Hello!!! I’m so glad to be back to the blog-life. I had been sick almost the entire time since I got back from vacation and really bad at the end of last week BUT I have so much that I want to share from the trip and I’m going to do it all in one post. We did so much more than what’s covered in this post, including a wedding for my beautiful cousin, but other than family festivities here are my favorites from my time in the UK.
1. The Borough Market
Eating under a bridge might sound shady or like code for doing drugs or something but you would be so so soooo wrong. When you are on the South Bank of London and you need a bite to eat or want to drink a fancy cider or buy all the fixings to make your own picnic then scoot your booty over to the Borough Market. It is located under the railway near the London Bridge tube stop and it is massive! It was like a farmers market on steroids. My family and I went twice and I know that we didn’t see all of it.
London’s population is quite diverse and this was easily seen in the wide selection food truck style restaurants available. Our family favorite was Pieminister. They do meat pies right! They were so good that when we went back to the South Bank for the second time, to visit the Tate Modern, my mom and Christopher went back for more meat pies. hahaha! My brother and I decided to get pad thai for our second day which was also superb.
Why I love it: It is easy on the budget, there is a huge variety of both prepared food and produce, you can make it a quick stop to grab lunch or take it easy and stroll through the stands because there is so much to see and taste. Finally, the atmosphere is so unique given its location and you can tell that locals and travelers both love this place.
2. Double Decker Bus Tour & Boat Tour
The first thing that I love to do when visiting a new area is take a tour. Going on a tour provides you with a little orientation on where you are compared to what your map says.
During our first full day in Oxford we went on a double decker bus tour which came with a headset (a very uncomfortable one) and an audio guide. I enjoyed the narration of stories and history that accompanied the sights while the wind was blowing in my hair.
In London we did the same thing, and on the first day we went on The Original Tour hop on hop off bus tour which came with a boat ride down the River Thames. That bus tour is great because it has four lines that you can ride which covers a good portion of the city and each are narrated.
Why I love it: It’s a very chill way of sight seeing and you get to ride a really iconic symbol of British culture. I loved that on some of the bus lines you have the option to listen to the audio tour so you can choose your own adventure!
3. High Tea at The Orangery
This was the highlight of highlights. Without a doubt my favorite thing about our time in London. As many of you know, I love to eat, but why I loved this so much was because of the experience. It was like having the ultimate tea party.
We had our High Tea at The Orangery which is on the grounds of the Kensington Palace. Isn’t just the idea of having tea in an actual palace enough to give you goosebumps? All the snacks were perfectly presented, delicious and all on the cutest china I’d ever seen. You couldn’t help but sit up a little bit straighter, take smaller bits, sip slowly on your tea and have a nice chat with your company. Fair warning, it’s not cheap. We paid £26 per person but it was so worth it. This was one of those memories that I will hold dear to me for the rest of my life.
Why I love it: Tea in a freaking palace, man! What more do you need?
4. Neal’s Yard
Before arriving to the UK I had heard about Neal’s Yard, particularly because a pizza place called Homeslice. Before my family and I saw ‘Matilda the musical’ (which was amazing, btw) we stopped there for dinner because it was literally a one minute walk away from the Cambridge Theatre. The pizza was very good but just being in Neal’s Yard was the highlight for me that evening. This little corner of the city is filled to the brim with colorful buildings which is such a welcome surprise from the typical city skyline. There are cute shops, a little courtyard, coffee shop, and so much personality in this tiny area.
Why I love it: It’s pretty hidden away from the main streets in a back alley. That is one thing that always surprised me about my time in the UK is that the alley ways can hold little surprises if you venture down a little bit. The colorful buildings reminded me a lot of the La Boca neighborhood in Buenos Aires and it genuinely had a happy vibe.
We went to four. All of which couldn’t be more different from each other. First we went to the Oxford University Museum of Natural History which I loved because there is something about dinosaur skeletons that I can’t get enough of… We then went to the Victoria & Albert Museum which was my very favorite because it featured artifacts through history such as furniture, jewelry, fashion and textiles. It gave you a real sense of history by showing the audience objects that were used by people. I loved their photography room and the room that was entirely made up of Art Nouveau furniture and advertisements, they even had a poster by Alfons Mucha. ohhhh yeah! Next up, we went to the Tate Modern which is housed in a converted power plant. The building alone is striking but their massive collection of modern art is just impressive. If you have a yen for modern art, check this place out. Also, their museum store can’t be beat. Christopher and I bought two posters and could have easily bought more. haha! The last museum we visited was the British Museum with such greats as the Rosetta Stone. Seeing the Rosetta Stone was a lot like seeing the Mona Lisa. Lots of crowds but worth it. I think what makes this museum rock is the fact that their map (which costs £2 in lieu of an admission fee) comes with their guide to the top 10 in the museum which takes you on a great loop through the space. I feel like I saw so much while we were there even though we were always on the move.
Why I loved them: The amount of history and art that is in these museums is such a gift to see in person, especially now that I’m more educated on art history and design. All of these museums have free admission which, sure, makes them crowded, but the fact that these pieces can be shared with everyone is beautiful.
6. Memories of India
My brother, Aaron, and I really wanted Indian food while we were in London because we’ve heard that this cuisine is about as traditional and long standing as Fish and Chips. I asked the concierge at the hotel we stayed at for a recommendation and he shared with us a place called Memories of India. He said it was reasonably priced, only a 5 minute walk from the hotel and had VERY good food. I know our whole table felt a bit out of our element because we didn’t know what to order and the waiter had to help us along but when we got our food we were all so happy that we decided to challenge our taste buds for the evening. I know my mom and Christopher were just along for the ride in the beginning but by the time we were done, they pleasantly surprised.
They served the food family style so we all got to try a little bit from everyone’s order. My favorite was what Christopher ordered, it was lamb with a sweet yellow sauce. It was so tender and the spice of the sauce was both creamy and light. At the end of the meal we were given a version of an after dinner mint that I had never heard of or seen before, it’s called Mukhwas and acts as a digestive and breath freshener. It looked like potpourri flakes and we all laughed a little while trying it. That was such a fun experience to have.
Why I loved it: It was a quick walk from our hotel, the food was so good and we all left with the biggest smiles on our faces.
7. Walking Tour
Going on a walking tour was a recommendation that I had heard from many people who had traveled to London before and for good reason! Again, you get a different perspective of the city than you otherwise would with just yourself and a map. We went on a The Hidden Pubs of Old London Town tour that was run by London Walks for the number one reason of getting a properly pulled English pint. At that point in our trip we’ve had several but hey! Any excuse for beer, amiright? The tour was interesting because we got some history lessons while we walked between bars, we even got to scope out a few back alleys along the way. My favorite bar was on called the Old Bank of England which seriously looked like a bank from the outside but inside it was filled with tap handles and people eating dinner. So fun!
If beer isn’t your thing, there are so many walks to choose from on the London Walks site. If you travel to London, go on one, or two, or three. You will appreciate the city and it’s long history even more.
Why I loved it: You get to meet other travelers, it’s pretty inexpensive at £10 a person and you don’t need to reserve a spot, you just show up at the designated meeting spot before the tour starts. You get to get outside, get your blood pumping and learn about the city as you walk around.
8. Chocolate Burger
Our last full day in London was a rainy day. After exploring the British Museum and having lunch we treked out to the department store Selfridges Co. for one big reason, MORE FOOD. haha! Seriously. I wanted to get dessert/tea at the restaurant on the top floor of Selfridges called Vintage Salt. They have beautiful desserts but I really came for just one, the Chocolate Burger. It is the cutest little dessert burger and fries that could ever be imagined. The fries where like baby churros and the ketchup was a chocolate sauce. The burger bun was like a cream puff, the burger patty was some kind of chocolate goodness, there was also a raspberry looking disc that resembled a tomato, whipped cream that looked to me like mayo and other finishes that made for a very convincing looking burger. It was out of this world.
We also got a piece of salted caramel corn cheesecake that I can’t forget about either. But really, the chocolate burger won my heart.
Why I loved it: First of all Vintage Salt is like this sort of secret restaurant that is only accessible from the elevator by the Chanel counter. It’s on the roof and on nice days it’s an open air restaurant. The decor has a pretty cute vintage nautical vibe. I loved it as a place to sit and relax after an afternoon of shlepping around town.
If you read this entire post, you deserve the highest of high fives. I know this was a long one maybe even a little TLDR-ish but I hope that if you did read it that if gives you a little insight to some awesome touristy, but not too touristy things to do in the UK.