September 1-5, 2017
It’s been a quiet two years here on my blog but I promise that I have kept the adventures going despite my lack of writing. As I sit here and begin to put words to ‘paper’ I’m promptly taken back to my life overseas and engulfed by the comfort and familiarity of it all. In this moment, I realize that it’s rather nice to have the time (and headspace) to sit down and write again.
If you aren’t aware, I spent the last two years of my life as a graduate student at Teachers College, Columbia University in New York City; most of my waking hours were dedicated to this. I suppose I shall write about that adventure one day but in the interim, London.
This was one of those heart-filling trips you sort of knew you needed but didn’t realize how much until you were there and living it.
I took a (delayed) night flight from New York City to London over the Labor Day holiday weekend. I was going to see one of my closest WSU college friends, Erin, who had moved there a year prior with her English husband Yongho.
I exited the arrival gate at 8:00am Saturday morning and made my way to the tube (re: subway, underground, train) where I bought my Oyster card, loaded it with 10 Pounds, and boarded the Piccadilly Line to Holborn Station where I would meet Erin.
I dropped by bag nearby at the elegant Rosewood Hotel, Erin’s place of work, made a quick wardrobe change, and then we were off to explore in the beautiful sunny and 70-degree weather London so graciously provided. First, there was coffee at Fleet River Bakery, a tucked-away coffee shop on a side street behind the Rosewood.
From there we perused the West End: Covent Garden, The National Gallery, and Trafalgar Square.
From there we walked by the Horseguard to what I’ve settled on as my favorite park in London, St. James Park.
The quaintness of the park and its tree covered paths, the striped deck chairs available (for a small fee) to sit in, and the just-there views of the London Eye and The Household Cavalry Museum, pulled me in as it to say welcome.
You see, St. James Park sits between the River Thames, Westminster, Big Ben, the Horseguards, and Buckingham Palace.
From Buckingham Palace we made our way to the famous Portobello Road, a market open every day of the week and full of everything from fruit and veggies, to antiques and secondhand goods.
After browsing we made our way to The Churchill Arms for a well-earned meal. The pub’s floral arrangements and hanging baskets would have my mom smiling from ear to ear, and I’m sure also a bit envious.
We actually decided not to eat here after realizing they only served Thai food (uh what?!). Erin had sworn they had a Thai and English food menu, but nonetheless, they did not. Quite simply it is a British pub with Thai food in the back. So, we mosied on down the street to a place I could have my first ‘proper’ British meal – bangers and mash.
We sat in the back courtyard of Windsor Castle, filled our bellies, and then continued the tour onto Kensington Palace and Hyde Park.
It was a beautiful evening to walk through the garden and it was especially touching to see all of the flowers, notes of love and appreciation, for the late Princess Diana on the 20th anniversary of her passing.
We circled back to Big Ben and the London Eye as we made our way to a somewhat hidden and seemingly local hangout, the Southbank Centre Roof Garden. We drank Pimms Cups overlooking the Thames, savoring a beautiful day in London, as dusk settled over. As the lights came on in the city we weaved back over the Waterloo Bridge.
The evening ended here. After 32 hours of no sleep and 40,000+ steps, according to Erin’s Fitbit, I was ready for bed.
Day two was taken at a more leisurely pace. Gray skies returned to London as we sauntered through Columbia Road flower market, a flea market, and Brick Lane. Today, we were in East London. We spent time chocolate sampling, uncovering a hidden Community Garden, and sharing pints with my friend Victoria.
Victoria and I met when I studied abroad in Switzerland back in 2009. We’ve kept in touch over the years through a number of our mutual girlfriends. We saw each other in 2013 at our dear friend Pan’s wedding in Myanmar, in 2014 when I and one of her close friend’s (and mine) Tetyana lived in Madrid and a few times in NYC over the last two years. Sadly, (or amazingly!) we spent the whole afternoon chatting and forgot to take a single picture!
Erin and I did some more walking, making our way across London Bridge and finding our dinner spot.
I met Victoria’s fiancé Dan when we met again for dinner, a Sunday Roast at The Garrison. It was a great meal and even better company. What’s most exciting is I got to connect my friends Erin and Victoria who both work in the hospitality industry and live in London. It’s a wonderful feeling when you’re able to bring your friends together.
Erin and I stopped by her hotel for a night-cap after dinner, a Gin & Tonic of course. I’m a gin lover, and London is a ‘gin capital,’ so there was no way I was leaving London without a few G&Ts.
Though I didn’t have time this trip, my next visit will definitely include time at The Ginstitute. You get to create your own botanical blend for a personal bottle of gin. Yes, please.
On Monday, day three, Yongho got to spend the morning with Erin and I as he didn’t have work. We breakfasted and coffee-ed at Borough Market, grabbing a coffee from the famous Monmouth and Scotch eggs at one of the numerous food stalls within the market.
We crossed the Millenium Bridge to St. Paul’s Cathedral and then got the ‘must-take’ London photo: the red telephone booth.
We said bye to Yongho here and continued to window shop at Liberty, enjoy an incredibly delicious afternoon tea (and champagne) at Sketch, bespoke suit gazing along Saville Row, and a stroll through Regent’s Park.
With all the walking we did I would be remiss to not point out how cute their crosswalks, excuse me, ‘zebras’ [pronounced: zeh-brahs] are reminding you to look both ways! I found these very helpful in notifying me from which direction a car would be coming as we drive on the opposite side of the road in the U.S.
Finally, Monday evening and my last few hours in London ended in the most British of ways; with fish-n-chips and beer.
Thank you for being a great friend, wonderful host, and amazing tour guide Erin. Until next time!
I loved this post! London looks amazing, as always. I didn’t know that London was the ‘gin capital!’ Now I have to go back, even if it’s just to get a few drinks! 🙂
Thank you! Yes, it’s not the only one, and other cities/countries are starting to become known for their own gin’s, but London is definitely one of the pioneers!