A love of Great Britain is common ground for a lot of Fug Nation’s members, whether the royals themselves interest you or not. When Visit Britain hosted us there the week of the Queen’s 90th birthday, we got a lot of requests from readers for trip photos and details of the exhibits we saw (and meals we ate…). Visit Britain, for what it’s worth, did not ask us to write this. They invited us and arranged the itinerary, but as I explained on my Instagram, all opinions and compliments are our own — we would never sell our feelings, and we hope you know how sincerely that’s true. We truly wanted to share all this, because a) it was hugely fun, b) it seems like a shared interest here, and c) Fug Nation has been a really reliable place for all KINDS of advice in the past. We thought this post could serve as that same kind of resource for any future trip planning anyone here might do. So beyond the particulars that are coming from us, we invite you guys to share your favorites in the comments. Me, I always encourage people to take train trips out of London when they visit, because England as a whole is such a jewel; it’s not JUST about London. So definitely put Hampton Court, Windsor, and even Oxford or Cambridge on your wish lists. Take advantage of the glories of public transportation.
Amazingly, this post merely scratches the surface of the photos and videos we took. Here’s where you can find more:
– We already put some photos up on Facebook highlighting our first four days, but there are more to come. Drop by and like the Go Fug Yourself page if you want to see the even more detailed albums.
– We posted photos on our personal Instagrams, which are hcocks and msmorganzola. (We also have an account as fuggirls, which you’re welcome to follow, but right now you’re only likely to get regrams of our personal stuff.)
– We used Snapchat (user name: fuggirls) as a way to document the trip with video. Our grand plan was to save them and upload them to our YouTube page (which currently only houses Fug Madness stuff), but all the video portions are uploading as scrambled grey boxes.WHY GOD. If we can figure it out, we’ll upload them later and share the links in Fugs & Pieces. Y’all missed some seriously nerdy, occasionally tipsy nonsense. Like me bursting through a giant tassel. [Also, we’re still active on Snapchat. Obviously that will always be more interesting to you if one of us is traveling, but join us there anyway; in the meantime you can see such luminous sights as horrifying celebrity face-swaps, my curly-hair bedhead, or the beans dancing around singing about cheese. True story. It happened.]
– We also covered a bit of our trip previously when we showed you all the many places The Royal We ended up. (Including on the lap of a Lego QE2.)
Here’s the detailed rundown of where we went, and how:
OH AND ALSO: When you’re traveling at these places, check for “Free Palace WiFi,” or the like. Hampton Court, Kensington Palace, and Windsor all had it, as did the Royal Yacht. You might have to enter an email address, but you can uncheck the “send me stuff” boxes and it’s worth it to save on data roaming. THANK YOU, Free Palace Wifi, you spicy little hero. (Come to think of it, the V&A also had free WiFi, so… just check everywhere. The UK tourist spots have GOT YOUR BACKS.)
Palaces and Exhibits
Hampton Court (@hrp_palaces): This is an absurdly easy 45-minute train ride from London, leaving from Waterloo Station. Hampton Court is the terminus, so you can’t miss it, and the palace is about a five-minute straight shot over a bridge from the station (again, you cannot go wrong)(well, you could, I suppose, but it would require some effort). We spent five hours here; the palace tour itself isn’t terribly long, but the gardens are a treat, we had dynamite cheese-and-Branston pickle sandwiches (and Roast Ox crisps) at the cafe, and the gardens are WELL worth a wander. The Duchess of Cambridge recently opened a big expansion thereof, and also: HEDGE MAZE. Our Snapchat took you on a spin through that as well. Also we roasted actual meat on a spit in the kitchen.
Windsor Castle (@britishmonarchy): This is another easy train ride from London, and you MUST GO. It’s worth it. Windsor dates back to William the Conqueror and is the oldest working castle in existence, as well as the home to St. George’s Chapel, aka the final resting place of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, and George VI and the Queen Mum and Princess Margaret (they’re all together). It’s about 45 minutes to Windsor and Eton Central from Paddington with a change at Slough (that station is so tiny that you will not be confused by this). There’s a direct train that leaves from Waterloo, but it’s longer AND puts you out at Eton. Although it’s fun to enter Windsor by crossing the bridge, as Wills and Harry and their ilk would have, I prefer coming out of the station parade and having the castle just be right there in front of me, all CLICK-BOOM. And also, check before you go and try to pre-book the kitchen tour, which is a timed entry, if they’re doing it (it’s not always an option). It’s fascinating and will walk you through some of the parts they discovered when clearing and repairing the fire damage. They are going to renovate that part of the castle soon to include a cafe, though, so I don’t know what effect that’ll have on the kitchen tour.
Kensington Palace houses exhibits about Victoria and Albert, William and Mary, and George I, in addition to the Fashion Reigns exhibit. It’s easily reachable by Tube and by foot, and you can frolic around Kensington Gardens in the hope that the royal nanny might drift past with a pram or two.
Holyroodhouse: Edinburgh is about a four and a half hour train trip from London, via King’s Cross Station, and is itself an eminently walkable city. Holyrood is the opposite end of the Royal Mile from Edinburgh castle; we caught an early train and were at Holyroodhouse by 1:45 p.m. The “Fashioning a Reign” exhibit runs there through September, I believe, and we loved it.
The Royal Yacht Britannia (@BritanniaYacht): This is a cab ride from wherever you might be staying in Edinburgh, but a brief one. (We had a little trouble getting one back, but it ended up okay — while walking toward the Holiday Inn, which we knew would help us call one, a cab passed by and dropped someone off. We caught it on the flip side. HIGH FIVE.) There is also a tea room here. It’s cool to see that the floating palace wasn’t as opulent as the ones on the ground, although it’s still enormous.
Cheval Three Quays (@Cheval_London): Newer apart-hotel designed for short stays (or long ones, if you like), but with stocked kitchenettes. There is also a bakery, a Pret-a-Manger, and a Starbucks right outside. I mean, these things are important. It’s also right next door to the Tower of London, in case you want to visit/toss someone in.
Cheval Thorney Court: This one has a more residential feel, opposite Kensington Gardens and the Palace.
The Balmoral (@The_Balmoral): Across the bridge from the Royal Mile, and blessed with two good restaurants and a gorgeous tea room. It’s also right near a strip of bars and pubs (Rose Street) and shopping (George Street), which made for a really pleasant amble around the city after-hours.
St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel London (@StPancrasRen): The highest ceilings ever. And when we checked in, our room had a trio of chocolate-creme eclairs whose frosting was etched with the image of the Houses of Parliament. Our room also overlooked the train station.
It’s amazing that it wasn’t noisy, and honestly, I felt like a five-year old boy in there; I could have sat by the window and watched the trains all day.
This is the SPECTACULAR staircase at the @stpancrasren. From the top, it looks like a kaleidoscope, almost. (Also the site of the Wannabe video so extra precious to me.) @lovegreatbritain A photo posted by Jessica Morgan (@msmorganzola) on
Brit Movie Tours (@BritMovieTours): They do all KINDS of them; ours was a general sampling of movie locations, but our guide was off to do the Made in Chelsea one after he left us. And there is one tour that’s ALL Sherlock. They also do a Downton tour (our guide told us that he’s there so often for that one that they’ve [jokingly][maybe] offered him a cottage on the grounds).
Rabbie’s Trail Burners (@Rabbies_Travel): These tours leave from a cafe right next to The Balmoral; they run tours to Loch Ness and Loch Lomand and the like, as well as the one we took to St. Andrews and the fishing villages and Falkland Palace.
Places We Ate and Drank Things:
The Guildford Arms: This is a gorgeous pub en route to Rose Street from The Balmoral in Edinburgh. We had great sandwiches there. Also beer. And SANDWICHES.
The Duck and Rice (@theduckandrice), on Berwick St. We went here just after I got my hair dyed a fiery red/orange at Bleach London (@BleachLondon), which was the only color they could do on me WITHOUT actually bleaching my hair. The Bleach London stop was on our itinerary to give us a fashion-and-beauty break from walking and sightseeing. It ended up being totally fun.
The dye washed out in about twelve shampoos, slowly and naturally, without any weird phase in between. I brought home a couple bottles. They don’t ship internationally, so I have to ration them carefully. WHY GOD.
The Booking Office, the restaurant in the St. Pancras Renaissance (get the club sandwich) (or the burger) (also some wine). It’s beautiful.
The Goring (@TheGoring), which I BELIEVE sometimes also does tours of the Royal Suite? Don’t quote me on that. Also, right outside the dining room is a mural on which Kate painted the finishing touches while pregnant, and the bar there looks FANTASTIC.
Pret-a-Portea at The Berkeley (@TheBerkeley), which was not in their usual tea room due to some ongoing renovations, but was a GREAT example of a lively, nontraditional tea.
The Witchery at the Castle (@TheWitcheryEdin). If we ever have an event to throw in Scotland, we would throw it there.
Hadrian’s, which is a brasserie at The Balmoral. There is also a Michelin-starred restaurant there. And you’d think it’d be daunting to be The One That Doesn’t Have The Fancy Michelin Star, and yet Hadrian’s takes as much care as if they do. It was really, truly, utterly delicious. One of my favorite meals.
Other Odds and Ends:
The Shard (@TheShardLondon): An alternative to the London Eye for sweeping city views. We went during sunset, and I think that slightly obscured Parliament and Big Ben; we could JUST see the Eye, but not the rest. Just something to bear in mind. That didn’t bother me, but you know. I’m trying to be an Informative Caption.
Churchill War Rooms: Treat yourselves. It’s wonderful.
The V&A: The special timed-entry exhibit right now is a history of undercrackers. You don’t need to see that in order to enjoy the V&A, though, which is magnificent all around.
Buckingham Palace: It opens up during the summer, when the Queen alights for Balmoral, and sometimes in December and January if she stays longer up at Sandringham. We HIGHLY recommend buying an advance ticket to tour it, if you’re planning to go to England, because the rooms — which feature prominently in the second part of The Royal We — are grand and tour ends with Champagne. Also, as we’ve noted before, this summer it will be home to a sweeping, 100-dress version of the “Fashioning a Reign” exhibit we saw at Holyroodhouse and we need y’all to tell us how that goes. BE OUR INFORMATIVE CAPTIONS, FUG NATIONALS.