Travel Diaries: When Polly went to London

This February, I took my boyfriend to London for a surprise birthday trip. It was our first weekend away together so I wanted to make it special.

When we went:

Saturday, 4 – Sunday, 5 February.

It was a birthday treat for us both as I bought all the tickets as his birthday present, and we went the weekend before my birthday. Even though that was three weeks after his birthday, I didn’t want to say ‘oh pack your bags, we’re going this weekend’, and I wanted to make sure he could get it off work beforehand without making it too suspicious.

How we got there:

We went on the train from Swindon to Paddington.

Where we stayed:

We stayed at 4* hotel, Corus Hotel, located opposite Hyde Park.

This would normally be way out of our budget, but thanks to Wowcher, we got a deal on it with SeaLife tickets included. The hotel was perfectly positioned as it was a 2-minute walk to the closest Underground station (Lancaster Gate) and right in the middle of everything. We didn’t spend much time there, but the time we did spend was very comfortable with friendly staff.

What we did:

Our first activity was SeaLife at County Hall, Westminster Bridge. I bought the tickets for my boyfriend to enjoy, but I was surprised at how much I loved it too. There were fish and sea life from all different habitats, from the rivers to the sea. When we went, they were in the midst of opening a new jellyfish exhibit, so it should be even better soon.

Our second day was more productive. First, we went to ZSL London Zoo. It was much bigger than I expected it to be, but with the bird flu scare and it being the middle of winter, a lot of the animals were inside. We spent about five hours there so it was a good job we’d had a big breakfast because we missed lunch! The different exhibits were spread around a bit so we walked round a bit of a squiggly way, but we managed to see all the animals and even the bugs. Even if I did refuse to go in the walk-in spider bit and made my boyfriend go in alone!

Then we spent the rest of the day shopping. We went to M&M World and filled a cup with expensive M&M’s as an early birthday present. This shop isn’t one to be missed even if you don’t buy anything because, as soon as you get to the door, you can just smell the chocolate. When I found out my boyfriend had never heard of Hamley’s, I just had to take him. Seven floors of toys and games is an amazing place to shop, even for 20-year-olds. Finally, we had a quick trip round Harrods before it closed and we had to go catch our train. We managed a few floors but have pledged to come back next time we go.

Where we ate:

Last time we went to London with my family, we found a Snog Frozen Yoghurt shop in Leicester Square. So, after SeaLife, we went looking. But we got a bit lost. Turns out, we had walked in a circle around the street, through Chinatown twice, and walked straight past the shop without seeing it. But when we got there, it was definitely worth it and went back the next day.

On our first night, we had trouble deciding where to eat but we finally decided on Planet Hollywood. We knew that the food there is great quality, with a fun atmosphere and prices that aren’t going to empty our pockets. Because we turned up at 7 pm, we were sure we’d have to wait ages for a table, but surprisingly, we managed to get one as soon as we turned up.

Pizza Express was a bit of a rush decision. We were both exhausted and needed somewhere close by to eat. As we were in Piccadilly, we knew there were a lot of restaurants around but the closest to us was Pizza Express. It was great to finally have a sit-down and relax after walking around the zoo and shops all day.


  • Know where you’re going and how to get there BEFORE leaving.
  • Search online for deals on attractions; they can be very expensive.
  • Reserve seats on the train; we had to stand for half an hour because there were none until the next stop.
  • Be prepared for Underground repairs and engineering works.

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