A historic time in London (plus an epic stopover in Iceland)

On Thursday September 8th 2022, Buckingham Palace announced via BBC that Queen Elizabeth II had passed away at the age of 96, ending a reign of 70 years and 214 days — the longest of any British monarch. As fate would have it, this announcement preceded our departure to London by about 24 hours, so we ended up on a visit to the United Kingdom during extraordinary times.

Mr. Chuckles and I sure seem to have bizarre luck with our travel timing. Mr. Chuckles was in Cuba in 2016 when Fidel Castro died, and we returned from our trip to Cambodia and Vietnam in the nick of time before the Covid-19 pandemic was declared in March 2020. Our trip to London makes it the third time between the both of us that we’ve been abroad during major historic events!

So how did the Queen’s death impact our travel plans?

We had a lengthy bucket list of things we wanted to do, see, and eat during our visit to London, and at the top was a tour of Buckingham Palace and attending an Arsenal match at Emirates Stadium. Well, both of these were quickly removed from our list. The palace was immediately closed to visitors upon news of the Queen’s death and we couldn’t even get within viewing distance of the gates during our week in London on account of the massive crowds.

Back in 2017, I was able to get right up to the Buckingham Palace gates.

This time around, we got as close as The Mall, about a half mile away from the gates, giving us only a microscopic glimpse of Victoria Memorial.

As for the Arsenal match, we had actually managed to obtain tickets for both the Arsenal v. Everton fixture on Sunday September 11 and the Europa League fixture against PSV Eindhoven on Thursday September 15 — after much effort in navigating the complicated ticket purchase process. We bought the Everton tickets via official reseller P1 Travel (translation: $$$) but the match was promptly cancelled. Word to the wise, P1 has not been accommodating with refund requests, so I would forewarn anyone thinking of using them. I was able to procure cheap seats for the PSV Eindhoven match via Arsenal directly, and at first it looked like this match would go ahead so we were quite excited. Lo and behold, we received news about its cancellation once we arrived in London. Fortunately, I was able to refund these tickets easily through Arsenal Fan Services.

Missing the Arsenal game was a huge disappointment to Mr. Chuckles, who has been a diehard fan for decades. If the Everton match gets rescheduled to spring 2023, we may consider a return to London to make use of those expensive tickets. King Charles better stay healthy until then!

Although we missed out on a couple activities, it was a special experience to be in the United Kingdom during this moment in history. We were able to witness events that we will not see again in our lifetime and it sure makes for some interesting travel stories to share.

Travelling abroad (post) Covid

This was our first international trip since the start of the pandemic. Having received four vaccine doses by now, I wasn’t too worried and in fact, Covid seems to be “over” in much of Europe. There are no testing, quarantine, or even masking requirements anywhere and very little talk of Covid at all.

With my guard down, of course I ended up sick! Shortly after landing in London, I developed the ominous sensation of a scratchy throat and this evolved into fatigue and a hacking cough over the next 24 hours, taking the better part of the week to recover. Fortunately, Mr. Chuckles never caught what I had. I never ended up taking a test so I don’t know if it was the dreaded C-virus, but at least I was feeling back to normal by the time we moved onto Iceland.

Feeling under the weather was an annoyance, but I was more concerned about potentially dealing with massive airport delays, what with all the news about travel nightmares recently. Luckily, our transit went very smoothly on all legs of the trip. I ended up having to check my luggage on the way home (Icelandair has very small carry-on baggage restrictions) and I was pleasantly surprised to find my suitcase already on the carousel when I arrived at baggage claim in Toronto Pearson. That’s a first!

Our London and Iceland itinerary

Despite our disappointments and some hiccups, we did still manage to do and see a lot during our time in London and Iceland.


Day 1

Arrival in London. Lunch at Borough Market. Walk along the South Bank and explore Covent Garden.

Day 2

Breakfast at Sky Garden. Visit to Tower of London and walk across Tower Bridge. Attend evensong service at Westminster Abbey. Sunday roast dinner at Blacklock.

Day 3

Attempt to see Buckingham Palace (failed). Paid respects to the Queen at her floral tributes in Green Park. Afternoon tea at sketch Gallery. Tour of Churchill War Rooms. Dinner at Brat Restaurant.

Day 4

Rabbie’s day tour to Oxford and traditional Cotswolds villages. Dinner at Lima London.

Day 5

Breakfast at Dishoom. Walk across Westminster Bridge for attempt to see Queen’s procession to Westminster Hall (failed). Visit to Tate Modern. Dinner at Seabird Restaurant. Watched Witness for the Prosecution at County Hall.

Day 6

Morning at Portobello Road Market in Notting Hill. Lunch at Ottolenghi. Visit to Kew Gardens in afternoon. Stop at Paddington Station to see the Paddington Bear statue. Dinner at Dishoom.

Day 7

Arrival in Reykjavik, Iceland. Walk around downtown Reykjavik. Dinner at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur for Icelandic hot dogs. Evening on Northern lights tour (failed).

Day 8

Arctic Adventures tour to Golden Circle and Secret Lagoon. Dinner at Bæjarins Beztu Pylsur again for more hot dogs. Stroll on Reykjavik Sculpture and Shore walk.

Day 9

Arctic Adventures tour to south shore. Evening at Sky Lagoon.

Day 10

Spa day at Blue Lagoon. Departure to Toronto.


Look out for my upcoming blog series with more detailed recaps of our trip to London and Iceland. I have lots to share, but for now I need to catch up on the work and emails that accumulated while I was away…

24 responses to “A historic time in London (plus an epic stopover in Iceland)”

  1. When I heard the news of the Queen’s death I remembered that you were travelling and wondered if you were there. Unfortunate timing. It was an extraordinary time in England but I’m glad you managed to get some sight seeing. Getting sick was a bummer though!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, what a crazy coincidence and turn of events to be there at that time!

      Like

  2. Sounds like a pretty memorable trip so far. I look forward to hearing about it more. Cant imagine how surreal being in London during this time must have been. Also this post made me realize I am three or four posts behind. Take care!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. It was certainly very memorable. Looking forward to reading more posts from you once you get caught up!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. […] in Reykjavik and tiny preview of Iceland before travelling onward into London. As I mentioned in my last post, I had some concerns about being caught up in a flight delay, but everything went smoothly as […]

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  4. Despite the hiccups, sounds like a wonderful trip, and to be there during this momentous time – how amazing. Looking forward to the more detailed write-ups!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Oh, and we were able to get a refund on our cancelled Arsenal game tickets via our travel insurance, even though they initially said they didn’t cover sporting events (and I was like, “Why? You cover other ticketed tours, so why not sporting events?”). Anyway, they refunded us, so maybe you’ll have success going that route.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I wonder if this would qualify for an insurance claim or is it considered an “act of God”?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hmm, not sure how they would classify that once-in-70-years game-cancelling circumstance. Even still, I was told they wouldn’t reimburse us, but I submitted it anyway and they did, to the tune of several hundred dollars. One takeaway from my insurance claim after the disastrous UK Christmas trip was to claim everything, because the worst they can do is say no and they just might surprise you in a good way.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. There is a lot to come on your blog, I’m glad you have so much to say and to show.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. You’ve definitely had quite the timing during your past few travels over the years– this time in London was no exception! Despite a few disappointments (Buckingham Palace, the Arsenal match), it sounds like you still had a fun time in town. And I hope that cough and fatigue wasn’t COVID! Looking forward to your posts from your trip this September. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It may very well have been Covid but I will never know for sure, I suppose. I’m just glad I had recovered before we got to Iceland for the more active portion of our trip.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. What a time to be in London! That is a bummer about the soccer tickets, I hope you get to go eventually. Looking forward to reading more about your trip 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yup, we may just have to go back to London in the spring if the timing is right!

      Like

  9. Both positives and negatives about the timing of your trip to London. Sad that you couldn’t do some of the things that you were really looking forward to, but my goodness what an experience to be there during such a tender and significant time in the country. Looking forward to reading more about your trip!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was a memorable trip in spite of missing out on a few things. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. It must have been so strange to be in the UK right after the Queen passed. It’s too bad that you had to change some of your plans, but as you said, you got to experience other unique events. Looking forward to hearing more about your trip recap.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It was an unexpected turn of events for our travel plans but definitely a memorable experience. Thanks for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Urgh I’m so sorry they didn’t refund you the Everton tickets, and I hope you can come back for that 🙂 Your itinerary looks awesome and can’t wait to follow along.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s the perfect excuse to come back to London. I’m kind of hoping that they will reschedule it for the spring so I have another trip to plan in a few months. 😉

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  12. jasonlikestotravel Avatar
    jasonlikestotravel

    Such a shame ( 😉 ) that you missed out on going to the Arsenal games, hopefully you’ll be able to come back and see them.
    I’m glad you got to experience England at such an interesting time though!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Maybe we will be back someday to see Arsenal play Tottenham 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  13. […] were able to go on two trips this year, out west to British Columbia in the summer and then to the United Kingdom and Iceland in the fall. In my original plans, I had considered a sun vacation in the winter but we’ve […]

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