London is a special place to me.  Having traveled there multiple times, it’s become a fond location if for no other reason their taxis are the best in the world!  In particular, this trip was the pinnacle of London trips (*thus far*) because my little brother came with me. 

Let’s be honest, though, packing for one person internationally is a process; managing another person’s first international packing process is an entirely different story.  Anywho, some downtime in London, a luxurious and unique hotel, the best fish and chips on the planet, yup, here I come!

“My dad says that being a Londoner has nothing to do with where you’re born.  He says that there are people who get off a jumbo jet at Heathrow, go through immigration waving any kind of passport, hop on the tube, and by the time the train’s pulled into Piccadilly Circus they’ve become a Londoner.” – Ben Aaronovitch, Moon Over Soho.


Logistics and Excursion Planning

After the work-centric time in Paris, I could finally relax and focus on being a tourist and getting some relaxation in.  From sleeping in, to good on-premises food and drink experiences, I wanted the option to lounge and be lazy for at least one day.  Since I only had four days in London, it would be a combo of recharging and touring with lots of good culinary experiences intertwined throughout the day.

TB TIP:  The weather in London is predictable in that it’s unpredictable.  It may be clear skies in the morning, rain at lunch, and sunshine again by 2 pm.  Prepare accordingly, and if you don’t have a small travel umbrella, buy one!

So now the planning process.  While some view this as a daunting task, trust me, it’s fun when you know the ins and outs.  Here’s how I navigate it:

  • Find a Marriott property that suits my desires for this trip (each of these wants must be checked yes):
    • Something luxurious on the water and in the heart of London so I can recharge and still take a short walk to dining, shops, etc. 
    • High floor room to have an impressive view of the Thames River
    • Stay on points is available (it usually is, but out of the country can be tricky, and sometimes it’s not an option). Also, inquiring into any fees that apply to foreign travelers is a must; you’d be surprised what I’ve encountered when not asking that question. 
    • Suite upgrades are available.  You get a certain amount of these each year with your Marriott status, so I planned to use them on my final leg of this trip.  You have to check availability by calling the hotel first, though.
    • An excellent selection of onsite restaurants and bars with a classic London vibe.
    • The London Marriott Hotel County Hall was my choice; it’s an old government building, so it was nicely adorned.
  • Since I already booked my return flight from London back to the U.S., the only thing left to do was check the Eurostar (high-speed train) site via their app for fare from Paris to London via the London Channel:
    • I want to maximize my first day in London, so an early train ride was my goal.
    • Secure two seats in business class so we can relax and sleep.
    • A lounge experience wasn’t happening in the Gare Du Nord, but there was a quaint little café onsite.
  • Excursions:
    • To Viator, I went with the goal of exploring the UK’s history and culture.
    • Stonehenge and Windsor castle has always been on my list of sites to see.  There was a day-long tour that captured both of these, with a stop and tour in Bath, so I booked it.
    • Although I’ve seen the Phantom of the Opera on Broadway, the chance to take my little bro and see it at Her Majesty’s Theatre wasn’t one I was going to pass up on.
    • A pub walking tour sounded like a lot of fun, but it wasn’t an option since little bro isn’t 21… whomp whomp.

Travel Day

Waking up at 3:45 am always stings!  But, the reward of arriving early in London is totally worth it, and I had the hope (carrot on a stick) of sleeping on the train for 1.5 hours or so en route.  I arranged for the hotel to have a taxi waiting because 5 am Uber’s in Paris are non-existent from what I was told. 

Packed up and caffeinated, we got piled into our car and made the trip to Gare Du Nord.  Given this was my first time to travel out of this station, I got there early to ensure there weren’t any delays with customs, baggage, etc. 

Fortunately, the process was effortless, and we had an extra 20 minutes to indulge at the café; this was our last chance for a taste of Parisian cuisine.  

Off to our train and a ride through the London Channel Tunnel.  This was my first time on a Eurostar train, and I was really impressed.  The seats and luggage compartments were large, the complimentary food and beverage were good, and the staff was mellow. 

Situated and cozy with noise-canceling headphones in, it was time for a nap.  I woke up once while we were in the Channel tunnel, and it was a little sketchy; pitch blackout of the windows and no end in sight.  A little under 1.5 hours later, it was 8:30 am, and we were in London making our way to the taxi line.

For people who have not ventured to London yet, let me just tell you the taxis are one of the best tourist experiences.  To start, they are uniquely designed to carry six people AND a ton of luggage.  Besides looking really cool, the drivers are an entirely unique breed; they’re professional, knowledgeable, friendly, and fun to chat with. 

After a delightful drive through London, I made my way over the Westminster Bridge and into my glorious hotel.  The entrance was a serene courtyard setback from the street and completely private, with fountains and flowers everywhere.  Since we were so early, there were about three hours to kill prior to our suite being ready. 

Checked in and luggage stored, we went to the Elite Lounge inside the hotel and had breakfast; the selection and quality of food/beverage were top notch.  So far, I love this hotel adorned in rich mahogany wood floor to ceiling and classy staff members that sport a big smile and offer fun conversation.  

With food in our bellies, it was time to take a walk around London.  Buckingham Palace was about a 25-minute walk, and although we didn’t have a tour scheduled, it was worth seeing.  There are also some iconic sights along the way, like the Big Ben clocktower and St. James’s Park. 

The weather was sunny and actually about 75 degrees, so it was perfect for walking about and snapping fun pics of this unique cityscape.  

A few hours later, we were back at our hotel and being shown to the suite.  WOW!  Our view looked out directly at the London Eye and Thames River, which was superb; the room was nicely adorned, large, and very modern. 

The smell (each higher-end Marriott uses their own) was herbal and spicy, almost like a spa-inspired version of Earl Grey.  And my favorite part, the beds were plush and comfy.  Unpacked and settled, it was time for a nap before showering and heading to see Phantom of the Opera.

After a shower and cocktail at the hotel bar (it was Gin and Tonic month, apparently, so I was in for a mixologist tour while in town), we made the walk to Her Majesty’s Theatre

Pic Courtesy:

Not only was it another historic and sight-filled walk, but we got to catch the sun setting in between buildings which were kind of crazy given it was almost 9 pm.  The Theatre was very historic in feeling; classy with a bit of musk to weave in the age.

I have to say, the Phantom never disappoints, and in such a unique venue, it was even better than I remembered it being on Broadway.  After the show, we took a different route back to walk through China Town and get some lively pictures under the China Town Gate

Pic Courtesy:

Arriving back at the hotel, the first thing on my list was ordering fish and chips from room service (they served the full kitchen menu until 12 am), then close the night down and catch some much-needed sleep for our early morning tour.

Day One – Windsor Castle, Bath, and Stonehenge

Once again, with a sleepy little brother and not being 100% familiar with actual walking times versus Google Maps’ posted walking times, I was in a rush to make this tour departing from the Victoria Coach Station at 7:30 am; sometimes I wish the masochistic, early morning – late night travel bug didn’t get the best of me. 

On the bright side, we had a lot of time on the bus to nap, and I planned on catching up.  Or so I thought… Our tour director, Phil Bennett, was a walking encyclopedia and not only had a lot of good information to share on the bus ride, but he was funny and kept my attention.  So long nap, hello Phil!

First stop, Windsor Castle!  What I didn’t expect was an entire little town built inside the city walls.  This is where several of the employees live, and some fortunate others.  Touring the castle was quite marvelous.  The attention to detail (being a Virgo, I appreciate these things) was supreme, and the gold adornments topped it off perfectly. 

I can only imagine what a dinner party experience in this castle would be like… Concluding the tour, we had some time for shopping and lunch.  Given my affinity for Spain, the logical choice was tapas (yes, they had a little Spanish restaurant inside the town) and sangria before a quick shopping spree and back onto the bus.  Onto Bath… with an after-lunch nap on the bus, of course.

Two hours later, we arrived in Bath.  The terrain was made up of green rolling hills, large trees, old rock walls, and ancient bridges crossing the rivers.  Another quaint town, but this one much older than that surrounding Windsor.  While the tour of the ancient bathhouse was nostalgic, staring at natural sulfur hot springs isn’t my thing, and my little bro was in agreement. 

So, we decided to walk around the town.  Not much to see, but time for a few souvenirs, pictures, and a snack break of gin and tonic with a cold salad on this warm UK day.  Finally, it was on to my most anticipated stop, Stonehenge!

An hour later, my years of wonder were on the verge of being satisfied.  Stonehenge is in a lovely area made up of wild grass and small trees.  There was a slight breeze that was the perfect accompaniment on the walk to the monument. 

Phil, in his usual form, had loads of information about Stonehenge, the history, and mystery; it was all enjoyable to take in.  My little bro and I took a walk around the entire perimeter, snapped lots of fun selfies, and alas, made the walk back to the bus London bound.  

Day Two – Free Exploration Day

Ten hours of sleep, no excursions planned, I was really excited to start this day MY WAY!  Little bro was still asleep, so I made my way to the lounge and had a relaxing breakfast accompanied by coffee with Baileys.  After an hour of staring at the Thames and doing some research on nearby sights to see with the kid, it was time to get going. 

A ride on the London Eye was a must.  Across the way, there was an aquarium and Shrek’s London Adventure; it looked so cheesy I figured it was worth a quick visit for laughs if nothing else.  

I’ve got to say, the view from atop the London Eye is remarkable; there are several beautiful buildings that get lost in the skyline from the street level.  From there, we took a long stroll along the Queen’s Walk.  Several little foods and beverage vendors make it convenient to stop in for a cool drink on the muggy London days. 

We made our way to the London Bridge and walked across.  Surprisingly, there are several bridges along the Thames within a short distance, so in theory, we crossed several London Bridges (insert laugher here).

After a few more hours of sightseeing, we made our way back to the hotel to wind down and begin the packing process.  Since it was our last night, we decided to have the hotel’s fish and chips again; they were the best we had in all of London.  It was bittersweet knowing we were leaving in the morning, especially for the kid. 

Being his first time in Europe, he was in a constant state of awe.  As I lay in bed, it made me that much more grateful to have had these experiences over the years, both for work and pleasure.  Dozing off with visions of Heathrow in my head… it was time to go home.  Just an 11-hour flight stood between me and my own bed.

Trip Summary/Recap

It’s hard to capture in words the way London makes me feel.  This trip was especially memorable as it was my last to Europe before COVID and the halt of global tourism.  With each keystroke, I have an associated memory, and I hope you can glean some form of adventure from them. 

While none of us knowing when these travel adventures will be a possibility again, I urge you to embrace wanderlust and explore London virtually because once you do visit, it’ll be that much more breathtaking in person.  I strongly recommend this hotel and locale and would love to hear your feedback upon indulging in what London has to offer.  

Tips & Tricks


  • Monitor the weather for the time of year you are traveling to the UK as it’s pretty chilly in the Winter.  If you’re looking for a Winter Wonderland type of experience, this could be an excellent option for you.  
  • Pack light, easy to remove layers as the weather changes throughout the day and you don’t want to be too hot/cold.


  • I recommend walking as much as possible in London.  It can take longer than it appears on Google Maps, but it’s totally worth it to discover several fun little spots along the way.  Alternatively, there are the epic taxis.  If that is your planned communication method, have your hotel, restaurant, etc., call one for you to avoid street searching.
  • The weather is humid as you’re on an island.  So, plan for the dampness as you don’t want to ruin certain clothing types and will need some extra hold hair and volumizing spray.  
  • I recommend bringing a packet of Liquid I.V. for each day you’re in London as the food and drink is enticing and you’ll need to stay hydrated. 
  • Bring cash; it’s a welcomed form of payment with street vendors and the several small shops throughout the South Bank and Queen’s Walk.  Some vendors don’t take cards, so this is even more imperative.
  • The London Eye area is a lot of fun to explore, and I highly recommend it.