Our checked bag finally arrived! Not a moment too soon before we would leave for London then straight on to Edinburgh.
Who Dey! One of the main reasons we decided to go to Europe when we did was so that we could attend the Cincinnati Bengal’s game in London. The game was at Wembley Stadium, we would stay the night in London after the game and fly out to Edinburgh, Scotland the day after. After a brief mishap where we got on the wrong train to London, we were on our way to drop off our bags at the storage facility at London Euston Station. Our plan got more complicated when there was almost an hour long line to drop off your bags to be held. We waited and then hurried to catch the train back to Wembley. We got to our seats just before kickoff. The place was huge and a madhouse. So many people all trying to get into the same building at the same time! Our seats were good but the atmosphere was not what we expected. The majority of attendees were obviously British and were fans of whatever team they chose. There were some true Bengal and Redskin fans but every other NFL team was represented in the apparel that the British fans wore. The game was exciting to the very end but sadly ended in a tie. If we had thought getting into the stadium was a chore, leaving with the masses of people was even more daunting! There is essentially only one way out of the stadium and everyone is funneled down a long hallway to the train station. It took at least an hour before we were even at the train station. We went back to Euston to pick up our bag and walked about a mile from there to our hotel- The Hoxton Holborn.
We highly recommend the Hoxton! They have two locations in London, one in Holborn and one in Shoreditch. It was a reasonable price, the décor was trendy, free wifi, a free takeaway breakfast, and it was a beautiful room. We ate dinner in the restaurant in the lobby called Hubbard & Bell and it ended up being one of the best meals we ate on our entire trip!
The 31st was our first wedding anniversary and the weather was a perfect, 60 degree, sunny day! We ate our little breakfast bags, had the hotel hold our bags at the desk, and headed out to explore London for the afternoon. We didn’t have anywhere we really wanted to go, but I had never been in London before so I at least wanted to see all the typical places, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, etc. We started by walking to Covent Gardens and from there meandered through Trafalgar Square, St. James Park, by Buckingham Palace, saw the guards practicing at the Guards Museum, past the super long line at Westminster Abbey (although I would have loved to go in if there hadn’t been a line and if the entrance fee was cheaper!), and took a couple photos of Big Ben before doubling back to Her Majesty’s Treasury which is the underground location of the Imperial War Museum and the Churchill War Rooms.
We had heard from our good friends who had recently visited London that we shouldn’t miss visiting the War Rooms so we waited in a short line, paid the 17 pounds each to get into the bunkers from which the British government ran WWII. The bunker is impressively similar to how it was set up during the war and it was very interesting. The tour came with an audio guide which was helpful. Once we got into the bunker, we realized how expansive it was and how many people were down there going through the tour.
After the tour, which took us about 2 hours, we headed back past 10 Downing Street towards the Covent Garden area where we got lunch at a delicious pizza place called Franco Manca. We had to be on a train headed for the bus stop to take us to the airport by 4pm so we walked back towards Holborn to find a Christmas ornament that we had seen the day before. We like to collect Christmas ornaments as souvenirs and mementos for the big moments in life or trips together we take so our goal was to collect one from each country we visited on our trip.
We popped into a café quickly to kill some time before we needed to pick up our bags and head to the train station. We had to take a train to an express bus that would take us to Stansted Airport to catch our flight on Ryan Air to Edinburgh.
We found out quickly once we got to the airport that the TSA equivalent in Europe is NOT like the TSA in the US. I got hassled and yelled at by two agents because I opted for a pat-down (rather than go through the full-body scanner). You don’t have to take off your shoes unless you are wearing heavy boots. You can’t bring in any containers that are over 8oz—even if they are half empty and contain less than 8oz of fluid. (Goodbye toothpaste!) In the US you are told to put your liquids in a plastic bag and take the bag out of your luggage but it’s not always truly required—in Europe it is. Again, you will get yelled at. All the silly security things and yet our passport were never checked and our shoes remained on. Each country to its own I guess.
Our flight was delayed in leaving because “the passengers in Cork didn’t want to get off the plane”!? So when we arrived in Edinburgh an hour late, it was dark, cold, and raining. The bus that runs from the airport to downtown every ten minutes (AirLink 100) was easy to get on and cheap. I was able to purchase the round trip tickets online before we left the US so it was very convenient. The bus dropped us off less than a mile from our hotel. We briskly walked to our hotel in the rain and were excited to finally be in Edinburgh!
We stayed at the Hub by Premier Inn Royal Mile. Their systems were down and so we couldn’t pay with our credit card right away, which was really annoying, but they finally just let us into the room and we were able to pay in the morning. I paid extra to get a larger room and even the big room was tiny! It had lots of interesting technology though and overall, we liked the hotel a lot despite our room being so compact.