London was a city that I both loved and hated. Things like riding the tube from Heathrow to central London lugging suitcases to save a few bucks: hated. Shopping and trying out bakeries and restaurants around town: loved! We stopped over in London both on the way to Scandinavia and on the way back home. Our first few days in London were a shock to the system in terms of cold and prices (Rands to Pounds is not a nice conversion to make!). In retrospect it was a really good adjustment to the cold and prices of Scandinavia! Our first port of call in London, literally as soon as we had dropped our luggage at our accommodation, was to find clothes for winter weather. South Africa does not get winter like those parts of the world: next week will mark the official start of winter and it’s about 20C as I write. Heading into the cold of Scandinavia, we needed to be properly prepared! Not to mention the cold London weather; below is a picture of what the London weather was like for most of our time there. My bucket list for London included:
- catch up with a few friends and my brother
- eat at one nice restaurant (like a fancy one that we can’t really afford)
- have a pint at a real English pub
- eat a Hummingbird Bakery cupcake and visit as many other bakeries as we could manage
- see a West End show
In the short four days we were there we managed to tick of almost my entire bucket list, do a bunch of touristy stuff and fit in some solid shopping. We didn’t see a West End show, mainly because we didn’t plan far enough in advance to book one we wanted to see. Our second day in London started bright and very chilly outside Madame Tussauds. We were lucky not to find much of a queue at all, although we did arrive over half an hour before it opened. The wax figurines were impressive, but I had way more fun watching the people with and around the figurines: teenage girls preening and primping for photo’s with wax One Direction, mimicking Beyonce and guys imitating their favourite sport stars.
I also got a picture of my ET, with the wax one! That afternoon we went on a Red Bus tour. We got to see quite a bit of London before the cold and rain became unbearable and we ran to the closest Starbucks to drown in some hot chocolate. I would definitely recommend the tour, but saving it for a day with better weather.
The restaurant we chose for our fancy meal was Pieds Nus, owned by the same guy as Pieds a Terre and L’Autre Pieds (both Michelin starred restaurants). Pieds Nus is a pop-up restaurant that moves around London dependent on the availability of a suitable venue. More on this in next week’s post. One of the things I was most excited about going to London for was seeing a friend who I have known for over twenty years (I feel old making that statement) and hadn’t seen in about ten. I convinced her and her fiancée to do some London touring and cake eating with us. In one day, we managed to see the Camden Market, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Hummingbird Bakery, L’Eto Cafe and a real English pub (well and Irish pub in London)!
Camden Market is an amazing place. The combination of weird (clothing example below) and wonderful (doughnut stand below) all in one place is definitely worth seeing! Although I still regret not buying a pair of these: Next stop for the day were Hummingbird Bakery and L’Eto Cafe. If you’re looking for some real indulgence, or are short on time like we were, head to SoHo where they are right next to each other! You can read more on the bakery experiences in this post (not to be missed). From there we went on a whirlwind of tourist activities, starting with Buckingham Palace. I found this a major let down! That being said, it was definitely one of those “things you have to do” and the walk there was beautiful! We also made our way over to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. By the time we found our way to Waxy O’Connors, we were very excited to give our feet a well deserved rest. The pubs in London are abundant, many with their own quirks, funny names and special factors. Waxy O’Connors is an Irish pub that is below street level. You enter through an unassuming door, down a set of stairs into an amazing underground pub. There are tons of different rooms, each more amazing than the next. Carved wooden sculptures and old stone walls characterise the inside of this pub. And although I didn’t quite have a pint, I did have a beer 🙂