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Victoria Cooksey shares London with her hometown

Victoria Cooksey
Victoria Cooksey outside the gates at Buckingham Palace.

My recent trip to London, England, was one of the easiest trips to Europe I have ever planned.

With everything in English, reservations for hotels and restaurants, using the Underground and asking for directions is so simple.

If you are at all nervous about Europe, start with England!

Because I had taken a bus from Bath to London, I arrived at Victoria Coach Station in the Belgravia area of London. It was a very quick walk from the station to my bed and breakfast at Harcourt House at 50 Ebury St.

I must confess it is not my favorite place I have stayed because it felt like the smallest room in the world, but it was clean, safe, inexpensive and had a surprisingly tasty, substantial breakfast delivered to my room each morning. Visit www.harcourthousehotel.co.uk for more information.

Close by was Victoria Station. This train station has several shops and three grocery-type stores to purchase healthy snacks, as well as the location for the Victoria Underground station.

A one-way trip on the Underground public transportation cost 4 English pounds at the time of my trip, however, an off-peak one day pass (purchased after 9:30 a.m.) only cost a little more than 5 pounds. 

One day my pass would not work, but there are English speaking employees by all the turnstiles, and they waved me through. They are also a great resource for information.

Harrods, an insanely luxurious department store filled with everything, including the most enticing chocolate area, was about a 20-minute walk from where I was staying. My favorite La Maison du Chocolate in Paris has a boutique in Harrods. I stocked up! Visit www.harrods.com.

About a one-minute walk from the B&B is The Chocolate Society at 36 Elizabeth St. Some of the best truffles I have ever tasted are located there. Visit www.chocolate.co.uk.

Another short walk leads to Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and The Houses of Parliament. Gorgeous!

Abbeys (churches) charge admission while the museums are free (the opposite of Paris).

Westminster Abbey was 12 pounds to enter. Sorry, no photos allowed. Be sure to visit the British Museum, with great Egyptian artifacts and the famous Rosetta Stone that cracked the code to Ancient Egyptian writing. 

Another favorite of mine is The National Gallery. Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings are always mobbed, but Monet’s paintings (my favorite) allow for more leisurely pondering. Fans of “The Mummy Returns” movie will want to visit Tower Bridge.

For a funky spot, Camden Lock Market, Underground stop: Camden Town, is an eye opener. Fans of “The da Vinci Code,” or those who appreciate intriguing architecture, will want to peruse Temple Church, Underground station: Temple.

The day I searched for Temple Church was my only day of rain, and what rain!  My umbrella kept blowing inside out, I couldn’t look up to see where I was going, and my jeans were soaked.  I had to stop for directions because the church is actually in an alleyway, versus right on a street like my map showed, but it was well worth it!

For a relaxed bit of café-style dining, visit The National Café in The National Gallery.

The savory, warm pumpkin and goat cheese tart hit the spot after losing myself for hours among art.

For an indulgent dinner I recommend the candlelit French restaurant La Poule au Pot at 231 Ebury St., phone: 020/7730-7763.

I dropped in last minute and got a table, but reservations would probably be smart, and polite. 

Because it only takes about two and half hours one way, I could not resist hopping aboard the Eurostar for a day trip to Paris. Riding second class, which has plenty of room, and taking an earlier train, lowered my ticket cost. I purchased my ticket through www.ricksteves.com about three weeks prior to my trip, for around $60 each way.

All too soon it was time to return home. As my very, very early cab ride to Heathrow Airport transpired under a brilliant full moon, I asked the cab driver what his favorite part of being a cab driver in England was. He said, “Being up before everyone to watch the sunrise.”

As I sat at the airport waiting for my flight home, I thought back to all the friendly Londoners I met during the past week, along with all the amazing sights London has to offer, and wished I could stay one more day.  

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Victoria L. Cooksey is the author of “Cooking with Cooksey,” available at www.amazon.com and www.bn.com.