I has been my dream to visit the UK for years now, but I was never able to go due to a ton of reasons. But this year, 2018, I finally got the chance to go to London with my family and my boyfriend. I cannot express how good it felt to really travel somewhere abroad again. I have been to Germany and France for the Summer in the last few years, but stepping on a plane to London truly felt like I was going somewhere. It was a dream come true and it was even more fun than I had expected. It truly felt like a step in the right direction, a step to get a normal life once again.
Shortly after arriving in the UK, I decided to make a Twitter London/UK travel thread. I posted updates and pictures in it with some initial reactions. I really loved making it. Click here to view it!
We went from home at 7.30AM and after parking and getting a ride to Groningen Airport Eelde, we were ready to check in well before 9AM. We went to a special service desk to so we could get some help with skipping lines and boarding the airport as one of the first people, which is the service they offer for people with limitations, as in wheelchairs, physical handicaps, but also for people with a form of Austism Spectrum Syndrome. It was at that desk we heard our flight would be delayed from 10:50AM to 1:00PM, (the delay was almost 3,5h in the end sadly). This was a bummer ofcourse, but the weather was nice so waiting wasn’t a problem. The lady at the service desk helped us to check in early and told us to meet her at the desk at 12:15PM, so she could accompany us through security. We were a bit early and so was she, but she was nice enough to tell there were of ton of people in the waiting hall waiting for their flight to Turkey. She said that if we waited 10-15 minutes, the hall would be almost empty. She came back after said time and accompanied us through security and wished us good travels.
It was a very special moment that after more than ten years, I stepped into a plane. I was absolutely terrified! I have flown to Greece with my parents since I was very young until I was 7 years old and we couldn’t for years after my little brother was born. It was a huge step for me to take, but I am glad I did.
The plane we boarded was a fairly small, so the flight was a bit bumpy during take-off and landing. I sat there like a scared cat, holding my boyfriend’s arms (as if that would have done anything during a crash, but whatever). When we were at the right altitude and the plane wasn’t ascending anymore, I could relax for a bit and enjoy the beautiful view in the clear weather. I regret not taking any pictures during the flight.
After landing safely at London Southend and the taxi ride to the hotel, we dropped our baggage and went to the Westfield Mall at the Wood Lane Underground station to find some place to eat. Upon arriving, I heard music and apparently, there were some local artists performing live on the square. It was absolutely beautiful!
On the outside, the building didn’t look that impressive. We had no clue where the restaurants would be, so we decided to buy some water in the first store in sight: Ichiba. I recognised the name in the back of my head and upon entering, I was quite surprised! It was a whole store full with Japanese food and items. There was even a small restaurant inside.
Eventually, we asked a guard where to find the restaurants. He told us to go upstairs and through the mall. When we went inside and followed the guard’s directions, we were surprised by the size of the building! When my boyfriend and I were planning out the things we were gonna do, we found the centre on Google Maps, but we really didn’t guess it would be a three story high mall with dozens of stores! After some walking, we found the restaurants exactly where we were told they would be. While trying to decide where to eat, we sat down at a bench-like wall that stretched the entire street the restaurants were at. Beside the bench, there was a waterfall and behind that a giant wall of plants. I some pictures of it as it was absolutely beautiful. The sound of the water was so relaxing. I included some pictures in the slideshow below.
After having dinner at the The Real Greek, we went to a few stores in the mall, including the hmv and The Entertainer. I was able to get a Porg Pop! for just £6, Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Works for £4,99 and a copy of Ready Player one for £3,99! Definitely worth it.
On the second day, we went shopping at Oxford Street. It is absolutely beautiful there, but quite busy. even towards the end of a Tuesday morning. We went to the hmv, the Selfridges&Co warehouse, the Disney Store, Nike store, Hamley’s, Waterstones, Forbidden Planet and a couple of souvenir stores en route.
Our first stop was the hmv, which is short for His Master’s Voice, and it was NOTHING compared to the small branch we visited the night before. It was two stories high and had a basement floor, all extremely big! Most of the store was occupied by CD’s, Dvd’s and vinyls, but still a big part was full with merch, Funko Pop!s and so much more. I was really impressed, as we don’t have many stores that big in the Netherlands and usually it is just clothing.
When we were done exploring the hmv, we went to the Selfridges&Co warehouse. I didn’t count the floors, but it was a pretty big building! Luckily, there were escalators as I wouldn’t have made it to the top floor without. There were so many different kind of stores and brands, like Gucci, Louis Vuitton, a perfumery, a toy store and a bookstore. My little brother was so hyped about the expensive brands, he wanted to buy something to show off to his friends. We held him back, but he was about to spend £50 on a pair of socks!
After browsing for a bit, my boyfriend and i found something we had heard of before: Mighty Muggs. They are plastic figures of which you can change the facial expression by pressing its head. We never really knew what to think of them until we same them in real life. They look really cool, the packaging is really sturdy and secure and they are much bigger than I anticipated. My boyfriend bought one from Star-Lord from Guardians of the Galaxy.
My dad said the bookstore in the building was a Waterstones, but I didn’t quite believe him. It was a very small bookstore and there wasn’t even a YA or Fantasy/Sci-Fi section, it was all sorted as Children’s Fiction. I was happy to find a copy of Quidditch Through The Ages as I hadn’t found it anywhere before. It was just £6 aswell!
When we were finished looking around in the giant warehouse, we continued to our next stop: The Disney Store. I truly felt like a kid again. There was a quote on the wall that reflected that, which showed it wasn’t truly a children’s store. The quote was:
”Adults are kids grown up, anyway.”
It also was really cool to see that Star Wars and Marvel are truly embraced as family within Disney, as there was plenty of merch of both franchises aswell. I walked around the store with a smile on my face and while doing so I saw statues of famous Disney characters like Stitch, Moana and Anna. Rapunzel was there too and she had a CASTLE. Yes, a castle in the middle of the store! Truly amazing and such eye for detail. Even if you don’t plan on buying anything, it is a really cool place of interest. So just have a look around when you pass a Disney Store.
After a quick stop at the Nike store for my little brother, we went to Hamley’s. My boyfriend told me it was the biggest toy store in the UK and I didn’t realise how big he meant at the time. It had about five stories and a basement level. It was truly huge.
Walking through the entrance, we could barely set a foot in front of another because of the amount of people. I saw a sign that you had to go downstairs for The Wizarding World, so ofcourse I went downstairs immediatly. I was amazed by how much Harry Potter merch they had. Half of the floor was just Harry Potter, a third was Star Wars, which is where we saw the Lego Millennium Falcon, and the rest was just random stuff. There was a giant Hagrid made of Lego (My dad took a picture of me and my boyfriend with it.) The staff was dressed in house robes, had wands and there was even a giant bear in Griffyndor robes named Wizard Hamley. I gave him a highfive ofcourse when he walked by. There was this man from the staff in Slytherin robes who apparently saw how excited I was downstairs that he approached me twice: The first time I was posing with Hagrid, he said ‘Excuse me’ and handed me a wand to hold in the picture, so nice! Later he did the same while I was browsing the good, but instead of handing me a wand, he was holding a wand with a light at the tip and switched it on to surprise me. It really put a smile on my face that staff like that exists.
My boyfriend and I browsed the other floors and I ended up buying a tiny Bowtruckle and a Golden Snitch, both for display.
We went for a drink and some chairs to sit on close to Hamley’s on our way to Forbidden Planet. When looking at Google Maps, we saw there was a branch of Waterstones at the end of the road. We planned on going to another, but we strayed so much from our original route looking for a place to have a drink, that there was a Waterstones right on our route to Forbidden Planet.
Upon entering, I was amazed how big it was. I have only been to a Waterstones once before. It was a branch in Amsterdam, the only Waterstones we have in the Netherlands, and nowhere near the size of this one. Besides books, there was a little café and despite it being really full, it was still pretty silent besides some soft chatter. I told my mom it must be the kind of people, because literally every other place with that many people it is really noisy.
I went to the SciFi/Fantasy section on the first floor, where I picked up a copy of Nevernight by Jay Kristoff. We went up a floor to the YA section and there I found a copy of The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice And Virtue by Mackenzi Lee. It was amazing that when I went to pay for my books, the girl behind the counter saw the copy of Gentlemen’s Guide and excitedly told me the sequel is coming out soon. The twinklings in her eyes when she told me about it really made me smile. The bookish community is truly amazing.
After a long walk, we got to Forbidden Planet finally. We were extremely tired, so my boyfriend and I didn’t browse on the basement floor. We did scan through everything at the ground floor and both found some nice goods. I got myself a Dumbledore 5Star figure, a new line of Funko, and my boyfriend got himself some sort of Rick & Morty Lego and a quite cheap Kylo Ren Rides! from Funko.
Exhausted, we settled down in a McDonald’s close to Forbidden Planet for some dinner before heading back to the hotel to collapse on our beds.
On day three we went to visit some museums and do some sightseeing. I didn’t bring my camera the other days due to the weight, but for the sightseeing I thought it was absolutely worth it to take some high quality pictures.
We stepped on the Eastbound Circle line to our first stop: Baker Street. Yes, THAT Baker Street. We were going there to visit the Sherlock Holmes museum, which I have been looking forward to for so long! What I didn’t realise was that it is a really popular place and as the museum itself isn’t that big, the line was HUGE. We asked someone of the staff and the line would take over 1h-1.5h. We neither had time or energy for that. I was really disappointed I didn’t get to see the inside, but I took some joy in the fact that I have been there. We did go into the giftshop to get some souvenirs as a reminder of our visit. My mom bought us all a Sherlock teddy bear and for myself I bought a black and gold leather bookmark, a pin and a tote bag. My boyfriend got himself a Sherlock bathduck.
Even though it was indeed a shame we didn’t have the chance to visit the museum itself, just being there and walking in the beautiful old property directly beside it made it a lot better.
We took the Underground to Westminster so we could have a look at the Big Ben, the London Eye, the Thames and other amazing sightings. Sadly, when we got above ground, we saw the Big Ben was completely covered in scaffolding for repairs and restoration. The clock itself was visible though and I am glad it was as it was absolutely beautiful in real life!
We didn’t stay long at Westminster as there were a ton of people and not very much to see. So we went along to the Natural History Museum. It is really cool that in England museums that are owned by the state have free entrace, you are only asked if you want to make a donation, but not obliged to. We had a drink and some cake together with my parents, then they went into Hydepark while we went into the museum.
We started at the mammals section, with skeletons, replicas and stuffed animals. The small information boards told things like that there was an animal that later split into elephants and rhinos. It was a rhino like creature, but with two horns instead of one.
When we were done in the mammals section, we went on our way to the dinosaur exposition. We first came across the dino gift shop. (Yes, this museum had a separate gift shop with just dinosaur articles.) We browsed it for a bit and my boyfriend bought a few mini-dinosaur pluches, which are really cute. When we finally arrived at the dinosaur exposition we could walk through it in our own pace. There were tons of bones, skeletons, information boards, lifelike statues and more.
On our way out, we came by the regular gift shop and I got myself a tiny wolf pluche and my boyfriend got a T-Rex with a t-shirt with the logo and name of the museum on it. When leaving the gift shop, we saw this huge skeleton next to the exit. The plague said it was a giant ground sloth, one of the largest mammals ever. It was quite impressive to see that there were many massive animals once, while most of the animals who descended from them are rather small these days.
This museum was a really cool experience and if only I wasn’t so tired and it wasn’t well past 5PM, I could have spend hours reading all the plagues and looking at everything. Whenever I am able to go back to London, I would definitely go back there and see the rest.
The fourth day was our last day in London. The weather turnt quickly overnight, from a steady 32ºC/89ºF with a lot of sun to a rainy 19º/66ºF. None of us were truly prepared for rain, so we had to buy some umbrellas on the go. Ofcourse, we had to be true tourists and bought umbrellas with the flag of Great-Britain on it. We visited the Tower Bridge and sat down at a café with a perfect view and shelter from the rain. We could see the Tower of London on the other side of the Thames aswell and looked up some information and history about it while drinking some tea.
Our Original plan was to also visit Buckingham Palace on our way back to the hotel, but the rain and the cold were too much. There was also not much time left before the taxi would come and pick us up, thus we decided to go eat somewhere close to the hotel. We settled down in the pub close to Paddington station and it was so cozy! The pub was called Paddington’s Pride and besides drinks they also had a full kitchen. The food was delicious, the staff was super friendly and we were all warmed up for our trip back to the airport.
At 2:35PM we were picked up by the taxi and we were unlucky to be stuck in the middle of the rush hour. the 1h45min drive became a 2h30min drive. We were still well in time for our flight, as the airport was quite small. We went through security and passport control really quick and sat down to wait for our flight with some drinks and something to eat as it was well after 5PM at that point.
After a short delay of around 20-30 minutes after the scheduled time, we were ready to fly again! We knew there was Code Orange predicted in North-West of the Netherlands, so we were prepared for some bad weather on our way back home. We had some turbulence during the flight, but nothing major. There was one bigger shock, which was both scary and somewhat exciting. Some drinks were spilled because of the sudden drop and hop, but everyone was fine. A downside of the turbulence was that my little brother had the last hot water and they weren’t able to boil more for a cup of tea for me sadly, so I settled for some ginger ale.
I had a ton of fun sitting next to the window. During the outward journey the weather was completely clear, I could see all the towns and cities when we were above land, see all the boats fare in one line to Britain and see all the windmills in sea. It was absolutely beautiful to look at. During the return journey, the sky was full with clouds and the sun was setting. I was absolutely amazed at how pretty clouds really are, especially with the warm colours of the sunlight. I took a lot of pictures during the flight which I put in the slideshow below.
We landed somewhere past 9PM, got a ride back to our car and then went home. We were all tired, but we all enjoyed the trip very much and all want to go back sometime.
This trip to London was a dream come true. I enjoyed the city, the people, the sightings, the stores, the public transport and the food very much. I really want to go back sometime to see and experience even more!
Besides everything else, I had an interesting experience in London as someone with Aspergers, which you may know from novels like The Curious Incident of the Dog in The Nighttime. I wanted to include that experience in this post, but I thought it was too important to not spend some good attention on it. It will probably take some time to write it, so bear with me.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my experience and I would recommend you all to visit London yourself sometime if you have the chance!