 2:00 in the afternoon with a company called London Walks. This was the first time I've ever used London Walks but I was very pleased with my experience. They have dozens and dozens of tours available each day that caters to a different part of the city and different experiences entirely. We chose to do a tour that boasted the discovery of a unique area that many people do not know about called "Little Venice." Sure enough, there was a big boat canal throughout the center and several large, esteemed homes nearby. We had a wonderful host who informed us about so much history regarding this neighborhood and gave us an efficient walk in the meantime. London Walks is ten pounds per person (8 if you're a student or receive a multiple-walks discount card) and you can just show up to any tour without making a reservation as it depends on your schedule and interest. The tours run about 2 hours and they are conveniently located near various tube exits across the city, so zipping from one to another is really easy.

Since we're seen London before on several occasions, London Walks was a great opportunity to see different parts we had not visited before. However, they also have "Grand Tours of London," and other walks that cover the major attractions for first-time visitors. It's nice to get acclimated to the city with someone who is an expert on it.

The neighborhood where we began our tour

In front of one of the "Little Venice" canals

Our excellent guide, Sean
 After we left from our walk, we headed back to the Trafalgar Square area to try and find a good pub to eat at. There are so many pubs nearby, it's hard to choose a good one! There area also so many bad pubs so it can be kind of a gamble. Rule of thumb: Stay away from pubs in touristy areas.

However, Trafalgar Square is a touristy area and so is everything around it: Regent Street, Leicester Square, Oxford Street, The Strand, etc. It's hard to find a quiet neighborhood "locals" pub tucked away anywhere in the city center, but one caught our eye hidden behind the National Gallery that had tons of people surrounding it. A good sign.

This pub was called "The Chandos," and was an excellent discovery-- so much so that we ended up eating there on two separate nights!

I chose a dish called "Hunters Chicken" which was chicken, bacon (really, ham. I forgot they call ham, bacon here...), cheese and BBQ sauce with "chips," and Timothy got traditional Bangers & Mash. Both were delicious and the beer was SO good! We were really pleased with our discovery and highly recommend it for anyone looking for a decent (but not overpriced pub) near Trafalgar Square.

Bangers & Mash

We made our way home on the tube after a long and adventurous day and I continued to wake up 5 times in the night because of jet lag and excitement...

Until tomorrow!

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