The London Eye
One of London's most famous landmarks, and a once in a lifetime experience-but not worth trying more than once. However, the views are amazing-especially when the weather is clear and beautiful. I was lucky to go for it during London's heatwave, which meant perfect weather.
Buckingham Palace is the residence of the Queen of England. No matter what time of the day you show up at the palace gates, it will be packed. Although the iron gates always stay bolted shut, a glimpse at the Queen's residence is enough to have you gaping. Plus, the change of guard is something worth checking out, though I'm not too sure of the exact time of day it happens.
From here, you can end off your day by walking down to Trafalgar square before the sun sets during the winter days. It's a public square with Nelson's column in the centre, and surrounded by four lion statues on the four corners; often used for demonstrations, celebrations (e.g. St Patrick's day celebrations!) or community gatherings. Loving the purplish pink gradients which adorned the sky, looking back it looks extremely surreal.
More bling?! Bring it on! I walked (as slowly as is possible in an “I’m in a hurry to catch the show” crowd) through Piccadilly Circus and the West End through Leicester Square to Covent Garden, taking a peek at the Royal Opera House around the corner. The jewel I found was a chain cafe Pret-a-Manger – it caught me eye previously and I tried it for dinner today. Something about this place and their values is so endearing in this glitzy corner of the city.
I walked all the way from the British Museum to the end of Oxford Street. soaking in the shoppers paradise and Christmas lights. Selfridges looks more like a palace than a department store! I did walk back to find a waffle guy, about five hours on foot justified a nutella waffle – yum!
Harrods is an upmarket department store located on Brompton Road. A quick stole to indulge in the luxury. This store also houses the Godiva chocolates (Godiva is a manufacturer of premium chocolates) A hot chocolate here could be worthy.Don't miss to take a picture with the Harrods Bear.
Lord's Cricket Ground
Day 4 in London: I'm a big cricket fan and if you're cricket fan in England, there's one place you just cannot miss. The Mecca for all cricket lovers; The Lords Stadium. I went in for the tour at 11 am (They have hourly tours in the morning and afternoon from 10 am - 2 pm). The tour started with the Long hall, proceeded to the players' dressing rooms & balconies, and ended in the media center. The entry fee and tour is £18/person.
I love visiting these parks. Whenever the sun is out (and sometimes when it isn't!), its a pleasure to walk around the parks, taking in all the freshness! So I thought it would be a good idea to pen down my thoughts about the ones visited in recent years. When I am in a park, I don't take many photographs, as it seems so mundane. But now when writing the blog, I realied how few pics I have of them. Still found some pics of the ones close to my house which were visited more often ;-), so at least there is something to post!
Moving on, we enter the station platform and are ready to board the train to go to Leicester Sq. With 2 big bags and 2 hand bags, it was a cakewalk to board the train; moreover it was afternoon so it wasn't rush hour. The train journey was quiet comfortable and smooth and we reached our destination in exactly 1 hour 10 minutes, at around 3 pm. We called up Sugandha after reaching the station, our friend in London and the person we are supposed to stay with for the 4 days we are in London. She came to pick us up; her office was walking distance from the station.We dropped our bags in her office and went for some coffee. Over coffee, Sugandha suggested us places we can visit over the next 3 hours in and around Leicester Sq, since after 3 hours Sugandha was supposed to get off from work and we were supposed to go to her place in Lime house (DLR Line).
Seldom do I get to drink great coffee that I can write about. Here it was at Lantana Cafe, A small yet packed cafe on Charlotte Lane, a cute little lane just a couple of turns off the busy (and ugly) Tottenham Court Road. After the first sip of my cappuccino, I wanted to kiss the barista. Ah!! Decent coffee at last. Coffee lovers will know how important this is! For brunch (as we had missed the breakfast service) I had the corn fritters with crispy bacon, fresh rocket, slow roast tomatoes, chili jam and crème fraiche (10 pounds) and added a fried egg. It was all delicious which was evident since no one said a word till the meal was over! We ended up ordering another cappuccino. Couldn't resist! The service was quite relaxed. We were greeted and seated straight away and given water promptly without asking. Other tempting menu items included grilled haloumi and roast beet-root salad (7.50 pounds), Crispy pork belly ciabatta roll with cress and chili mayo (12 pounds), smoked haddock, pea and lemon risotto (10 pounds), and Confit duck leg w/ red cabbage, fennel and raisin coleslaw (9.5 pounds).
House of Spaghetti
Back down the mountain (& through the woods……) to the Spagetti Place we go! Again with my little recommendation: Go here. It’s called House of Spagetti and it’s right in the middle Getreidegasse on the left hand side when walking towards the castle. We just so happened to stumble upon this yummy little dive because we were starving and it looked yummy. I had Gorgonzola Penne with Broccoli and Chicken. YUM-O.
As I said, I don’t believe in ghost stories, or things that hide in attics and strangle people with their octopus like tentacles. What I liked about 50 Berkeley Square, and why I decided to post about it, is that these types of stories were told and retold throughout London for hundreds of years.
Morning Champagne breakfast at the Wolseley. This cafe-restaurant has a grand and opulent setting in an impressive Grade II listed building. It’s well known for it’s breakfast and afternoon tea. Although they have tables for walk-in clientele, it’s advised to book ahead. The full english breakfast is spot on, with perfectly cooked poached egg and pork sausages, delicious.
London Gone Wild Pub Crawl
If you want to experience the central London party scene and want to meet up with lots of new people then you can just sign up for one of the pre-planned pub crawls. You can find a lot of pub crawls options online. They generally charge somewhere around £20 and take you to some 5 pubs in Central London + Soho area and you get one free complementary shot (isn't all that strong). Tip: If you book these pub crawls online then you might end up getting discount upto £5 or you can just check the start time and meeting point for these crawls online and then just show up on time and pay. I chose option 2.
Princess Diana Memorial Fountain
We wandered over the border into Hyde Park, and came across the Diana Memorial Fountain. Unlike the regal Victorian fountains we saw before, it's a simple looping stream. Constructed in 2004, it is a tribute to Princess Di's life: "water flows from the highest point in two directions as it cascades, swirls and bubbles before meeting in a calm pool at the bottom." I saw a couple of girls frolicking in the ripples and decided that they shouldn't have all the fun! I took off my shoes and waded in. The water was shockingly cold, but so satisfying to splash.
Yauatcha is not the type of Chinese restaurant where you eat duck and dumpling soup. There is quite a ceremony around each dish and every plate arriving made me more curious and excited to know what was inside! The first surprise was the Dim Sum looking like cotton balls :p Wondering what’s inside? Well, you’ll have to taste to find out. The goal of an evening at Yauatcha is to awake your senses and taste a few plates of dim sum before having the duck (which you MUST try). The price was pretty decent considering portions fill you up and service and quality or perfect and… it is a Michelin restaurant. We had 2 cocktails, 4 plates of dim sum and one duck to share and ended up with approximately £70 bill. You can chose to dine upstairs which is more casual or downstairs, which is more high-scale
Oh wow! I hadn't even said “13th century” since high school history and here I was saying it multiple times in five minutes as I looked into a tunnel of rooms with larger than life paintings, so large that I could catch my breath from three rooms away! What an absolutely beautiful collection of art. Favourite one was Da Vinci’s “Madonna of the Rocks”, which had such a calming effect on me that I stood there and stared till I had to consciously yank myself away. Favourite two was Canaletto’s riveting images of Venetian daily life, made to cater to the young “backpackers” of those days. Favourite three was Paulo Veronese’s “The Family of Darius before Alexander”, which captured the image of a kind yet powerful king for me.
ICEBAR London is right off London’s Regent Street, a stone’s throw from Picadilly Circus and home to some of the best shopping in the city. I was relieved to find it almost hidden from the hustle and bustle of the area, and not at all touristy like I expected. (I went to the Icebar in Amsterdam, and though it was fun, it was very touristy.) Walking in I was surprised to find an upscale lounge, with draping fabrics, cozy seating, and a private bar. Our event was sectioned off with a curtain, giving it the feel of a VIP room while still enjoying the energy of the room.
we walked down the Dharamkot Road towards the marketplace and chanced upon the cutest little cafe I'd seen so far in the town. The name, 'Momo Cafe', was enough for us to decide that this is where we shall sample our first of the many rounds of momos. The moment we stepped in, we knew we were at the right place. The cafe was pretty much the size of a small kitchen, dimly lit and crammed with four sets of tables and chairs, with tourists and locals happily mingling over tea and momos. The place seemed to really hit the spot with tourists especially. The table tops had glass slabs covering a display of currencies from all over the world, with little notes of appreciation scribbled across them.
Lock & Co. Hatters
Off we went next to see Lock & Co hat shop which also opened it’s doors in the 1600’s (it’s the oldest hat shop in the world) where the bowler hat was invented and where Sir Winston Churchill, Chaplin and Lord Nelson all shopped. Upstairs they have a stunning collection of hats for women. The hat boxes at Lock & Co will set you back £60, so I didn’t dare even look at the price of the hats I liked. Lock & Co’s understated Christmas window display with more stunning hats was my favorite of the day.
The Langham Hotel
Feeling fully refreshed, head for Afternoon Tea at The Langham Hotel or Claridges. At the Langham, the ‘Bijoux Afternoon Tea with Laurent-Perrier Brut’ is a must. It is inspired by the jewellery designer Theo Fennell. Think Foie gras and smoked duck with mandarin as there take on ‘finger sandwiches’ and Kentish strawberry with white balsamic macaroons as a taster for the cake selection. It’s a work of art!
Big Easy Bar BQ & Crabshack
It is located a stone throw away from Covent Garden station! You won't miss it when you arrive at Maiden Lane :) We were greeted warmly throughout our whole dining experience! The servers are all dressed in checkered shirt, a huge smile at all time! Thumbs up!! Im loving the whole concept of BE Covent Garden. This is not the only bar! The other is at the lower ground, which looks pretty cosy! Overall, it was fantastic! Great atmosphere, food and service! Thank you Big Easy for the experience of dining in.
The Berkeley Health Club & Spa
Afternoon A leisurely afternoon at the Bamford Haybarn Spa in the lovely Berkeley Hotel. I highly recommend the Bamford De-Stress Massage (55 mins £100). This was one of the best massages I’ve experienced, even after having a countless number in Thailand and Bali. After my masseuse asked me which areas I wanted her to focus on, she really took care and succeeded in releasing the tension from my shoulders and back. The cucumber water on arrival, the thick, soft, white towels on the large massage bed, the ambiatic music and dimmed lights, this all made for a very special pampering session. The design of this spa is simple, fresh and elegant. Afterwards, lounging at their impressive rooftop pool area in a thick, cosy bathrobe is a wonderful way to relax. A menu of small snacks and healthy smoothies are available to choose from, delivered right to your sunbed. Heavenly.
Little Venice is so dazzling! The bright colour of moss growing on the canal might not sound glamorous but it does look amazing. I suggest you start from Warwick Avenue tube station and walk along the canal until Paddington station. You will get to see some very quaint house boats and take some great pictures. It's not quite Venice but thumbs up for trying!Goodwins Court | Tube Station: Leicester Square
In my obsessive perusings I discovered that Peter first appeared in Barrie's little-known adult novel, The Little White Bird. His mythology began, not in Neverland, but in a place called Kensington Gardens. Barrie transformed this familiar London location into a fairy realm. Kensington Gardens has loomed large in my imagination ever since, and when I went to London on a recent trip with my family I urged them to stop by.
Sherlock Holmes Museum
If you are a fan of the detective, on another day, make a trip to where he supposedly lived. A famous address, made more famous in recent times by one Benedict Cumberbatch. Next to the Sherlock Holmes Museum is a little store that sells Beatles merchandise. Its a storehouse of gems.
As part of the Lapland in London experience we had an open bar, giving us the freedom to enjoy the venue’s incredible cocktails.After we had successfully made some kind of animal-like lump of ice, we were able to throw on a parka and experience the famed ice bar itself. The tables, bar, artwork, and even the glasses were all made of solid ice! Each person is allowed any one cocktail with admission into ICEBAR, I highly recommend the Temple of the Sun tequila ice cocktail to warm up the insides. The bar is kept at a constant -5 °C (23 °F) so it is cold, but the parka and gloves you are given keep it bearable until the end. The standard visit is 40 minutes long, which is more than enough time to enjoy a drink and enjoy the unique experience. The theme of ICEBAR changes annually; the current theme ‘Frozen Architecture’ features ice carved blueprints and cityscapes, giving it a surprisingly modern feel.
Ripley's Believe It or Not!
You must have seen it in many of the movies. There was also, the Ripley's Believe it or not building for which you had to buy tickets in case you wanted to see around. We preferred hanging around Piccadilly Circus clicking pictures and just enjoying the evening. The place was packed with people of all colour, caste and race. It was chaos, but in a good enjoyable way, not like the one we see outside VT station. We are done with our beers and hungry for food, so Alim suggested we eat in china town. We walked towards china town and were looking for a nice place to eat, we entered a restaurant and wifey was hungry for dim-sums.Unlucky that she was, the restaurant didn't serve dim-sums, so we went to a restaurant next door which did serve dim-sums, but what attracted me was the delicious buffet set up (mind it, it was delicious to the eyes, not to your stomach). After we were done with our dinner, i was fuming enough to break few glasses of the restaurant. The guys were serving tap water for 30 cents, there was a service charge on food, even though it was self service and every food item in the buffet was full of grease and soda. So even before you start eating anything, you feel full. So, bottom line "What you see, is not what you get always".Alim and supritha had to rush back home, as the next day they were shifting houses, so they had a lot of packing to do. We parted ways and we walked towards charring cross station. Every lane we walked through, every road, every pub and restaurant was buzzing with people and party goers. It was literally a scene of people partying on the streets. We lost our way to the station, but after some 30 minutes of walking we did find it.We finally reached lime house at around 11pm and were exhausted. Daniel and Sugandha had already hit the bed after dinner. Even we decided to go off to sleep. All in all it was a nice fun day.
INSIDER TIPSFinally, if you wish to move away from the magnanimous city to a quiet spot from where you can view the city in its entirety, head to the Primrose hill. If you are also in a mood for some people watching and street shopping, visit the Camden town, which is close by. Of course you can also choose to celebrate the night life here. Head to the Soho Street to take a tour of the most authentic pubs in town!
Also known as one of the best dining destinations, you can taste several cuisines starting from Mexican, French, Chinese, Italian, to Lebanese. Some of the best London restaurants includes Holy Smoke, Humble Grape, Café Loren, Seven Park Place etc. Street food should definitely not be missed. You must try the Portobello Road Market and the Real Food Market on South Bank.If you are a wine lover then you must check in the Booking Office and Champagne bars at St Pancras.For shopaholics, London is the best place to fill their shopping baskets. Some popular markets include: Borough Market for food and drink Portobello Road Market for antiques and fashion Camden Market for vintage and alternative clothes Colombia Road Flower Market.
I then ambled along to Baker Street and peeked at the hole-in-the-wall Sherlock Holmes’ museum. I used it as a shopping stop (and a loo break in an interestingly ancient loo with a candle!) and marveled at the tourist-op made out of a fictional character, albeit fantastically famous! And no, I had no intention to go into the museum and ruin what my imagination had made out of Holmes..
Berry Bros. & Rudd
The next stop was wine merchants Berry Bros. & Rudd the most fascinating shop for me. A shop owned by the same family since it opened in the 1600’s selling exotic spices, tea and coffee. Which means it has been open longer than Canada has been a country, very impressive to a Canadian. Little of this shop has changed since opening except the barest of modern essentials such as electric lights. You can see in the photo below how the original shop front has been preserved over time. The shop is very proud of it’s history and has interesting artefacts and documents from over the years on display. It was due to one these artefacts we learned how the shop’s clientele (in the 1700’s) were offered the perk of weighing themselves on the coffee scales which are on display. Berry Bros. & Rudd were suppliers to the the Titanic and they have a copy of the letter from White Star Line apologizing for the loss of 69 bottles of wine due to the sinking of the ship.Before leaving we were given a taste of King’s Ginger, a gin infused with ginger and lemon, which was formulated for King George VI in 1903 and “has been appreciated by bon viveurs, sporting gentlemen and high-spirited ladies ever since”. I can confirm it is a very nice drink on a winter’s afternoon.If you aren’t in London and would like to take a peek into this fascinating shop they have an online virtual tour here.