Travel is my passion. In my mind there is nothing better than hopping on a plane or a train and embarking on an adventure. Hotel life is the life for me. I love everything about it!

As a working mom though, I don’t get to travel as much as I would like. My husband knows this and while he might not share my enthusiasm for hotel life, he also loves to see the world.

This year marked 20 years of marriage for the two of us. TWENTY YEARS, PEOPLE. That is 7,300 days and 175,200 hours. I think we can all agree that that level of commitment is a bit insane rare in today’s world. That’s why we decided to mark the occasion with a trip overseas. (Yay!) 

Visiting Europe together has been a goal for a long, long time. But with two kids only 18 months apart, trying to find a window of opportunity was difficult. #captainobvious

Our boys are teenagers now and self-sufficient enough to survive a week without us. So when we stumbled upon a Groupon Getaway that fit our budget, we booked a trip, sent them off to a friend’s house and off we went!

passport

Most people are shocked when I mention that our trip was a Groupon. They ask 1,000 questions to see if it is legit. So let me just put it out there… it was wonderful! Once we purchased the getaway, all of our travel arrangements were handled by an agency. Simple and easy.

Our getaway was for three days in London and three in Paris. All hotels, transfers and airfare were part of the package.

We had pre-planned our days in advance in order to try to experience as much as possible in the little time we had in each city. That being said, we weren’t married to the agenda. We tried to be as open to the experience as possible so we could explore or sip tea or drink wine and just be in the moment. That being said, my husband is a planner and he is way more comfortable having things mapped out so we had a meeting of the minds to figure out what we wanted to see before we left.

As an aside… Did you know that you could use Google maps to virtually walk your way around your destination? Well, you can and trust me when I say that my husband had “been” to each place we wanted to visit before we even got there. Kind of creepy but definitely came in handy.

Day 1: Exploring London & Taking In A Show

We arrived in London fairly early in the day so our goal was to ignore our lack of sleep and go as hard as we could until our bodies ran out on us. We’re smart like that.

Our hotel was in a charming little area in London centered around Earl’s Court and the Earl’s Court Station. This station was one block from our hotel and was was the center of our universe for the entire time we visited. It allowed us to hop on the Tube and get pretty much anywhere we needed in London.

My husband was the official navigator for our entire trip and his immediate goal in both countries was to figure out the public transportation. He was a man on a mission, lemme tell you! For the record, I was no help at all. #directionallychallenged

First priority in this new country? Pub food. Mmmm…..

Pub Food

Once we got back into central London we headed over to the Tower Bridge. I should probably stop here to say that we are history buffs and we love visiting famous landmarks from books or films. The many bridges of London are like, in every British film ever so they were definitely on to-do list.

London Tower Bridge

We paid a few extra dollars to visit the exhibition which was well worth the money if you want to be terrified of plunging to your death. Why so dramatic? Because of the glass floors that allow you to see directly down below and into the River Thames. People, I’m scared of heights and walking across glass is something I need to BE MENTALLY PREPARED FOR IN ADVANCE. Thanks for freaking me out in the first hour, England!

My husband is all about this. I'm hyperventilating.
See? My husband is so in to this. I, on the other hand, am trying not to hyperventilate. 
Jen On London Tower Bridge
“I’m so not terrified right now!” #fakesmile

Once we didn’t die crossed the bridge we found the most charming areas to get lost in. Little alleyways that looked straight out of Harry Potter. It was glorious! (Did I mention that I am an HP super-fan?) London really is gorgeous and moody and fun to wander around in.

The highlight of day one was our evening at Shakespeare’s Globe. Because what self-respecting book nerd would pass up the chance to see a Shakespearian play at the actual Globe Theatre?

Shakespeare's Globe

The venue is a reconstruction of the one was built in 1599 but destroyed by fire in 1613. We opted to stand in the “yard” which was incredibly inexpensive at only £5. (It reminded me of a mosh pit, honestly.) We drank mulled wine and hung out with a ton of London hipsters who also thought Shakespeare was an incredibly cool option for a Thursday night. The show was Imogen, a modern-day interpretation of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline. It was phenomenal. I’ve seen plenty of Shakespearian plays and this one was truly outstanding. Plus the actors burst into a choreographed dance at the end of the show. (Apparently back in the day all of Shakespeare’s plays ended with a “jig.” Who knew?) It was badass!

We crashed hard when we got back to the hotel. Which was a good thing considering the hotel (and bed) was less than awesome. Pro-tip: Always upgrade your hotel using a Groupon. You’re welcome.

Day 2: Bath, England

What an amazing day! Visiting Bath is an experience I will never forget. A 90 minute train ride from London, it exemplified everything I ever read in British literature. (Yes, I am junkie and always have been.) All of the scenes in every Jane Austin novel that I dreamt up in my mind as a teenager were brought to life in Bath.

We hopped on the first train out of London to get there early. I wanted to experience the charm before the rest of the tourists arrived. Lemme set the scene for you – cobblestone streets, roman baths with rising steam, Georgian architecture, street performers. I could go on and on.

The city of Bath is in South West England is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It was founded in the 1st century AD by the Romans who used the hot springs as a thermal spa.

First thing we did was tour the Roman spa. I probably should mention that my first career choice in life was archeologist, so visiting anything of archeological significance is my jam.

Roman Baths

I mean, really. How could you NOT fall in love with this? My husband and I were blown away by the beauty of these ruins and their story.

And the city itself was just as spectacular. We visited the Royal Crescent and the Circus, ate Cornish Pasties, had tea and cakes at Bath Bun Tea Shoppe, walked along the River Avon and gazed upon the Pulteney Bridge.

img_7902
My husband snapped this without my knowledge. I couldn’t be happier in this picture.
img_6831
An adorable tea room we visited behind the Roman Baths. Scones and jam to die for!
img_6784
Cornish Pasties. Oh how I miss you!

Ironically it was in this historic little town where I got to do some modern day shopping. I lost my favorite hat on the train (dammit!) and also needed desperately to find a curling iron. (I didn’t read up on voltage quite as well as I should have prior to visiting Europe. Total fail.) 

We had a leisurely day in Bath and got back to London just in time to spend the evening meandering through the West End. The West End totally reminds me of New York’s Broadway. The energy was contagious and was the reason we spent a little too much time walking around instead of eating. By the time we realized we were famished all of the pubs were in serious drinking mode and we were out of luck. We did manage to find a lovely local Italian restaurant with good wine though so the night was saved.

By the time we got back to our hotel my Fitbit read 36,000 steps. I was SO DONE. Well, played England. Well, played.

Day 3: Notting Hill, London Tower, River Riding & Crown Jewels

Our final day in London was a mash up of street festivals, crown jewels, castles and palaces.

Our first stop on our final day was Notting Hill. Like many people, we fell in love with Notting Hill after watching the film but we wanted to see it for ourselves. We decided to take a look around when the famed Portobello Road Market was running. So, so happy we did! The experience was so much more than we expected! The market runs the two mile length of Portobello Road and is filled with fresh food and baked goods, not to mention thrift finds, musical talent and an unbelievable culture all perched on top of a cobbled streets. I mean, really?!

market flowers

crepes in notting hill

We also got the chance to wander through other parts of the picturesque neighborhood. I decided that I really needed to live there. It was so charming that it almost physically hurt to leave. Sigh…

notting-hill-house

We stopped by the Tower of London later that day. For those as unfamiliar as I was prior to visiting, the Tower of London is a 900-year-old castle and fortress in central London. Remember the archeology obsession mentioned earlier? Well, I was in full geek-mode during my visit. For the record, I’m not a big monarchy fan but I couldn’t help but be enthused by the crown jewels display. It was over the top. Boy these people know how to flaunt the bling….

tower of london guard

Pro-tip: Go early and buy your tickets in advance to avoid the massive crowds. It was mighty crowded by the time we got there.

After our visit we took a fun riverboat ride up the Thames (I’ve always wanted to do that!) and walked over to Buckingham Palace for a little Palace oogling. It is just fascinating to visit a country that still has an active monarchy. In case you were wondering, Buckingham Palace is absolutely gorgeous as are the gardens and parks surrounding it. I just couldn’t get enough.

london-collage

Our last dinner was at a pub, because we’re in London of course. We ate at The Blackbird, watched a soccer match, drank a few pints and enjoyed our last helpings of Fish & Chips and Steak & London Pride Pie.

And then we crashed packed up for our next experience in Paris. More on that in this blog post.

All in all, London is a magical place to visit. It’s so hard to chose my favorite day because there was so much to see. We merely scratched the surface with this trip and will definitely be back to expand on our adventure soon! (Right, honey?)