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.
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. The British museum was next on the list, the museum houses a vast collection of world art and artifacts and is free entry. You can easily spend anywhere between an hour to a whole day here, depending on your interest level.
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.
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!
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.
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
This time of the year is all good old-fashioned english tradition. and it doesn't get much better than the superbly evocative Hazlett's hotel(hazlettshotel.com). Named after prolific essayist Willian Hazlitt, who lived here in the 18th century , it occupies three historic house just off Soho Square.
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).
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. 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.
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.
Saint James Park
/ Green ParkBoth these parks are near Buckingham Palace and have some kind of a royal feel about them. St James is very well landscaped even though its so small. Even then it has a canal, lots of colourful flowers in spring and walking paths along the way. Green Park is more of the sitting outside in the green variety.
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.
Changing of the Horse Guards
Day 1 - Part of the London Walks "Westminster" walking tour, which lasted a couple of hours and took us all around the Westminster area - from the Houses of Parliament, along Westminster Abbey, through St.James' Park and all the way upto the palace. The merry music and the regal ceremony brought to life one word that had stuck in my head ever since I saw the Big Ben the previous evening – regal. Oh and the Queen was in town (we saw the Queen’s flag atop the Buckingham Palace).
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..