“Let me take you by the hand, and lead you through the streets of London….” One of the most beautiful songs I know. And, by God, London is beautiful! In Autumn I was in New York, a majestic city, that at the same time felt like home. But London is just as much a metropole as the Big apple is. My baptism of fire on ‘the Tube’, London Underground, was a ride to ease my way in to town. Getting closer to Kensington by the minute, travelling from Heathrow Airport. A mere 45 minutes flight from Amsterdam. Followed by twenty minutes on the tube.* Right, why haven’t I been here before. Beats me! There is no excuse! Even for a day… But, I have a good three days to spend now. Where should I begin? Via different sources, from travel guides through Instagram, I collected a variety of (hot-)spots to visit. From cocktailbars (of course! ;)) to food markets, and from shopping areas to restaurants.
When I visit a city I collect some information, but I try not to pin myself on a schedule. I go for a walk, get familiar with public transport and simply start my journey. Usually I have a few sights I want to see in particular. In London for me those historical places were: London Bridge (’cause I love the feeling some settings evoke simply by recognition or magnificent appearance), Buckingham Palace and Hyde park. Along the stroll I would come across Harrods, the Natural History Museum and many more beautiful treasures.
And so day one commences….. In order to be able to walk a whole day through this impressively large city, I would have to have enough energy. Lunch it is! Within a half hour I passed ‘L’Eto’. I was drawn inside by dozens of butterflies colouring the street window. I only needed a few seconds on the menu, where ‘homemade granola’ was well represented, to know I would enjoy a nice dish to start my expedition. Alongside the wall there was a colourful display of all kinds of salads one side, and a similar one with pastries on the other side. In short; “Goodie!”. I ordered homemade granola with, forest fruit and coconut yoghurt accompanied by a coriander vanilla latte. Beautiful and delicious. I loved the spiciness and creaminess of this drink. And the granola was just heavenly! A serious fantastic crunch and the right amount of sweetness. A good lunch, so off for a great walk!
As I said before I was planning to work my way up on Brompton Road, through Knightsbridge right until Buckingham Palace. In doing so I passed the magnificent Museum of Natural History from my hotel to L’Eto. It is every bit as beautiful as I could’ve imagined. My kids are going to be so jealous! I saved my visit for another trip with kids. This first time I would focus on inhaling the atmosphere in this historic city. Just breathing in culture and architecture, while feasting my eyes on the surroundings.
And a must see of course, distinctive to these surroundings, is Harrods. I can’t even begin to explain how gorgeous this building is, in- and outside. The frontage radiates class and sophistication, but one of my favourite things are the ceilings inside. That must’ve been a sight; ‘that lady staring upwards all the time’. After looking up for a great deal, I was amazed by the food as well. Of course! 😉 How can you not be? They’ve got every culture, kitchen, region and flavour well presented at Harrods! From pastry to sushi, and from chocolate to cheese (even Gouda Cheese :D…’like a kid at a candy store!’), nothing is missing. Everything is created with the same amount of finesse and precision. The staff members are all happy to help and advice you in any matter. All I can say: “Good luck to the ‘indecisive’!” Fashion and luxury is also one of many trades at Harrods. So if you are looking for exclusivity, this is the place to be. Then again, this street and district is littered with all the major labels. And I do mean: All! Shopping? This is where you wanna go, high end.
Moving on to Knightsbridge I pass one of the many entries of Hyde Park. An impressive gate adjacent to a (very head spinning) traffic roundabout. An attraction in itself. After about three traffic lights I’m across the street, heading up to Buckingham Palace. A wide avenue which just oozes tranquility in comparison to the traffic situation I was in before. I leave Hyde Park to discover the next morning and am delighted to breathe in the air of Green Park instead. Birds chirping, trees blossoming alongside a serene lake. Also a funny sight are the many tame Grey squirrels cavorting across the park. These nosy and cheeky critters come and see what you are all about. No visit without a proper ‘Hello’ up close. Don’t worry, they don’t bite or jump in your neck. They are curious and friendly. Continuing my stroll I literally get passed by dozens of joggers. A nice sunny day and this park is alive. London is alive!
I soon get closer to Buckingham Palace inclosed by a detailled gate that looms up from behind the trees, which is nearly as impressive as the palace itself. Ornamented with cherubs, lions and other fine decorations the gate surely draws the attention. From there on you can walk on to the grand square centered around the Queen Victoria Memorial. An exquisite fountain that gives grace to the statue ‘Winged Victory’. Definitely worth the visit and a closer look!
And the journey continues….. ‘Big Ben here I come!’ The many times I saw this imposing tower appear on the screen, the more I wanted to take a glance with my own eyes. Unfortunately, it was covered in construction scaffolding. The only beauty it revealed was the clock-face. The Elizabeth tower, the Great Clock and the Big Ben (also known as the Great Bell) will be silent for about four years due to conservation work. The longest pause in a history of 157 years of bell ringing. So this requires a bit of patience as they began works early in 2017 and expect to round up in 2021. Even being in the presence of this monument is a memorable experience. So after glancing at it for some time, I turn my pace down the Victoria Embankment. It has a fantastic view on the London Eye from Westminster Bridge.
The road has many hidden treasures; such as the RAF and RFC Memorial, Cleopatra’s Needle, the Whitehall Gardens and the Victoria Embankment Gardens. Each has it’s own intriguing story. In the mean time I crave for a quality beverage, so I soon end up at the Radio Rooftop. This classy bar is hidden on the top floor of the ME London hotel. As the doorman holds the door for me, I enter and pass a pungent selection of art. In the corner I’m welcomed by another staff member who calls an elevator for me. When arriving on the rooftop they friendly greet me and accompany me to my chosen table. Since my battery is about to die, I ask if they have a charger I could borrow while I enjoy my visit. And after a few minutes she returns with a charger that they arranged from a staff member down in the lobby. In all: good service! I choose a fruity fizz; a cocktail to indulge myself after a hefty walk. On a comfortable sofa I find myself staring out the window, with a breathe taking view on this English capital. ‘This is the life!’
After my second delectable cocktail I decide to order a ‘Special coffee’; old habits die hard…..an espresso with Cointreau and cream on top. A bit of a kick before I start my hike back to the hotel. Contriving on where to have dinner; something tasty but simple…..Gourmet Burger Kitchen it is! Tomorrow will be more of a culinary trip with a visit to Hakkasan Mayfair. So tonight my burger will be followed by a good night rest. My first hotel is a responsible and trustworthy choice if you are on a budget. The Lord Kensington hotel is simple, clean, nearby ‘Earl’s court’ tube station and there are plenty of choices to eat and drink. It lies at the South West side of Kensington.
Waking up I should tell you that the Tube station is nearby, so be prepared for a little noise disturbance. If you are planning an early start or spend little time in your room, then it’s not so much a disadvantage. I take my time to organise before my checkout. A good shower, spick and span, and off to Mayfair. From simplicity taking the Tube to the life of luxury….’though life’. 🙂
Arriving at the Mayfair the doorman opens the door for me and a wave of tranquility oozes over me. The staff welcomes you broadly, but my room isn’t ready ’till two this afternoon. So I drop my luggage and continue my expedition with the Tower Bridge as my end goal. But first…..breakfast! Strolling uptown to Marylebone, I come across all sorts of cute spots. But my mind is set on a place called ‘Daylesford’. It radiates health and light. After glancing at the menu, I come to the conclusion that they do know what’s good for you! More than enough responsible and tasty choices! Unfortunately it is a bit crowded and the breakfast menu ended to make room for the lunch menu. So I’m off in search for my ‘granola and yoghurt’-breakfast. I must say it is as beautiful and soothing walk back to Oxford Street. A brisk avenue which includes all the known department stores and chain stores. I know there’s another L’Eto location at Wardour Street; a fantastic neighbourhood which will make your taste buds tremble! There’s BAO, Pho Soho, The Hummingbird and series of bakeries and charcuteries shops I can’t recall by name. It is ALL here! Worth the visit ten times over! But, how much I want to go back to my Asian roots, that’s for tonight, so L’Eto it is. I order Semolina porridge with strawberries and a and a latte with different spices. Sooooooo good! Feeling powered up again! London Bridge, here I come!
Soon more on my adventures in London….
*I recommend travelling with an Oyster card, which you can charge for whatever amount you choose. You can compare it to the chipcard for transportation in Holland. Depending on the length of your stay, the staff member are happy to advise you in this matter. No need to buy this in advance online! You can purchase it on site.