On my long journey to South Africa, I took two overnight flights with a layover in London. If you can fly direct, I recommend it. It’s easier to just get that long flight over with. However, if you do have a layover, make sure it’s long enough for you to get out and explore!
I landed in London at 9 am on Saturday. Virgin Atlantic had only given us yogurt for breakfast, so I was starving by the time I got off the plane. I was planning on meeting my friend Abi (who I had met hiking the Inka Trail) for lunch, so I got on the Tube and headed towards the town center.
A few articles I had read said the ride would take an hour and a half, so I was pleasantly surprised when it only took about 45 minutes. I was early to meet Abi, so I found the nearest coffee shop to the Piccadilly Circus stop and was finally able to connect to WiFi while I got some energy from a cold brew.
I met Abi at the coffee shop and we walked to Kingly Court, an adorable courtyard housing several restaurants with food from around the world. Since Abi and I had met in Peru, we decided to eat at the Peruvian restaurant called Senor Ceviche. When we arrived at 11:30, they told us they didn’t open until 12. We killed some time by trying the Acai bowls downstairs at Acai Berry.
After we finished our Acai appetizer, it was time for lunch. Senor Ceviche is a tapas style restaurant, so the plates are generally small. The waiter suggested that we get three plates each, but we were already half-full from the Acai, so we got four plates total and shared all of them. The best plate, and one I highly recommend if you’re ever in the area, is the pork belly chicharonnes. They were mouth-watering, and after we split that as our first plate, we wished we hadn’t gotten anything else.
Once we had finished eating, we took the Tube to Westminster. Abi taught me that I could use my contactless card directly on the Tube entrance instead of buying tickets at the booth, which saved so much time! I parted with Abi and walked towards Westminster Abbey, passing Big Ben and the Parliament building on the way. When I got to the entrance, I was bummed to find out that the church closes to visitors at 1:30 and it was exactly 1:30 when I arrived. I had checked ahead of time online and the hours said it was open until 6, but I guess that is just for the church.
I was disappointed, but still had a few things I wanted to see and was already getting tired. I walked towards Buckingham Palace, which is only about 15 minutes from Westminster Abbey. There were a ton of tourists taking pictures. I just passed through and admired the architecture.
There aren’t any Tube stops right by the palace, so I had to walk down The Mall towards Trafalgar Square. The walk is along St. James’s Park, where many people were hanging out and enjoying the unusually beautiful London weather. As I passed through Trafalgar Square, I noticed large animal rights protests all around me. I avoided those crowds and headed straight for the Tube. My plan was originally to go to King’s Cross to see Platform 9 3/4, but I was fed up of tourists and jet lagged. I decided to go back to the airport instead. My friend Colin had just landed on his flight from LA, so we hung out until our flight to Johannesburg a couple hours later. The fun was only beginning!