I flipping love a good trip to our capital city. Not just for that constant feeling of patriotism it evokes but for all the shops to shop, food places to try, events to attend, views to see…literally the list is endless. I’ve always said I could never live there, some people are cut out for it, I am definitely not. One thing is for absolute certain though, I will never get tired of visiting London.
When Northerners think of London we go for the stereotypes – nobody speaks, it’s so expensive, the tube is a bleedin’ nightmare, that type of thing, and I’ve joked about it myself too (see 6 things to learn about London). That said, it’s one of my favourite cities to go in the UK, and for so many reasons.
The Iconic Landmarks
Big Ben, London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Wembley, Tower Bridge, The Shard, Houses of Parliament…there are SO many and I love that about London. You constantly feel like a tourist even when you’ve been there for days and pass them on the commute to wherever you’re going. I love seeing them, they’re just so British. In January we did a day of sightseeing, and managed to fit nearly all of them in.
History and Tradition
This one kind of ties in with the landmarks, particularly Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. Both of them just make me think of all the prisoners that made their final journey over the bridge to the tower, where they were held prisoner and finally had their heads lopped off on the order of Henry VIII. Can you tell I used to read Horrible Histories as a child? Completely medieval and creepy but both are amazing structures. You don’t come from Newcastle and not love a good bridge.
The pomp and pageantry that comes with the Royal Family
Even down to the day to day changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, to full scale affairs like the Royal Wedding, the Queen’s Birthday and jubilees, all the pageantry and tradition that you get with the Royal Family is so unique to London and the UK. I’m a huge fan, I think the Queen is incredible, and it just shows how many people do with the crowds that flock every time there’s something happening. You can’t help but be proud.
There are so many views of London to discover, and I’ve barely even scratched the surface. Some of my favourites to date are from the Heron Tower, from The Shard, from the London Eye, and from the river down towards Tower Bridge. These are all pretty obvious and touristy, but there’s clearly hundreds.
I’ve had some pretty amazing meals in London, including brunch at Duck and Waffle, Bill’s if you don’t mind queuing for an eternity and seriously good steak at Flatiron. Then of course there’s all the tiny independent little places, like a random Greek takeaway open between midnight and 3am in Farringdon, or a Thai restaurant down a side alley hidden behind a gate near Earl’s Court. Going for a walk to find places like these uncovers some real hidden gems.
Right, yes it’s too hot, stressful, overcrowded, and an absolute gauntlet of tunnels, stairs and escalators, but they come every 2 minutes! This is like a dream when you’re used to the Metro system up here.
Flower Stalls at Tube Stations
I wish this was the case at every metro station, but they really do give off a feel good vibe. They’re basically like ‘hellooooo – welcome to daylight and fresh air again look even we can survive!’ and make you feel all great about not being on the tube anymore.
Proper street art though, like the skate park on the banks of the Thames, or the wall on Portobello Road. There’s actual talent and not just vandalism.
My house is so bloody boring compared to London houses, especially those in Notting Hill and Chelsea. It’s literally my favourite thing to do in London, hunt them out and see what new streets and side streets full of colour I can find. Doorways too.
There’s some really posh hotels in London aren’t there. I’ve stayed in Sofitel St James’ which was pretty posh, and visited the Ritz for afternoon tea and you literally feel like you’re in another world. Obviously there are tons of them, and I’d love to stay at the Mandarin Oriental, and the Shangri-La in the Shard.
You may need to take out a bank loan to pay off the bar tab, but I do enjoy a visit to a traditional British boozer when in London. There’s always some characters to watch, they are always full of people, and they always have some decent sport on.
Black cabs and red phone boxes
Again, iconically British but part of what makes London, London. I see foreign tourists posing for photos and getting so excited when they see them, it’s kind of infectious. When you’re used to ringing Blueline and waiting over an hour in Newcastle on Saturday night freezing your nips off while waiting for the next available car, you do appreciate the frequency of black cabs in London. This is changing with Uber I suppose, but still, hailing a black cab in London is quick and painless. Except for your bank balance.
It may not be my favourite street in the whole of London but it’s definitely up there. It reminds me of a much bigger and grander Grey Street the way it sweeps up and around, which might be why it’s so attractive. That and the shops along there. Without fail I dip in to Anthropologie, Kate Spade, Ralph Lauren cafe…the shops that Londoners take for granted having on their doorstep but to us are like a complete luxury.
See above, but also the delights that can be found in Knightsbridge and Chelsea. I had an absolute blast walking through last week, even if I could only window shop.
There’s always something happening
Music concerts, theatre shows, exhibitions – I’ve been to them all because lets face it London attracts the big names and if there’s something special going on that’s where it will be. You just have to look at the coverage of the Olympics 2012 to see how fabulous a host the city is. On a much smaller scale, whenever I’m there a simple google search of ‘whats on in London today’ always throws up something good, even if it’s just to kill an hour. Last week I found the selfie exhibition, but I’ve also been to Vogue 100, Lonely Planet’s photo exhibition, and recently wandered straight into the heart of Chelsea in Bloom.
Harrods Food Hall
I’m not classing this as shopping because I’m not sure I’ve ever bought anything, but I love exploring the huge halls in Harrod’s, especially the food hall at Christmas time. Visiting London at this time of year just gets you in the festive spirit, and negotiating Eldon Square when you get back seems like a doddle!
I think the whole country follows Oxford Street when it comes to turning on Christmas lights, but just like Harrod’s food hall it has that real buzz about it at Christmas when all the lights are turned on. Completely festive and fabulous.
Without a doubt every trip to London will turn out something new, and whichever tube you emerge from or whichever neighbourhood you’re staying in there will be loads to discover. I always leave feeling totally exhausted but like I really make the most of my time when I’m there. So while I won’t ever be packing up and moving down there, I won’t be stopping visiting any time soon.
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