I’m back again with the 3rd installment in my London trip series, talking about some shopping spots and other places farther from London that if you have more time, have a lot to offer as well in the way of history and culture.
Places to Shop
From tchotchkes to more functional souvenirs and gifts, London has tons to choose from! There are plenty of your typical tourist souvenir shops, offering shirts, mugs, key chains, and other typical items. We stopped at one of these to grab a couple quick gifts for people back home. I loved that we saw these Harry Potter posters at the checkout counter at one such location.
Having gone into Harrods department store on a previous trip, and since my husband has little interest in shopping (he complains often that his back hurts….very conveniently in my opinion), we opted to skip it this trip. But if you’ve never been and you DO enjoy shopping, you should go and see it. Warning, the price tags are not for the faint of heart.
Home of the famous Burlington Arcade Beadles, who patrol the area to impose an air of refinement, small shops selling traditional British luxuries line the arcade in Piccadilly. Don’t whistle, run, or open an umbrella or you might get kicked out by one of the Beadles! If you have a thing for macaroons, Ladurée has a location here. Your mouth will thank you.
Fortnum & Mason
After having tea at Fortnum & Mason, (see Part 2 for more info on that), we wandered around the first floor of the building for a bit, gazing at all the colorful tins of cookies, jars of jams and jellies, and tea…oh, the tea! This is a great place to buy some edible souvenirs from your trip or gifts for people back home. The offer an extensive collections of teas, jams and jellies, and lots more! I highly recommend the lemon curd. I tasted it during our tea service and took home a couple jars of it, as well as some preserves for myself and my mom, who kindly watched our kids for us while we were away.
In the heart of the financial district, aka The City, you will find Leadenhall Market, which boasts an ornate Victorian structure to provide cover for the market. It is one of the oldest markets in London, dating back to the 14th century, when it served primarily as a source of fresh fish, meat and poultry. Now home to many food stands, restaurants, and shops, it is a great place to go for a bite to eat and to do a little shopping. Fun fact, Leadenhall Market was used as the area of London near The Leaky Cauldron and Diagon Alley, for you Potterheads.
Another ancient market dating back to medieval times, the Borough Market once offered wholesale fruits and vegetables exclusively. Now it is a popular fine food market that offers a variety of gourmet foods from Britain and other European countries, as well as quality fruits and vegetables and organic meat, fish, and dairy products.
Just walking by this store will give you a chocolate contact high. It’s decked out and pretty fun inside, and we had to take a couple pictures to show our kids back home. If you’re traveling with kids, enter at your own risk, best after a meal so you don’t have to hear any complaining about waiting. 🙂
Getting Out of London
If you have more time and are able to travel the country, I have a few recommendations of other places to visit. We visited a couple during this trip, but others I had an opportunity on my previous trip to tour and recommend them.
I joked with my mom when I was 16 that I would come back to this Gothic cathedral and be married in front of the beautiful stained glass window I still vividly recall today. Alas, that didn’t quite pan out, but it was a fun fantasy. I don’t have recent pictures, but if you would like further information, you can head to their website.
If you are in or near Hampshire, pay a visit to the Great Hall of this medieval castle, all that remains of the original edifice built by William I. Here you will find an imitation Arthurian Round Table, constructed in the 13th century and repainted during Tudor times to depict an Arthur that resembles an older Henry VIII and the names of the 12 knights around the outside.
Hampton Court Palace
Another palace I visited with my mother during my first trip to England, but one I took the most pictures at. It started as a country house of Henry VIII’s archbishop, who gifted it to Henry to curry favor. Henry extended the building and it was expanded again by Christopher Wren on behalf of William II. If you like intrigue and spooky stories, Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour (who died giving birth), and more famously, his fifth wife, Catherine Howard (executed for adultery), are said to haunt the palace. If you ever had any interest in the Tudors, this is a fascinating look at the life of one of their most notorious members. And if nothing else, the maze and gardens are worth the price of admission on their own.
Go. If you can, go. You won’t be sorry. In fact, your eyes will love you after they take in sight after breathtaking sight. Bath was amazing, and almost 20 years after seeing it myself (and where my 16 year old self snapped the above pic of Pulteney Bridge), I remember being completely awed by the beauty of the city and the ingenuity of the Romans. It was what originally inspired me to think that a degree in Engineering was what I wanted to do (that didn’t pan out, but that’s another story). I remember thinking what all the human race could have accomplished if the Dark Ages hadn’t occurred and we had been able to build on the science and technology of the Romans. All I know is that they did something right with those Roman Baths, the public bath houses that are well-preserved and open to the public for touring.
If you’re a fan of naval history, head to Portsmouth and tour the Historic Dockyard, featuring the National Museum of the Royal Navy, the wooden warship the HMS Victory, the HMS Warrior 1860, and even the Tudor Mary Rose. A prominent naval port for centuries dating back to Roman times, Portsmouth is the home of the Royal Navy and maintains its status as one of the world’s best-known ports. One other little fun fact, the first mass production line was set up in the Portsmouth Block Mills in the early 1800s, starting the industrial revolution. You might also notice the tall spire shooting into the air. The Spinnaker, a 560 ft observation tower at Portsmouth Harbor reflects the rich maritime history of the city, modeled after a spinnaker, a type of sail that billows outward. And, if you need refreshment while in town, head over to the Gunwharf Quays, where you can find a variety of restaurants and shops.
I know what you’re thinking (if you have kids at least), and no, there are no magical snowmen or ice princesses around here. Arundel Castle is no Disney castle. This medieval structure dates back to 1067. We didn’t go into the castle, but opted instead to tour the grounds, gardens, and adjacent Fitzalan Chapel.
Maybe it isn’t featured in a Disney movie, but it is enchanting nonetheless, and if you find yourself in West Sussex, you should stop for a stroll through. From the rose garden, with garden trellises that reminded me of quidditch rings (another Harry Potter reference), to the floating crown, to the amazing ceilings in the Fitzalan Chapel, and did I mention the gardens? There are several to walk through, each interesting, serene, and romantic by turns.
That wraps up the bulk of the series, but I have one last segment if you are thinking about taking a trip to London yourself. Subscribe to the blog, and stay tuned for Part 4: Planning and Travel Tips.
See the other posts in this series.
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