Anne purchased Craig Taylor’s book, Londoners: The Days and Nights of London Now- as Told by Those who Love it, Hate it, Live it, Left it, and Long for it, as a gift for me as I start this journey across the pond. In the author’s introduction, he cites another booklet, the London A-Z atlas as an “essential companion to the city.” It is basically an atlas bound with plastic rings, designed around the same time as the Tube map in the 1930’s.
Though we were not using London A-Z or Londoners as a guide for this trip, Anne and I had some A-Z adventures of our own. She really helped me create some fun tourist itineraries for future guests. At the end of this post, I’ve included a chronological outline for each day.
Anne takes London by storm with her e-travel book and her international data plan.
Borough Market: This gourmet farmers’ market is a must see/must eat on your list! The vendors are just amazing and you could wander for hours through the stalls eating devilish chocolates, goat kebabs, and cheeses of all sorts and smells. If you go on a Saturday, be prepared to brave the crowds, but that is sorta part of the experience.
Crescent and Circus: The Royal Crescent and the Circus are both beautifully designed bath-stone houses in the city of Bath. They are examples of Georgian architecture, a period with four kings all named George. The homes are near the Roman baths, and are frequented or owned by the rich and famous Brits that vacation in the countryside.
Diana and Anne: We couldn’t resist this shot outside of a cafe that was dedicated to Princess Di (in Notting Hill).
Enthusiasm for Art: We basically hit up a museum each day (minus our one day in the countryside). We were excited to find out that many of the museums in London are free. This means that you can spend as little as an hour or as long as half a day in the museum, meeting the needs of any visitor. (Note: You do have to pay to enter the special exhibitions at each museum).
Fortnum and Mason: A luxurious tea haven and shop for English delicacies. The first level is full of chocolates and delicious teas. The second floor focuses on home goods, and perfumes. The lowest level is a deli and gourmet shop that offers reduced price treats around 7pm. We couldn’t believe our luck and picked up bread, salads, and hummus for dinner. PS: The F&M branding color is almost identical to that of Tiffany’s, which we determined must be the color of the rich!!
Globe Theater: Though we didn’t end up taking a tour, the Globe looks like a great spot for theater and Shakespearean lovers. It is right along the Thames, and I can’t wait to return to see an open-air show.
High Tea: A trip to London isn’t complete without a fancy afternoon with Prosecco, tea, scones with clotted cream, and small rectangular sandwiches. We were at the Academy hotel, a small spot in Bloomsbury, where a groupon deal made our day! Then we completed a short walking tour through “Bookish Bloomsbury“.
Islington: Just can’t get enough of wandering around my neighborhood. Here is a random corridor with weeping willows just off of Essex street.
Jars: This ode to jars of honey, marmalade, and teas is just another reason to make Fortnum and Mason part of your visit. I purchased Treacle and Butter toffees while Anne created a gift basket of crumpets, jam and tea for her mom’s birthday present.
Kensington Palace and Garden: We weren’t exactly sure what we were looking for in Kensington, but quickly found the Sunken Gardens of Victoria’s childhood. We also noted the number of ambassadors and government officials that seem to have homes in this area. The palace and gardens are basically attached to Hyde Park and you can get lost in these green wonderlands in the middle of the city.
Looking Regal: Taking a break with this Leo behind the British Museum in Bloomsbury.
Modern Art: Being at the Tate was so much fun. We couldn’t believe that you could see Kandinsky and Miro for free. Next on my list is to visit the Tate Britain.
Notting Hill: Though we didn’t spend too much time here, we did learn that Portobello Road is the home to a wonderful cocktail spot called “Trailer Happiness“, owned by a friend of Asiya’s, my girl from KIPP! We also had local pub fare at a spot called The Champion. The mushy peas hit the spot.
Ottolenghi: I still can’t believe that Yotam Ottolenghi, a top notch chef and restaurant owner in London, has a place in my neighborhood. It’s going to be so tempting not to eat there weekly! You should also know that my mom purchased three of his cookbooks so far! Yes, we can go if you visit- I can assure you that I won’t tire of the food.
Proper Cider Tasting: While in Bath, we had to indulge in a bit of cider since this part of the country, Somerset, is known for it. I believe I’m still more fond of beer, but the Thrasher’s Gold was the best of the six, followed by the barrel marked “Proper Cider”, made just three miles from the Bath pub.
Queen’s River Walk: This walk along the Thames was such a mix of old buildings across the river, and the modern glass architecture of city hall and its surrounding businesses. Along this walk, we also came upon the Riviera, a little pop up bar complete with tiki torches, lounge chairs, and a fake crocodile. Check out the croc’s biggest fan below.
Roman Baths: The Roman baths are known for their healing powers, not just while bathing, but also when drinking the metallic-tasting mineral water. The Romans were incredibly fit and healthy, and the English associated this with drinking the mineral water from the town’s main square. Legend has it that some English medical professionals caught wind of the “magical” mineral water and set up shop in Bath, offering prescriptions to visiting aristocrats from Britain for a minimal fee. Each day, one was supposed to drink a prescribed amount from the fountain in the town square. Doing this, meant rich visitors would stay in Bath for much of the year to follow the doctor’s orders. Though the prescriptions were bollix, the rich ended up spending so much money in this location that it is still known as a very wealthy area to vacation in the countryside.
Shard at sunset: I caught the sun just as it was setting along side the Shard, and iconic building that is home to businesses, retail shops, and apartments. The lamp post is actually holding the setting sun!
Tower Bridge and Tower of London: The Tower Bridge is a much more iconic structure when compared to the London Bridge…so much so that many visitors often mistake the Tower Bridge for the London Bridge. The Tower of London is right across from the bridge and one can see the crown jewels and Beefeater armor within.
Umbrellas on a rainy day: I believe I’ve already said this, but the rainy London weather is still pretty romantic to me as I tootle around the city. It feels like autumn here pretty much all the time, and the rain, at this point, is more picturesque than bothersome for me. Of course, Corey’s local friends assure me that I will get over this feeling soon!
Victoria and Albert Museum: This is my favorite museum….so far! This museum is home to crafts, sculpture, fashion and fabrics from around the world. We also learned that Queen Victoria, known as the grandmother of Europe, was in such severe mourning after losing Albert that she asked that many of the city’s features be painted black, which is why cabs are called black cars (though many of them come in a variety of colors now), and why many public rails and fences are also painted black. The museum itself is beautifully decorated, and not painted black, but I thought this was an interesting historical anecdote.
World Cup (Rubgy): London is hosting the Rugby World Cup this year, but England had an early and unexpected loss early on in their pool. This prompted 20% off sales of much of the English rugby gear, including the rugby-themed ales in local pubs. How could I say no to having a pint in support of local fans?
X marks the spot? X as a variable? Ok, you probably started reading this blog being skeptical about my ability to use every single letter in the alphabet, especially towards the end. I totally get that. I may be going out on a limb here, but I thought that it was pretty interesting to visit Stonehenge, and learn that it is such a mysterious landmark- so many variables that historians are sifting through when it comes to why this structure was built and and how this structure was used. Yes, I tried using ‘x’ for variables in Stonehenge….just look at the pictures now.
You are here: Though Anne had her electronic guide book, I definitely never tire of a good old fashioned paper map to get around the city. Though Anne was right that her e-guidebook was definitely less conspicuous.
Beyond Z: Here’s a list of the fun pitstops that didn’t exactly fit into the “Anne to Z” structure but that still needed to be listed since they were such a fun part of this trip. Check the captions for this one.
Day 1 Itinerary (Friday night)
- Unpack and get some laundry done
- Anne makes Spanish appetizers with jamon iberica, goat cheese, and figs
- Eat at Ottolenghi (only a 7 min walk from my apartment)
Day 2 Itinerary (Saturday)
- Breakfast croissant at Appestat (in our ‘hood)
- Tate Modern
- Borough Market for lunch
- Queen’s River Walk along the Thames
- Tower Bridge and Tower of London
- Drinks at The Folly
- Dinner at Lahore (Pakistani food) BYOB
Day 3 Itinerary (Sunday)
- Sleep in
- Breakfast at Elk in the Woods
- Walk through Hyde Park
- Kensington Palace and Gardens
- Dinner at The Champion in Notting Hill
Day 4 Itinerary (Monday)
- Coffee at Coffeeworks (in our ‘hood)
- British Museum
- High Tea at the Academy Hotel
- Bookish Bloomsbury walk
- Walk through Picadilly Circus to Fortnum & Mason
- Dinner at Cay Tre in Soho
Day 5 Itinerary (Tuesday)
- Meet at Gloucester Station
- London Coach Tour to Stonehenge (another Groupon purchase)
- Lunch and Sites at Bath (The Crescent and The Circus)
- Dinner at home with Fortnum and Mason reduced deli treats and vino
Day 6 Itinerary (Wednesday 1/2 day)
- Victoria and Albert Museum (Fabrics of India exhibition)
- Lunch at the V&A cafe
- Head back to pack bags and head for the airport
Shoutout to Anne for being such a wonderful travel partner while I try to get familiar with a new city. This post is completely dedicated to you, if you couldn’t tell.
Shoutout to Corey’s week long return to the east coast- the kid lives and breathes ‘work hard, play hard’. So excited about the work he put in at his business meetings, and then so sweet to see him celebrating with his friends and family.
Shoutout to Miya and Jose for their anniversary this week!
Shoutout to my dad for his Teacher of the Year nomination, gracious speech, and inspiring teaching video. While he didn’t win, a nomination like this at the end of one’s career is a very big deal and I am so, so proud of him.