Of Cambridge, London, and Paris, I was most excited for London! I probably would have been most excited for Paris, but I had been warned that Paris might not be as wonderful and magical and romantical as I might imagine, so I muted my anticipation to protect myself from feeling disappointed. Thus, London! I scoured blogs for recommendations and was especially looking forward to having fabulous brunches and afternoon teas. Alas, Dalloway Terrace, Sketch, and Sanderson were all booked for the days we were in London. But no matter! There was plenty else to do…
After a two-hour drive from Cambridge, we finally made it to our Airbnb in London! As soon as we dropped our things off, we headed straight to dinner at The Queen’s Arms, which was within walking distance. I got a mushroom vol-au-vent and also snuck a few bites from my brothers’ fish and chips. The fish and chips were so delicious! The mushroom vol-au-vent was alright.
The boys wanted to go home after dinner, so Mom and I went out ourselves. We made a beeline to Crosstown Doughnuts because I wanted to get our pick of flavours before they ran out! We ended up getting two banana cream doughnuts with salted caramel, two creme brulee doughnuts, one vanilla bean doughnut, and one coffee doughnut. Apparently they also have chai doughnuts and matcha doughnuts?? Unfortunately I didn’t see them in the shop that day, though we did arrive pretty late in the evening, so maybe they had it but sold out.
The rest of the evening was devoted to shopping. I bought an oversized denim jacket from Bershka–my first ever denim jacket–and a white blouse from United Colors of Benetton that was on sale (you can see me wearing both of these items in the photoset from Day 1 of this post!). We also popped by Selfridges and stayed until they closed and kicked everyone out.
On this day, I snapped.
I had a grand list of places to hit up because we were planning to get a 1-day London Pass and I wanted to make sure that we made the most of that pass. For the morning, I had hoped we’d be able to hit up Westminster Abbey and then make it to Buckingham Palace 30 minutes before Changing of the Guard. Not to much to ask, I don’t think. Alas, I should have known how difficult it would be to get everyone out of the house in time. We had to book it to Buckingham Palace and put Westminster Abbey on hold, but we arrived late anyways and were met by a swarm of tourists. Which I expected, but that didn’t make the experience any nicer.
In fact, every little thing set me off. I think it was because I woke up with this pressure of having to tick everything off the itinerary but already the morning was off to a bad start. I was still tense, frustrated, and spent from herding my family out of the house. The sight of tourists ignoring the boundaries guarded by the police irked me. And the sheer number of tourists was completely overwhelming. I did not want to be there.
I told myself to take a breath. I sifted my mind for all those self-improvement books and blog posts I had read, willing myself to believe that even though the day was sucking so far, that didn’t mean that the rest of my day had to continue to suck. I could choose to turn this day around.
Spoiler: I ended up crying in public in front of Buckingham Palace. Then I told my parents I was going back to the Airbnb and just left them to do whatever else they wanted to do with their own sweet time.
Thankfully, I had planned to hang out with Poonie and Mira (both friends from middle school and high school) all afternoon and evening of this day. I called them up to see if they were free the next day as well so that I could space myself from my family. They were. Yay!
Even though I didn’t plan to meet Poonie and Mira until the afternoon, I left the apartment in the morning to spend time alone. The first challenge of the day was to figure out London’s metro system.
Oh my god I LOVE THE OYSTER CARD!!! Most places you’ll want to get to in London are within zones 1 and 2. The price to travel within this zone is ~2£. If you only travel within this zone, the Oyster Card caps your daily spending at ~6£. That means you only pay for your first three rides, and any additional rides you take that day aren’t charged! The daily cap increases depending on how many zones you travel, which is automatically calculated by the system when you swipe in and out of the stations. Magic! Anyways, on to the actual activities of the day…
With my time alone, I checked out the British Museum. It was so peaceful walking through the museum myself, not taking any photos. Before I knew it, it was time for me to head to Notting Hill for lunch with Poonie and Mira. I suggested trying out Granger & Co. because I had seen it recommended several times across blogs, but when we got there, there was a huge queue, so we decided to find another place. Mira had been wanting to check out Ottolenghi, and now was as good a time as ever.
Ottolenghi was like a Mediterranean potluck! There were so many options and it was a little overwhelming, but only in the best way. The wait to eat in was too long, so the three of us shared one large take-out box, as well as another small box of desserts (rose pistachio cake, apricot cardamom tart). We took our boxes to Holland Park and had a nice little picnic on a log. Before leaving, we popped by Kyoto Garden for a little stroll.
Our next destination was Saatchi Gallery, and to get there, we needed to catch the tube. At the tube station there was a Ben’s Cookies. The logo for Ben’s Cookies was drawn by Quentin Blake, otherwise known as the illustrator of Roald Dahl’s books! The three of us shared a dark chocolate ginger cookie.
We arrived at Saatchi Gallery to discover that it was booked for a private event. However, the lawn was open to everyone, where they were screening Wimbledon! There were a ton of people, and there were even a few tennis nets set up, complete with instructors who played with the little kids. So cute :’) So the trip over wasn’t a complete flop. But I don’t follow tennis, and I don’t think Poonie or Mira do either, so we were in search for a new place to hit up. Luckily the Victoria and Albert Museum is close to Saatchi Gallery, so we popped over. We also roamed around some more and checked out Big Ben and Westminster Abbey.
Then it came time for dinner at Pizza Pilgrims, which has been hailed as the best pizza by some friends. On our way we made a pit stop at Timberyard for some coffee. It’s also a good place to work, if that’s what you’re looking for. To end the night, we watched Half A Sixpence. There was a lot of throwing and catching and jumping high onto things, which was super impressive in the midst of all the singing and dancing.
We kicked off the day with hot yoga at TriYoga! Poonie had gone a few times (like, weekly-ish), but this was the first time for me and Mira. With our student IDs, we were able to drop in on a class at concession price. There were so many people at the class! I heard it was double the usual size. I was surprised that they didn’t stop people from dropping in and put a cap on the class. Or maybe they do have a cap, but it’s simply very high. Anyways, everyone was mat to mat, and I stunk so bad, but after awhile I didn’t even care because I was sooooo hot, and I’m pretty sure everyone else was on the same boat. The actual yoga exercises themselves weren’t bad. I don’t think I could do this on a regular basis, but I heard that since there’s not usually as many people as there were that day, it’s not usually as hot as what I experienced, so maybe I should give it another chance.
After the class, we showered off in the locker rooms. I finished first and waited for Mira and Poonie at TriYoga’s cafe. There was a pitcher of charcoal water at every table! With an actual piece of charcoal in the water! Not sure how I feel about that lol. Another quirky thing about the cafe was that it was all shoes off. My shoes were already off from the yoga session.
When we were all ready to go, we walked over to Camden Market for lunch, as we were already in Camden for TriYoga. How convenient! The three of us shared a kati roll from Kolkati (Indian), Tibetan dumplings (I forget the name of the vendor), and arepa from Arepazo Bros (Venezuelan). My favourite was the kati roll! Soooo good omg. If you go to Camden Market for lunch and just want to eat one thing, I highly recommend the kati rolls from Kolkati. In addition to our shared main courses, we also each got our own smoothies (I forget the name of the vendor) and our own liquid nitrogen ice creams from Chin Chin Labs. I got burnt butter caramel ice cream with cinnamon toast, Poonie got burnt butter caramel ice cream with cardamom, and Mira got tonka bean ice cream with truffle. Usually I’m not one for ice cream fads because they’re rip-offs and you just pay for presentation but the ice cream itself tastes the same, but liquid nitrogen ice cream is different. The texture of liquid nitrogen ice cream is so smooth!
Stuffed, we went on a walk to look at tourist destinations for my benefit. On our way to St. Paul’s Cathedral, we stumbled upon Joe & the Juice, which you’ll hear more about in a full post on its own next Monday, so tune in for that! After the cathedral, we popped by Tate Modern, but we were pretty tired from walking around by then, so we didn’t stay too long. Outside Tate Modern there was a guy that was busking and it looked like the crowd was really enjoying him. His voice was beautiful and his musicality reminded me of Ed Sheeran. I wish I had gotten closer to find out who he was and whether he had any music online!
Next, Poonie and Mira took me to check out Shoreditch, because they thought it was the kind of place I’d like to hang out, and they were right! They mentioned a bunch of cool, hip cafes, but since we basically ate and drank all day and since it was soon time for dinner, we didn’t pop by any of these cafes. If I ever return to London, I’ll definitely want to explore Shoreditch some more though! We also passed by Boxpark, which was super cool and had cute shops and a bunch of trendy food like churro ice cream and black ice cream. That’s another place that I didn’t really get to check out but would like to if I were to return!
For dinner, we hit up The Breakfast Club, which was a wonderful way to end our weekend together. You’ll hear more about The Breakfast Club in a full post on its own this coming Friday, so tune in for that as well! I’m so thankful that Poonie and Mira showed me around London to show me where the good stuff was at, and of course it was a treat just to hang out with them!
Have you visited London before? Do you have any other recommendations?
Up next on the blog, you can look forward to a blog post on The Breakfast Club on Friday, a blog post on Joe & the Juice on Monday, and a full post on Paris on Wednesday!