London Travel Diaries: Week 3

Week three in London proved to be the beginning of my body catching up to all the running around I have been doing. The tough thing about being on a secondment is that you have to work as you would normally do back home (if not harder) but also there is no time for rest as you are out and about on the weekends. Having a chronic illness that makes me exceptionally tired and suffering from slight insomnia here doesn’t help matters. I am actually dreaming about having an amazing nights sleep in my own bed!

I knew I had to do the candlelight tour of Sir John Soane’s Museum as it only happens once a month. What I didn’t contemplate was standing outside in the cold for 1.5 hours to get in. While others turned away after waiting a short while, my stubborn nature refused to let me go home. I really enjoyed wandering around the museum which can be best described as an expensive hoarding habit.

Being quite the Miss Popular here, I found myself double booked on Friday. I probably would never attend two events that are scheduled at the same time if I was back home, but hey when in London do it all plus then some! First up were work drinks at the Dirty Martini bar near St Paul’s Cathedral. The bartenders were really cute but sadly I can’t say the interestingly concocted martinis or food were a hit. I tried the Blood Orange & Vanilla martini and the Pineapple & Sage mojito; but wish I had stuck with a good old Cosmopolitan. If you serve me a Cosmopolitan/Strawberry Daiquiri/Coke, I’m as happy as a kid in a candy store. Despite my munching on pita bread, calamari rings, chicken and fries I found myself quite tipsy after just two drinks. What happened next was one of my more interesting experiences in London: Google Maps was dysfunctional causing me to walk around in circles for 30 minutes in a slightly drunk euphoric state trying to find a bus. I even stopped to take pictures of an interesting building despite being lost.

The second event was a new friend’s birthday party at the Crown and Shuttle in Shoreditch. Oddly enough I have more close friends in here than back home. One of the major things I will miss about London are my friends. We always have something to chat about and have a great time when we go out. I have had more sleep overs here than in my entire life and am slowly getting over my issues of sleeping next to someone. Yes I am weird, I know! My friend Makatu who lives in Birmingham crashed at mine for the night. That was after we took a few selfies on the bus ride home (our sexy faces sadly need some work).

Every Saturday I wake up knowing I need to go out touring but have no clue where to go. There is an insane abundance of things to do that it can be quite overwhelming. I decided on visiting the Portobello road market. While I think at one stage it was a great place to shop and find bargains, it’s clear that it has now become another place trying to milk money from tourists. It definitely is worth a visit as checking the market out doesn’t have to cost you anything. Expect to find silverware, artwork, ornaments, fruit, clothes and a variety of other odds and ends. Market food isn’t something that particularly excites me as it is usually overpriced and average in taste. If it is food at a market that you are after I would rather suggest the Borough Market or Camden Market. Some of the food I spotted included: waffles, nutella crepes, paella, pizza, hot dogs, bruschetta, dessert and plenty of Mediterranean food. The Notting Hill area is very pretty, I like that it is less crowded and dotted with pastel coloured houses.

After the market I hopped onto a bus to Harrods. It probably would have been quicker to catch a tube but I didn’t feel like walking and the ride offered me a little break. The main thing I took away from Harrods is that it has a bladdy confusing layout! You can honestly end up annoyed and walking around in circles. Anything you could possibly want you could find at Harrods, clothes, cosmetics, toys, food, luxury items and electronics. They really do have it all except cars! Must sees are the Di and Dodi memorial and the food hall. The food prices were moderately expensive, the savoury snacks didn’t tickle my fancy but I would like to go back and try a dessert. Laduree lovers will be happy to know that they can also get their fix here.

The last trip for the day was to the Science Museum. I wouldn’t say this a must see museum unless you have kids or you have the extra time (it is free though which is a major plus!). I also prefer looking to reading and this museum is very informative, detailed and interactive. It can however be a nice break for those that are tired of only seeing paintings and sculptures at all the art museums. Some of the more cooler things to do here include the IMAX theatre, flying in a 3D flight simulation theatre, and the Apollo 4D cinema. The layout here was also confusing where floors where broken into two sections and could only be accessed from opposite sides of the museum. I seriously have a directional problem that cannot be fixed even the help of museum maps. Let the record state that I do always manage to find my way out very easily!

Sunday was the most beautiful day I have spent in London so far. Warm weather and sunshine meant there was no other choice than to spend the day outside. I didn’t plan on it but it turned out to be a walking and photo opportunity day. I wandered around Westminster to get pictures of the Houses of Parliament and then walked down to Trafalgar Square. I had only seen the Square at night before and hadn’t realized how beautiful it is. It also reminded me of Italy, with just the gelato missing. I had already been to the National Gallery and National Portrait museum which is nearby so i instead visited St Martin in the Fields church. My last excursion point was the gorgeous Hyde Park. The park is beautiful and relaxing to walk in, I just wished I had a strolling buddy. I strolled along the Serpentine, visited the Serpentine Gallery and the Albert memorial before heading home. Some of the art on display in the gallery was quite interesting/strange, think chairs thrown on the floor or a mound of sand. It was the perfect weekend spent with friends, sightseeing and soaking up the outdoors!

Random Musings:
– People here eat much healthier and are happier to eat a vegetarian meal. This is contrast to back in SA which every meal must contain a form of meat (fish doesn’t count as meat).

– Flowers can be bought from a vending machine. A true testament to the busyness of Londoners.

– Your legs will always feel cold. You just have to get used to it.

– People avoid eye contact like the plague.

– There is no handing the card to a store assistant here. Most groceries stores have a self checkout service. Items are weighed to check that you haven’t stole anything.

Sightseeing round up: Sir John Soane’s Museum, The Dirty Martini, Crown & Shuttle, Portobello Road Market, Notting Hill, Harrods, The Science Museum, Westminster Bridge, Houses of Parliament, London Eye, White Hall, Trafalgar Square, St Martin in the Fields, Wellington Arch, Hyde Park, Albert memorial & Royal Albert Hall.

1.Falafel from Pilpel / 2. Couldn’t resist adding a selfie / 3. House near Sir John Soane’s Museum / 4. St Pauls viewed from a mall / 5. Blood Orange & Vanilla martini at The Dirty Martini / 6 & 7. Celebrating B’s birthday at The Crown & Shuttle / 8. Décor at The Crown & Shuttle / 9. Late night selfies on the bus / 10. Church in Notting Hill / 11. Rent a bicycle / 12. Portobello road market / 13. Silverware / 14. Market food / 15. Flowers / 16. Pop-up cards / 17. Selection of antipasti / 18. Rainbow coloured apartments / 19 & 20. Clothes  / 21. Pastel coloured apartments / 22. Harrods / 23. Di & Dodi shrine / 24. Di & Dodi memorial / 25. Food Hall / 26. Opulent décor at Harrods / 27. Toy section / 28. Projection of earth at The Science Museum / 29. Black & Yellow carriage / 30. Natural Science Museum / 31. Prisms / 32. Telecommunications / 33. Earl’s Court Tube Station / 34. Big Ben / 35. Westminster Tube Station / 36. London Eye / 37. The South Bank Lion / 38. Westminster Bridge / 39. Looking up at Big Ben / 40 & 41. Houses of Parliament / 42. Trafalgar Square / 43. Blue rooster installation / 44. St Nelson’s column / 45. National Gallery / 46. St Martin in the Fields / 47. The Crypt at St Martin’s / 48. Wellington Arch / 49 & 50. Prettiness at Hyde Park / 51. Synchronized ducks / 52. The Serpentine / 53. Still life picture of a bird on The Serpentine / 54. Chair installation at The Serpentine Gallery / 55. Albert Memorial at sunset / 56. Royal Albert Hall / 57. Albert Memorial

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Sights Seen: 12
Photos taken: 911
Pounds spent: 59

Love from London,
CG

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