History, Travel

Exploring the United Kingdom in 2 Days with a Little Luxury

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In June 2023, I embarked on my very first European adventure! And where did I start, you ask? None other than the United Kingdom!

I mean, what better way to kick off this epic journey than by crossing the pond and diving headfirst into the land of tea, crumpets, and royalty?

Let me tell you, it was an experience like no other!

Heading to the United Kingdom

Bright and early, we embarked on our thrilling journey to the enchanting U.K. Our intentions were to arrive in London in the late evening so that we could go from the airport straight to our hotel bed.  In order to adjust to the time difference, we did our best to not sleep on the flight.  This way, we would be tired and go to bed upon arrival to avoid the dreaded jet lag.

I highly recommend doing this! It felt as though we had minimal effects from the time difference.

Just Landed!

On our first night, after we landed in Heathrow, we grabbed our reserved Hertz rental car at the airport and then headed to our hotel. 

We stayed at the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel.  It’s about 5 minutes from the London Heathrow airport! From the outside, the hotel does look a bit dated, but the rooms are updated and extremely modern.

My partner and I often stay at Marriot hotel locations.  We definitely enjoy the Marriot Bonvoy experience and the benefits it comes with as we build status around the world!  My Partner is currently Titanium Elite status due to the simple fact that we try to solely book with Marriot.  By staying loyal, we almost always receive free hotel upgrades, breakfast vouchers, spending money for Marriot markets, and more!

Get English Heritage Yearly Pass!

Here’s a pro tip.

If your trip to the United Kingdom will include visiting historic places such as Windsor Castle or Stonehenge, get the English Heritage Yearly Pass

The yearly pass for 2 people (as of 2023) is about £110! This is for residents and non-residents of the country. Many of the historic prices require entry fees and you may even have to pay for parking if you’re driving.  Since we were driving ourselves to every place, we saved so much money buying the yearly pass.

I’m sure you’re thinking, “but I’m not going to use it again! Only one time while I’m here.”

If you calculate the individual costs of entry to many of these historical sites, it is going to cost you a lot more.  Plus, this membership gives you unlimited access to over 400 sites!

Not only that, at certain places, you get to enter through a dedicated line which is rarely long.

Day 1 – Visiting Bletchley Park with Afternoon Tea, Dinner at Sky Garden

Driving to Bletchley Park

We got up early and drove out to Bletchley Park as soon as they opened.

You can purchase tickets ahead of time for your specific date and planned arrival time on the Bletchley Website.

What is Bletchley? A visit to the on-site museum allows guests to gain deeper insight into the code-breaking efforts that took place there and learn more about the individuals involved, including the famous mathematician, Alan Turing.

We were there on a Friday.  It was not that busy early morning but many school groups were visiting.

Afternoon Tea

Like a true Brit, we did afternoon tea at the park!

This was not included in the heritage pass so we did purchase this ahead of time.  As of 2023, tea tickets were £55 per person.

I loved the experience!  Surely, you can find various restaurants all around the city that host afternoon tea. However, since this was already at the place we had planned to be at, it just made sense to do it here!

The traditional afternoon tea menu features a selection of freshly made finger sandwiches, including classic fillings like cucumber and cream cheese or smoked salmon. These are followed by warm scones served with clotted cream and homemade jam, a quintessential element of any English afternoon tea. Lastly, a variety of delicate pastries and cakes are presented, showcasing the culinary skills of the tea room’s pastry chefs.

Accompanied by a pot of your choice, whether it be traditional English breakfast tea or a more adventurous herbal blend, the experience is complete.

Overall, afternoon tea at Bletchley Park is a delightful way to immerse yourself in the history and atmosphere of this remarkable site. Whether you are a history enthusiast or simply appreciate the elegance of a traditional English tea, this experience is sure to leave you feeling satisfied and connected to the past.

After indulging in the delectable treats, we continued to explore the rest of Bletchley Park’s exhibits and displays.

Dinner in the City at Sky Garden

After a day of revisiting history and putting our pinkies up for tea, we headed to the city for dinner.

The Sky Garden in London is a public garden located at the top of the “Walkie-Talkie” building in the City of London. It is a popular tourist attraction and offers panoramic views of the cityscape. The garden is home to a variety of plants and trees, as well as a terrace, restaurant, and bar. Visitors can enjoy the stunning views, relax in the greenery, and even attend events and live music performances.

Let me just say, this place is AMAZING!

Entry to the Sky Garden is free, but advance booking is required.

We had dinner reservations at the Frenchurch Restaurant at the Sky Garden, which is a fine dining establishment.  We went for the tasting menu which featured multiple tasty courses.  Each course had an out of this world presentation.

Day 2 – Driving to Stone Henge | Dover Castle | Bob Bob Ricard

The Stones at Stonehenge

The next day, our adventures again started early morning.  This time, we were headed to see Stonehenge.  From our hotel, it took about 1 hour and 15 minutes to get there as it’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere.

We were able to park onsite and then go to the check in.  Since we are members of the English Heritage, we got to skip the long line and check in at a dedicated space for members.  No wait!

Now if you’re not familiar with the rock formation, Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in Wiltshire, England. It consists of a circular arrangement of large standing stones, also known as megaliths.

Although the reasoning Stonehenge exist is still a mystery, it is believed to have been used for various reasons: religious and ceremonial purposes, and it is aligned with the solstices, indicating its possible connection to astronomical observations.

When you arrive, there are different options available to actually get to the site.  You can take the shuttle bus. Or, you can hike about 1 mile to the site. We decided to get our exercise in and do the walk to the formation and then hoped on the shuttle bus back to the visitor center.

Dover Castle

After our visit to Stonehenge, we wanted to ensure we made the best use of our time. So, at the last minute, we decided to drive out to the east coast to see Dover Castle.  This was a 2 hour and 45-minute drive from Stonehenge.

I’m not certain if they have tours or busses that go out that way, but having the flexibility to drive out there was really nice.  We got to stop along the way at fuel stops and grab some snacks.

Dover Castle is massive! Not only that, the town in which it sits has some amazing seaside views!

Again, we were able to get in at no additional cost using our English Heritage membership.

The castle was amazing to see.  Although, there was a slight musty smell inside.  I guess anything centuries old will have some sort of smell.

But now I can say I visited a real castle!

Dinner at Bob Bob Ricard

We then made our trek back to London for dinner.  We went to the infamous Bob Bob Ricard.  This restaurant is known for its glamorous and luxurious atmosphere, offering a unique dining experience.

The restaurant is in the heart of London’s Soho district, on 1 Upper James Street. It is easily accessible by public transportation.

Bob Bob Ricard is famous for its stunning interior design, featuring chic art deco style. The restaurant’s most iconic feature is its “Press for Champagne” button on each table, allowing guests to order champagne with just a push of a button.

Bob Bob Ricard is a fine establishment.

We, unfortunately, arrived slightly underdressed. Well, not slightly, COMPLETELY underdressed. 

We thought we would not be seated. But, it seems the staff was in a good mood.  They did inform us of the dress code, but still happily (or begrudgingly) sat us at a table.

I must also mention that we were also in town during Pride celebration.  I do think because of that, the restaurant accommodated us as it was not busy at all for a Saturday evening.  Luckily, we weren’t the only guest that were underdressed but still allowed in.

We had the beef wellington, and it was absolutely mouthwatering delicious! My partner still reminisces about the beef wellington.

So if you go to Bob Bob Ricard, follow the dress code and order the beef wellington!

After dinner, we stayed in the Soho district and enjoyed the evening affairs before retiring to the hotel.

Takeaways on the United Kingdom

I thoroughly enjoyed my first time in the United Kingdom. I found the people to be friendly and always willing to help out their American cousins.

In just 2 days, I feel we were able to get a nice sample of the culture and history of London. Of course, there’s so much more to be explore that takes longer than just a few days.

One thing I was not expecting was for it to be so cold! We went at the end of June and kept our jackets and long pants on! Good thing we packed for cooler weather!

Would I go back to London? Absolutely! We had a great time and it was the perfect kickoff to our 10-day European Vacation!

Plus, who doesn’t love to hear a British accent.

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