London Travel Diary, Part 2
I'm back to share part two of my summer London adventures! Part of me is taking forever to put together these posts because, well, life. The other part is loving the opportunity to relive life in London over and over.
During the first three days in London, we spent a lot of time running around to the more touristy attractions. We did avoid some of the biggest tourist attractions like the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. London in August, high tourist season, is no joke!
Saturday in Shoreditch
We kicked off our Saturday by grabbing breakfast in our neighborhood. We wandered around but I had my sights set on Biscuiteers. It's a charming cookie and pastry shop right off Portobello Road. Omgsh, the cuteness is hard to deny! Though it's not a "breakfast" spot, it did have tea and coffee and a few pastry items. I debated devouring a few of their delicious iced cookies but it just didn't seem like the thing to do at 9 am. But tea from a striped cup seemed just right.
Then it was all the way across the city to Shoreditch. This London neighborhood is up-and-coming, with lots of street art, galleries, and trendy restaurants and bars. On our agenda was a visit to Dine-A-Rama, a food "park" that has a mixture of different food stalls along with a wine bar and cocktail bar.
Shoreditch was definitely "sleepy" during the early afternoon (we got the feeling it really wakes up in the evening). However, it was such a unique part of London that I want to go back and explore more!
Adventures at the Tate Modern
Using our trusty Oyster cards, we took a loooong ride on the subway to the other side of the Thames river. The south bank of London is not an area of the city I was very familiar with. However, there are plenty of art galleries, a few museums, and interesting spots to explore. Kind of like all of London really!
Going over to the south bank of London introduced me to my new favorite museum in London: the Tate Modern.
Omgsh you guys, this museum is amazing! And I'm not just saying that as a modern art lover. The Tate Modern is six floor museum partially housed in an old power station. The main entrance leads you into this vast central hallway. The ceiling soars straight up revealing each floor crisscrossed by a few walkways.
The galleries themselves are huge and the collection is varied with artists from all over the world and with all different styles. One room I loved was all white works of art. A special exhibit also showed works chronicling the African American experience in America. One particularly powerful work of art was ribbons of fire hose that was used against protesting African Americans.
Another amazing thing about the Tate Modern? It sits right at the foot of the Millenium bridge. There are also crazy good views of up and down the Thames and especially of St. Paul's Cathedral. I also dragged Nick's butt to the Twining's flagship store. I am an old lady who loves her tea! However, it was kind of just a regular shop. I guess I was hoping it would be like this crazy old tea room but it was actually just filled with row upon row of tea bags in neat little rows.
Sundays are for flower markets
Though our London itinerary was packed with amazing places, I was so, so excited to visit Columbia Road flower market. It only happens on Sunday on a two block stretch of road outside the more central areas of London. But it is packed with the most gorgeous blooms you could ever imagine.
Bunches and bunches of flowers lined the walkway and behind them, there were the quirkiest little boutiques and antique shops. It was one of the best and most unique experiences we could have had. Though next time I'll buy a big bouquet of sunflowers.
After the flower market, we were able to head to a not-so-crowded outpost of Flat Iron. Flat Iron is famous for its delicious steaks that only cost 9 pounds. Also you get to use a mini cleaver to cut your steak AND they have really great British craft beers. You have to hit it at the right time but Flat Iron is a great bargain. Just be aware there is often a two hour wait!
Another Sunday adventure was Churchill's War Rooms. Located right in the heart of London (seriously we emerged from the Underground station to be face-to-face with Big Ben!) it's where Winston Churchill conducted all of his military strategy during World War II. When the war ended, they left everything as it was. It's been preserved by the Imperial War Museum and updated with a gallery all about Churchill himself.
Soaking up absolutely everything on our last day
Monday and Tuesday were spent in Brighton and Oxford but we still had a day and a half to hit up everything we wanted to do in London. Just FYI, we didn't get to everything. But we did get to a lot of the good stuff. Hey, now we have a reason to return!
First up, after a delicious breakfast at the Swedish chain Fabrique, was the Imperial War Museum because we'd done enough instagramming/shopping/arty things for me and now we needed a museum for Nick. But also I'm secretly obsessed with this awesome museum. It shares Britain's role in modern wars and shares not only military memorabilia but also the story of British citizens through the eyes of the war. It has a moving Holocaust exhibit that took us the better part of two hours to move through. It was just so devastating to see the progression of a fascist regime and the extreme loss of life through the eyes of many who lived it.
From the Imperial War Museum, we were near something I was dying to see: Pharmacy 2. It's Damien Hirst's restaurant located above an art gallery on the south bank of London. I studied Hirst's works as an art history major in college and have always been intrigued by the way he takes the mundane and elevates it into a statement. Pharmacy 2 is no different. A giant wall of pills, a bar filled with syringes, rubber gloves, and empty pill bottles, and pill-topped bar stools make quite a statement about the pharmaceutical industry. We grabbed a drink before heading out to do a little shopping at my two new obsessions: Oliver Bonas and Cath Kidston. Also, I won't deny that I made a trip to Primark and purchase two ridiculous cute and inexpensive tops.
The morning of our flight we had a little bit of time before heading to the airport so we decided to spend it in our neighborhood. Gosh, I can't tell you how much I love Notting Hill. We crossed over to Kensington to grab breakfast sandwiches at the sun-filled egg-centric breakfast and lunch spot, Egg Break. It was then that I realized I was going to miss being able to order big pots of tea every morning!
Then we just wandered. After a whirlwind vacation, it was nice to just be able to relax and take in one last piece of London. We strolled through Notting Hill watching all the slow activity of a Thursday morning. We popped into Daylesford, a hip organic market, and sat outside to sip a chai tea latte. I almost didn't cry when it was finally time to head to Heathrow.
You guys, I love London. It is a city with art and culture and history and friendly and polite people. I have traveled to many other cities but London is the city I would happily go back to over and over again. If I could, I would pack up Nick and move us there for good. There is so, so much to see but there's also so many places to just wander. London captured my heart and I'll just be over here saving up for my next trip!