It’s time for a confession. No priest needed just yet but a confessional session none the less. Here it goes. I love London. Unconditionally, heart breaking love you London. I love you free museums, you’re full of pretty parks, sneaky squirrels, reasonably priced yet exceptionally good quality coffee and most importantly I loved walking your streets. Day and night I walked amongst you and your people.
Walk with me and learn to love London
I took myself on a bit of an express solo lady trip thanks to a super amazingly affordable airfare with Royal Brunei. 10 days in Europe (plus travel time. It’s a really long trip from Melbourne to London). It was an intense trip jaunting around London, dropping in on Denmark and finding some old friends in Finland.
In continuing with my confession my last time in London wasn’t exactly great. It wasn’t terrible and I have no honest non-sooky complaints about it but I really felt as if I hadn’t gotten to meet and greet this great city.
I arrived in London after an exhausting three flights going from Melbourne-Brunei-Dubai-London. My flight arrived at 6:40am at Heathrow. In my usual packed to the zipper travel style, I had accepted the challenge to attend a 10:00am walking tour with Context Travel. Which allowed me a whole three hours to get through customs, get my bag, buy an Oyster card, catch the trains into London town, find my hostel, change underwear AND get my tired ass down to London Tower. Allowing no time for flight delays, train delays, tube workers protesting or generally crazy people getting in my way.
Clearly, the travel gods were looking down upon me with a sense of fondness and had everything line up just fine and dandy. The train took me to the station. I arrived at St Christopher’s The Oasis hostel, dropped off my bags, changed underwear and made it just in time to learn all about the Portraits of London. I opted to stay one night here with the remainder of my accommodation being generously donated by some very special friends.
London can be expensive but you can easily book hotels and hostels here.
Putting the citry of London in context
Despite my limited sleep, the freezing cold rain and bone-chilling wind I had a marvelous time walking around and learning about London: Portraits of a city. This particular walking tour starts at the Tower of London, the Roman beginnings of the city and weaves through the history of London ending in the financial district. It’s a fascinating insight to the growth and development of the city. The highlights for me start with walking through Diagon Alley, the secret spots around town and finding the first coffee house in London. The brilliant part of walking with Context Travel is that the guides are well educated, well spoken and utterly delightful. They aren’t backpackers trying to earn pizza and beer money from tips.
After finishing up with the official walking tour I decided to shake off any potential jet lag and took the time out to go and explore the Borough Market. As well as hide from the rain. I’m such a huge fan of markets and eating. It is a haven for anybody who cares about food and coffee. This place should be on your must go and see. For a mere £5 I devoured a near perfect pie with potato mash from Piemiester. This was by far the best pie I’ve had outside of Australia. So good that I forgot to take a photo.
If you were wondering London really is a great city to photograph.
I’m told that if you have the time and desire that you can pretty much get yourself a free lunch by asking for tasters from all the stall holders. As I was staying super close to the market I made quite a few return visits and strolls through on my way to go across the Thames and was quite happy to pay for nibbles along the way. If you’re in need of coffee than take the time to grab a takeaway from Monmouth. Look at how beautiful this latte is.
After a dinner with the most inspiring Tom from The Chronic Adventurer I was so grateful that I had paid the extra money for a private room at St Christopher’s hostel. Being in the Oasis, a female only area I was really appreciative of the extra security and the respectful quietness. Especially as it was a Friday night. It was so peaceful, exceptionally clean and generally an enjoyable experience for a truly exhausted traveller. As well as complimentary breakfast. Always a win in my mind.
My first night in London coincided with the terrible situation in Paris. As the world woke up and was trying to come to gripes with what had happened security had been heavily increased. Over night London had gone from fairly relaxed to highly alert and on edge. Helicopters in the air, buses on re-route (which I found out the hard way) and a visible increase in security and police on the streets. Never one to be pushed into fear and terror I continued on my journey and walked my way around London. The weather did dampen an attempted to enjoy Camden market and ended up with a great friend and I enjoying some much needed bento boxes and down time.
Aforementioned friend is wholly responsible for one of the most magical and simple moments in my London life- Salt Beef Beigel.
But first we took a leisurely stroll along the Colombia Road flower market. Columbia Road began its life as a pathway along which sheep were driven to the slaughterhouses at Smithfield. Now every Sunday this suburban, hipster road transforms into an oasis of floral delight and you’ll find people flocking down here. It’s a visual splendor to walk amongst the flowers. Just a word of warning- the barrow boys here are cheeky. You can’t miss the chant of the barrow boys “Everthin’ a fiver”? Even an offer for some umm pollination services? Beyond the flowers you’ll find bespoke vintage stores, cupcakes and coffee attached to galleries and a few brick n brack stores.
It’s a short and pleasant walk from Colombia Road to the infamous Brick Lane. From my last visit here I was thinking curries, vendors trying to bargain with me and the controversy over the 2012 London Olympics. Alas this seems to be no more the main reason to visit Brick Lane. If you’re into vintage, upcycled and really hipster things than Brick Lane has organically grown to cater for you. Me, however, I’m much more of a feed me now and I’m happy kinda girl. The two highlights are in no particular order 1- Beigels (or as we simple convicts down under call them bagels) and 2- beigels. Beigel Bake has become some what of an institute for their amazing product and terrifying service. There’s no bullshit here. Order your beigel, get your beigel and get the fuck out. The lines are huge but boy do those ladies keep it moving with western European efficiency. For some of us convicts you might be wondering what is salt beef? No it isn’t a cow that has spent her last days at the beef, it’s corned beef. Sweet, succulent, melt in your mouth beef. This was another so delicious I’m putting my face in it foodie heaven item that there’s no photos of how amazing it was. Disclaimer for my vegetarian readers (not sure if this is vegan safe & approved?) there are other options than salty beef bits of heaven. For 99p you could get a Nutella beigel. As of November the salt beef beigels are only £3.70. It’s a bargain. If beigels aren’t your thing than head on down to Cereal Killer.
After a weekend of walking, talking and generally frivolity with some amazing friends it was time to get serious. British Museum level of serious. Once again I found myself on a brisk morning’s stroll down Oxford street, thoroughly enjoying the chill on my cheeks, when I was drawn into a most whimsical place of £2.99 breakfast deals. A place saturated in faux French culture and oozing coffee and most importantly croissants. I had discovered Paul.
Shortly after my cholesterol injection of croissant and coffee, I found myself standing out the front of the designated waiting place for my highly anticipated Context Tour: British Museum- A Guided Tour It’s no secret at all that I’m a huge history and anthropology lover. I was thrilled at though off being walked through the history of the museum and all the stolen things within. Three hours of learning stuff about things. Perfect morning’s activities. Then there was a glitch. A teeny tiny logistics glitch which meant my tour didn’t start at 10am. It started at 2pm. So what does any good traveller do? Shake it off with a walk. The extra time gave me the opportunity to waltz down to Piccadilly Circus, pop into M&M world, visit a Christmas market, sigh at the simple beauty and cuteness of squirrels and say hi to the Queen at Buckingham Palace. It’s amazing what you can achieve in four hours if you put your feet to it.
There’s no photos from my time within the British Museum with docent Andrew. The foremost reason being that he was Brilliant. Andrew was engaging, informative and rather witty at times. The tour was tailored on the spot and on the go to areas that I was more interested in (Ancient History predominately). As well as brilliant discussions and theorizing on how all the things came to be. I instantly felt as if I was on a Sunday afternoon stroll with an old friend from university rather than a tour guide. I know it isn’t ok to play favourites but Andrew was by far one of my favourite people to converse with on the trip. Despite having walked nearly 20km in silly shoes (rookie mistake) I walked away feeling invigorated, intellectually stimulated and bursting at the seams with facts, figures and general stuff.
No trip to London is complete without a hike along the paths at Hyde Park. Due to my amazing location on Oxford St I was easily able to walk through Hyde Park day and night. Unfortunately due to the unique operations of Norwegian Air (read more here) I missed my last night in London and my final opportunity to ice skate in Hyde Park. At one point in my life I will skate on ice in Hyde Park.
Who I flew with- Royal Brunei Airlines
I was so thrilled to fly with Royal Brunei Airlines. The staff are happy, helpful and gave me extra Oreos! It was a winning situation. There are a few quirks when you fly with Royal Brunei. It’s a alcohol-free airline. At the start of each flight there is a prayer to Allah. The entertainment system is hilariously censored. You can almost feel how much someone loved or hated the job when you’re watching a show.
Where I stayed-
The Oasis, St Christopher’s Inn. In all honesty, there are SO many accommodation options that you could spend your money on. The easiest way to find a suitable hotel is to book online.
Is London safe?
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