Twelve Hours In London

London, England. My favorite place in the world (so far). This city makes me so unbelievably happy and I'll take any chance I can get to visit again and again. I lived in England for 3 months in the summer of 2014 while studying abroad. For 2 months I lived at the University of Reading and for 1 month I lived in Southwark in London. It was the best summer ever and I definitely left of a piece of my heart in this incredible city. What do I love so much about London? The accents, the history, the fashion, the river, the quirks, nearly everything. 

This September, I went on a trip to Croatia with my dad (more on that in a later blog post!) and I strategically planned a layover in London so I could get a chance to be in my favorite place again even for just a few hours. Even though I only got to see a few of the longgg list of places that I love so much in this city, it was such an invigorating trip. I cried tears of joy as the plane landed and was just so, so happy while walking around. Here's a glimpse at my few hours in London...

First stop, Paddington Station. Paddington is like the Grand Central Station of London. Busy, bustling, fast-paced. I took the Heathrow Express from the airport to Paddington. As I got off the train, I was hit with extreme nostalgia as I remembered the funny yet unfortunate time my 2 classmates and I were completely stranded overnight at Paddington. We had booked a late Sunday flight from Dublin back to London and the trains taking us back to Reading had stopped running around 12 am I think. So, we literally had to wait hours til the first train of the morning. We wandered, got some KFC, and eventually fell asleep on the benches at the station til morning. This time at Paddington was much more enjoyable!

I decided that seeing the Thames was a main priority, so I took the tube to Embankment station, which happened to lead me to a few places that are super special to me. One was a souvenir shop that I bought a few postcards from before my summer was over.

Across the street from the Embankment station is Whitehall Garden. I remember this garden (which is more like a courtyard) so vividly because one day back in 2014, I was feeling super lonely and homesick. I went for a walk, determined to get out of my funk and spend some time outside praying, journaling, reading my bible, and talking to God. I stumbled into Whitehall Garden and sat down on a bench (pictured below) and opened my bible. That year I was reading a one-year bible plan and that day had me reading 1 Samuel 1. The verse below spoke directly to my heart! I felt God comforting me, saying even though I was alone and so far away from family and friends, I had His spirit with me, which is better than everything! I'll never forget that moment. 

“Why are you crying, Hannah?” Elkanah would ask. “Why aren’t you eating? Why be downhearted just because you have no children? You have me—isn’t that better than having ten sons?”
— 1 Samuel 1:8

Next, I made my way to the Thames walking toward Westminster aka Big Ben. I saw 3 girls taking pictures of each other with a red telephone booth and offered to take a group picture of them. Then they asked if I wanted one too and I said sure, even though I'm usually SO nervous letting strangers use my expensive camera! Anyway, at first, I was posing on the left side of the phonebooth until the girl asked me, "Do you want to stand on the other side? You can see Big Ben in the background." Yes, yes, yes. I was SO glad she made that suggestion because this is now one of my most favorite pictures ever. Touristy? Yes, but it's so iconically London and I love it.

Next: Trafalgar Square. Please note that in true England fashion, the weather went from cold to rainy to sunny to cloudy to warm to misty all in the matter of a few hours. If I had more time, I would've gone into the National Gallery because that museum is just so big that I didn't get to see nearly as much as I wanted to the first time! Trafalgar never disappoints with the street performers and people in costumes. 

Next I walked along The Strand--another favorite street. I stopped at Holland & Barrett to buy some of my favorite teas (Heath and Heather) that are only sold in the UK. Covent Garden was my destination for lunch. I couldn't leave London without eating  fish & chips and drinking a Pimm's lemonade so Punch & Judy fulfilled both of those needs for me!

After Covent Garden, I walked to the Waterloo Bridge for the beautiful view of the whole city. 

My last stop was Southbank, which is (no surprise) another of my favorite areas in the city. It seems like everywhere is my favorite huh? I love how colorful and funky Southbank is with the skate park, theaters, food trucks, and art everywhere. I picked up a few stickers, got yelled at by some people that didn't want me taking their picture, and then frantically hailed a cab to take me back to Paddington. I just barely made it back to the airport before my flight to Croatia!

And just a week later, I was back! Flying into London on Thursday morning for a much shorter layover this time. I was also VERY sick at this point with a nasty cold, so I was debating on not even venturing out of the airport and just resting til my flight. I felt like I would've regretted that decision, so I gained some energy and headed back to Paddington. This time, my main goal was to go to Primark and have a mini shopping spree! I bought a few things there before heading back to the airport for lunch and to board my flight home.