London Diaries: Week 11 Day 1

A lovely after work walk in Embankment Gardens started the week off. We wandered across the Millennium bridge to the South Bank where I got to capture as lovely a sunset photo that is possible in London. No matter how many times I had walked alongside the river Thames during my stay I could never resist a photo of the river, Big Ben or St Pauls. We also discovered the South African store selling Niknaks, Mrs Balls and biltong to name a few items. I started becoming slightly obsessed with spotting all the Shaun the Sheep sculptures around the city.

We purchased a 6 day London pass and I was determined to see as much as possible on it. We visited the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, HMS Belfast, London Dungeon & Curzon Soho on the first day which was quite action packed.

The Tower of London is an absolute must. My favourite part was the Beefeaters tour and getting to see the Crown jewels. The tour is a fantastic way to learn about the history while still being entertained.

Tower Bridge exhibition is something I would recommend skipping. You climb all the way up to watch a short video, read information about the bridge construction and then attempt to take photos on a very small section of glass flooring. Unless you are a bridge enthusiast, skip this.

Aboard the HMS Belfast you learn plenty about the ship while exploring the different decks. It is something different to the usual museums but also more suited to ship enthusiasts.

I loved the London Bridge experience. Its a journey through London’s past told by actors on different sets which you walk around and experience. A really fun way to learn about London.

We then visited pretty little Neal’s Yard to have dinner at Homeslice. Even though we were there early we had to wait ages for a table. When we finally got in the pizza I wanted was sold out, I ended up having a pizza that didn’t have cheese on it (how is that pizza?!) and spilt the drink of the person next to us which we then paid for. Needless to say Homeslice proved to be a horrible experience and somewhere I wouldn’t be revisiting. The pizza is not worth the price or wait – you can find better at Pizza Express.

After some tears the evening was redeemed by a trip to Curzon Soho. We watched Wild Tales which told six seriously over the top apocalyptic tales of revenge that was seriously funny. Movies in London are super expensive so I am glad we had the London pass. The great thing about London is that is something to do no matter what your taste is. There is actually such an abundance of activities that even those living there can’t do it all. I guess it really is true than when you are tired of London you are tired of life!

1. South African Store / 2-5. Embankment Gardens / 6. Obligatory red phone booth picture / 7-21. Embankment & South Bank Surrounds / 22-23. Shaun the Sheep / 24-50. Tower of London / 51. Roasted peanuts / 52-60. Tower Bridge / 61-65. Views from South Bank / 66-72. HMS Belfast / 73. London Dungeon / 74-78. Neal’s Yard & Home Slice / 79-81. Movie at Curzon Soho / 82. China Town

London & Life,
CG

London Travel Diaries: Week 10 Part II

I am glad we had indoor plans for Sunday because the weather was still cold and rainy. First up was a very early wake up call for the London Dungeon experience which I quite enjoyed. The actors do a great job of transporting you through a history of London.

I knew I wanted to visit the London Eye and Madame Taussauds but the attraction pass made the London Dungeon and Aquarium options quite cheap to add on. It was a no brainer to opt for all four. We visited the aquarium afterwards which is next door to the London Dungeon. My favourites were the penguins, seahorses and the giant crab. I found it to be just okay and thought it more geared for kids.

After lunch we hopped onto a train to Baker Street to visit Madame Taussauds. It was certainly the busiest tourist attraction in London. I enjoyed taking plenty of photos, posing silly and checking how real the wax models looked. The sections included bollywood, hollywood, sport stars, singers and politicians. You don’t really spend much time at each wax model as it is more a photo opportunity.

It had been quite a long day for our feet by then but I still managed to drag the boyfriend to the nearby Regents Park for a stroll. This section of the park was pretty and peaceful.

For dinner I thought we could visit Burger and Lobster in Farringdon. Silly me didn’t do the research and only realized once there that the inner city closes over the weekend. We did get to see Kings Cross, St Pancras and Platform 9 and 3/4. The only other restaurant I had in mind was Dishoom in Soho where we queued in the rain for over an hour. It was voted the number one restaurant in London so queuing was expected. What I haven’t figured out is why Londoners love to queue.

The staff at Dishoom were kind enough to serve complimentary hot drinks to those waiting. Dishoom resembles an Indian version of the Foundry in Parktown North. They even serve Indian craft beer! The decor and ambience is exactly what a restaurant should be and what Indian restaurants in SA lack. Was the food amazing? No, but I think it more the ambience and vibe which sets it apart from other Indian restaurants.

1&2. London Dungeon / 3. Gloomy Big Ben / 4-15 Aquarium / 16. Sherlock Holmes at the Baker Street Station / 17-83. Madame Taussauds / 84-101. Regents Park / 102-106. St Pancras & Kings Cross stations / 107-113. Dishoom

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Sights Seen: 13
Photos taken: 1683
Pounds spent: 286

Oxford & Dishoom,
CG

London Travel Diaries: Week 10 Part I

I started the week of with a work trip to Bristol. The train ride was long (2 hours) and apart from the client offices and train station I only got to check out a local pub. Having finished work early I popped into the VnA museum again for a quick visit. I really do think one of my favourite things about London is that all the major museums are free and have a massive collection of art.

This is also the week my boyfriend came to visit me. It was his first trip overseas and our first holiday together which is quite a big stepping stone in a relationship that we survived :). He arrived early on the Friday morning and set off exploring while I was at work according to an itinerary I created for him. He isn’t that into photos and quickly gave up taking any. I have included a few including the first Shaun the Sheep he spotted. Shaun in the city was part of a charity initiative where 50 differently designed Shaun the Sheep were placed on the different trails around the city and later auctioned. At first I thought it just a silly thing for kids I enjoyed finding them in parts of the city I would not have explored otherwise. We met up at Tate Modern which has a beautiful view of St Pauls Cathedral. As we were both tired and had to be up early the next day we decided dinner at home was probably best.

On Saturday we took the train out to rainy Oxford for a walking tour. I would highly recommend this as walking around aimlessly on your own isn’t as fun. It’s also the best way for me to learn the history of a place because I don’t generally read up on it. We got to visit a few churches and colleges. Oxford is so beautiful even more than Cambridge. After the tour we caught a bus to Blenheim Palace. Everything about the palace was impressive, including the massive chandelier, decorated ceilings and over the top gold zodiac sculptures. There wasn’t too much to see in the palace but I absolutely loved the garden. The fountain features were beautiful and we enjoyed a long peaceful walk on the property. We finished off our visit by boarding a mini train to checking out the maze and butterfly house. The weather for the entire day was typical UK, cold and rainy. We were really glad to be in a warm restaurant in Oxford for dinner before our train ride back to London. I am not a fan of chicken burgers but the ones I have had at the Gourmet Burger Kitchen were really good. I took way too many pictures I liked so I had to split the week into two posts. Look out for Part II soon!

1&2. Bristol Pub / 3. Train Station / 4-8 VnA / 9. Big Ben / 10. London Eye / 11-12. Embankment Gardens / 13. Shaun the Sheep / 14 & 15. View from the Waterloo and Black Friars bridges / 16-18. View from the Tate Modern / 19. Tate Modern / 20. Golden Shaun the Sheep / 21 & 22. Millennium Bridge / 23. Richard Tuttle’s Art Installation / 24. Love collecting museum maps / 25 & 26. Interesting art / 27 & 28. View from the museum / 29. First selfie on holiday / 30 – 33. More art / 34. View of St Pauls at night / 35. On the train to Oxford / 36. Picture with a random bull holding coffee that isn’t mine / 37. Oxford tour bus & red cabs / 38. Posing on a bridge / 39-52. Exploring Oxford / 53-93. Blenheim Palace / 94. Burgers at GBK

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Rain & Oxford,
CG

London Travel Diaries: Week 9

The longest part of creating these blog posts is the selection of photos. Trying to choose a few photos from hundreds that you love is no easy task. I do love the highlight reel that I am creating which I can always look back on. The week started off with a trip to Boots to pick up my online shopping haul. Can you believe that three Soap n Glory scrubs, three Soap n Glory body butters and two Origin mask packs only cost £68? I will let you in on my secret, whenever there is online shopping to be done, I always do a Google check for any available vouchers. I scored myself a 10% off disount voucher for purchases over £60 and used a £3 off Soap n Glory voucher on a seperate transaction. It was also great that all Soap n Glory was 3 for 2 and the Origins set was on special for £20 pounds. I totally win at this online shopping thing right? It was both convenient and easy to order online and pick up at a store location near me. I had to buy the Soap n Glory Breakfast Scrub because it smells so darn delicious. The Righteous Body Butter is more moisturizing than The Body Shop but the strong floral scent just isn’t for me.

Roxane and Pieter, a lovely South African couple I know from home were kind enough to invite me to their house for dinner. I had never mentioned the type of food I liked to them, so imagine my surprise to find out that Pieter had prepared my favourite meal, chicken pesto pasta with zucchini and parmesan. He even made the pesto himself! It honestly is the best pesto pasta I have eaten. On Friday I attended a pool night at The 1920’s bar for a work function. It was a little boring because other than Roxane and Baveshan people didn’t attempt to socialize or talk out of their usual social groups. After eating my fill of canapés I headed home for an early night.

I had a brief glimpse into the many artworks and artefacts housed in the British Museum during my first week in London. That quick walk through wasn’t enough and I knew I had to go back. There are no words to explain the surreal feeling once you step inside. People’s voices create a unique background hum below the magnificent glass ceiling. The sheer number of rooms and items to see can be overwhelming. After my confusing visit to the VnA in the previous week, I was armed with a pencil and map to cross of the rooms I had been to. OCD problems, I know!

There is so much to see that you could visit this museum a hundred times and see something you hadn’t noticed before. My favourite works were definitely the Greek and Egyptian pieces. Michelle joined me at the museum after bravely walking all the way from Westminster Bridge. Suffice to say both our feet were killing us as we made our way to the Wellcome Collection. We had a giggle at the sex exhibition and found ogled at the weird and wonderful pieces in the permanent collection. The library is my favourite part of the building. A beautiful space to escape to or relax in.

We caught an Uber to the Terrace Bar and Grill for our girls night out. The restaurant is beautiful with ceiling to floor glass. I had the Cromer crab and Scottish lobster bisque with garlic crostini and saffron aioli for starters, Gin and Tonic sorbet palate cleanser and the pan seared fillet of sea bream with pearl barley and butterbean risotto, roasted garlic herb oil and Berkswell cheese shavings for the main. The most delicious part of our dinner was the dessert. We all saw chocolate and immediately ordered the chocolate pistachio mousse with Chantilly cream, soaked raspberries and lychee sorbet. When the dish arrived we were all disappointed to see no chocolate, this quickly disappeared once we tasted it. Nothing short of sublime is the best description I can give.

I had a late start to my Sunday but there is plenty you can see in six hours on foot in London. My first stop was at Monument station which is a short walk away from the spectacularly beautiful Leadenhall market. It may seem more shopping centre than market but it is a Victorian styled market. It was even used as the Diagon Alley location in the Harry Potter films. I think it’s even more stunning when it’s empty on the weekend. Just around the corner from the market are the recognizable buildings of the Cheesegrater, the Gherkin, The Heron Tower and Lloyds. I am sure you can tell by now I am a little bit obsessed with buildings so it really was a must for me to see these up close and snap a photo or two or many.

Google Maps is amazing for navigating around the city, I found it up to date with regards to the tube service but not so much for the buses. There were several bus stops not in use in the area I was in so it took me awhile to find an in use bus stop that would transport me to Columbia Road Flower market. Boy, oh boy, was this narrow street market packed with people with no breathing room at all. I think the afternoons get quite busy because of people hoping to get closing specials. The market itself is small, the flowers are pretty but I didn’t see anything special nor would I say that it forms part of a must see in London on a trip.

It was then back on the bus to check out the Old Spitalfields market. This market had a few food stalls, surrounded by restaurants and plenty of strange clothes stalls of which I have no idea who would buy and wear! It is a more modern market with plenty of space which makes it lack both the ambience and hustle and bustle that makes markets special.

On the walk to the Whitechapel Art Gallery I spotted Christ Church Spitalfields and a graffiti artist at work. The gallery visit was quick due to it being rather small and disappointing. Not being in the mood to walk further than I had to, lazy me took the tube one stop to see boats at St Katharine Docks near Tower Bridge. My plan was then to walk across Tower Bridge when I noticed it was bridge lift time. This time I was on the bridge during the lift and although the pictures weren’t as great I still thought it was pretty cool. After walking along the south bank and snapping pictures of Tower Bridge, Tower of London, the city skyscrapers, City hall, London Bridge, the Shard and Borough Market it was time to go home on the tube from London Bridge. As you can see even if you only have a few hours of walking to spare you can see plenty of London if you are prepared to walk. Plus If you don’t stop to take as many pictures as I do, you will probably see even more. I honestly believe the beauty of London and most cities really, can only truly be appreciated by exploring the city on foot.

Sights seen: The British Museum, Church of Christ the King, Wellcome Collection, Leadenhall Market, The Cheesegrater, Lloyds Building, The Gherkin, Heron Tower, Columbia Road Flower Market, Old Spitalfields Market, Christ Church Spitalfields, Whitechapel Art Gallery, Trinity Square Gardens, St Katharine Docks, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, City Hall, Hay’s Galleria, HMS Belfast, Borough Market & The Shard

1. Boots shopping haul / 2. Homemade chicken pesto pasta / 3. Waiting at Blackfriars tube station / 4. Bottle light installation at the 1920’s bar / 5-28. The British Museum / 29. Random blue door / 30&31. Church of Christ the King / 32. Royal Academy of Dramatic Art / 33. Unknown cool building / 34. Freaky snuff container at the Wellcome collection / 35. Wellcome collection library / 36-40. Dinner at Terrace Bar & Grill / 41. Old school bathroom signs / 42-45. Leadenhall market / 46&47. The Cheesegrater / 48&49. Lloyds building / 50. The Gherkin / 51. The Heron Tower / 52-59. Columbia Road Flower Market / 60-63. Old Spitalfields Market / 64. Christ Church Spitalfields / 65. Graffiti artist / 66-69. Whitechapel Art Gallery / 70. Trinity Square Gardens / 71-74. St Katharine Docks / 75. Glass building near Tower Bridge / 76-81. Tower Bridge / 82. Tower of London / 83. City skyscrapers / 84. Tower Bridge / 85. City Hall / 86. Hay’s Galleria / 87. London Bridge mural / 88. HMS Belfast / 89. City Hall / 90. The Shard / 91&92. London Bridge / 93. Borough Market / 94. The Shard

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Sights Seen: 21
Photos taken: 1269
Pounds spent: 86

London & Walking,
CG

London Travel Diaries: Week 8

I was feeling quite chuffed at this point, convinced that if I had made it this far without getting sick then I wasn’t going to. What a silly thing to believe right? I got proper sick this week with the worse cold I have ever had. Note I didn’t say flu. I absolutely hate it when people say they have the flu when it’s just a cold. London germs are on another level plus the meds just don’t seem to work that well. I could never understand the big deal about sinus problems until now. My nose felt like it was going to explode from the pain especially when I was outside in the cold. My recovery took the entire week because I didn’t rest. At the end of it all there was one conclusion to be made, I would take South African germs over British germs any day!

Slightly drugged on cold medicine I made my way to Royal Albert Hall to watch Madame Butterfly. The design of the hall is strikingly majestic basking in golden light outside and nothing short of grandeur inside. Upon reaching my seat I was informed I could be upgraded to a much better seat close to the stage. I couldn’t believe my luck. The stage was stunning and the opera performance breathtaking. It was my first opera and I realized after awhile it is okay to not be able to understand every single word.

The lunch time walk involved buying more meds and visiting the street food market near the office. My dinner plans were meeting a few people at a vegetarian Indian restaurant. As an Indian, the food served at Indian restaurants is never good enough especially if its vegetarian. I also learnt the hard way about group bills. Londoners seem to prefer split bills (laziness?), which might be fine if you are earning pounds. But when you are earning rands and paying pounds, 10 pounds extra is a lot to pay for someone else’s food. It is also generally the person who orders the most – think 2 starters, 2 mains and dessert who wants a split bill. My word of advice is to keep up with everyone else otherwise you will be out of pocket. This is only really a problem with big groups and with people you aren’t that close with. I didn’t have a problem when it was with my close friends because I knew they aren’t the type to screw you over.

I probably should have stayed at home on Friday night but I can never say no to hanging out with Michelle. We made a quick drinks stop at a farewell before our original plans got side tracked and we ended up at Krua for dinner. This was the most expensive meal I ate in London but also the most delicious. The restaurant was eager for us to get going, they grabbed our napkins and even started sweeping! We got the hint but 11pm seemed to be an early time to go home so naturally we stopped for bubbles.

The intention was to go home at midnight. But somehow between Baveshan wanting McDonalds, me going on the same train home and his friend wanting to go Heaven we ended up at Heaven. This also was the first time I took the night bus home by myself.

One thing you have to know about me is that I am unable to get ready in a hurry. So when Michelle phoned me while I was stil lazing around in pjs to join Baveshan and her for lunch I got there once they were done. If you are a fan of truffle chips you have to pay The Laughing Gravy in Southwark a visit. So very delicious! We wandered around Greenwich, Cutty Sark and the market for a bit before finding a place to smoke shisha. Another first for me!

Everyone (mainly Baveshan who was just so hungry this weekend) was hungry at this point so we walked along the pier to the Trafalgar Tavern pub. Boy was it a windy and cold walk! I also caught a glimpse of the ugly O2 arena. We walked passed the Old Royal Naval College which is hauntingly beautiful at night.

I started feeling the effects of no rest on Saturday and Sunday so I didn’t manage to do much. I decided to not venture far from the apartment and visited the Saatchi Gallery. The works on display change and it I thoroughly enjoyed the visit. This should be a definite addition on your list of things to do in London. I couldn’t resist visiting the Michael Kors store near the gallery but did resist the temptation of buying a handbag. I spent a very short time at the Victoria and Albert museum, barely scratching the surface of the amount of works to be seen. The parks and museums in London are so very special and not something you could ever tire of. I am not sure how I managed but I had quite a busy week even though I was rather sick!

Sights seen: Royal Albert Hall, Heaven, Southwark, Cutty Sark, Greenwich Market, O2 Arena, Old Royal Naval College, Saatchi Gallery & Victoria & Albert Museum.

1- 9. Madame Butterfly at Royal Albert Hall / 10. Love the lunch carrier bags / 11. Street food market / 12. Paneer curry at Sagar / 13-17. Dinner at Krua / 18. Bubbles / 19. Southwark tube stop / 20-22. The Laughing Gravy / 23. Bicycles outside Canary Wharf / 24. Cutty Sark / 25 & 26. Greenwich market / 27. The Thames / 28. O2 arena / 29 – 32. Trafalgar Tavern / 33 & 34. Old Royal Naval College / 35 – 53. In and around the Saatchi Gallery / 54 – 64. Victoria and Albert museum

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Sights Seen: 9
Photos taken: 560
Pounds spent: 217

Love & Travel,
CG

London Travel Diaries: Week 7

You are probably wondering why I am still writing about London, honestly it’s because I love reminiscing and having a virtual scrapbook of pictures and memories. Needing to buy a gift meant heading off to the dreaded Oxford Street which is always extremely busy. Shopping in London was a rather disappointing experience, I think you need to know where the outlet stores are or order online in order to get anything nice. I also finally stopped procrastinating and booked tickets for my first show in London and my very first opera ever, Madame Butterfly. 

Baveshan invited me for a drink at Harrild and Sons which turned into dinner at The Fable, because one has to eat right! Having not had lamb for two months I had a lamb burger and cowboy fries. Grocery shopping isn’t expensive in London and it can often be cheaper than in SA, it’s the going out that will kill your budget especially if there is any booze involved. Budget for £20 – £30 for a meal and drink at a non fancy place. Work was situated close to the busy Fleet Street which boasts stunning views of St Pauls. People often go out during their lunch break to buy lunch. Since coming back home I have sorely missed my lunch time walks with Baveshan. It was great to have a break outside, get a little exercise with always a new place to visit, new sight to see and new picture to take. 

I love how you can catch a train to basically anywhere in the UK, even to Edinburgh! This is really convenient if you are travelling since you don’t need to hire a car which was definitely not something I was going to do. I took the train on Friday evening from Kings Cross to visit my family who stay out of London. The ceiling here is beautifully constructed and Instagram worthy. Of course the most important part of the station is the chance to channel your Harry Potter vibes at platform 9 and 3/4. You have to pay and queue even if you don’t want a professional photo taken. Boy, was this station busy! If you are travelling from here, do factor in the extra time needed to pick up your ticket, check the train platform (often released 10min before), walk to the platform and then walk to right carriage. The train ride was 20 minutes and although its only 60km away it would take more than hour to drive it. A return ticket did not come cheap, and at 28 pounds it was almost the same price as my weekly tube pass. The train can be a little daunting at night because the stops don’t get announced and in the dark you can’t see the names outside.

Saturday was a beautiful day to drive out Cambridge. We visited the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences and walked around the town before grabbing Nando’s for lunch. Sedgwick is a good museum to visit with kids especially if they like dinosaurs, although the museum isn’t on the same scale as the ones in London. Nandos is quite popular in the UK, I don’t think the locals know it is South African though. I love the bottomless cokes but think it silly to have to pay extra for peri-peri on my chips! The Fitzwilliam museum is housed in a beautiful building that has a strikingly gorgeous entrance hall with detailed work on the ceilings. I felt like a kid that got the right toy in a lucky packet when I stumbled upon paintings by Monet.

The buildings and campuses in Cambridge are so beautiful, I wish I had the opportunity to study at a place so pretty and rich in history. If you want to visit any of the colleges the best way to do so is a walking tour. Do watch out where you are walking because there are cyclists everywhere and you will probably be in their way. University students make extra cash by punting. Punting is a not so fancy way of saying boating in a boat called a punt. If you are not scared about potentially falling into the water a trip to Cambridge should end with a ride in a punt. The weather was gloomy on Sunday so I stayed at home and bonded with the kids. Seeing family made me realize that I was homesick and I bawled my way home on the train back to the lonely city of London. I have learnt that you can be surrounded by people in an extremely busy place but yet still manage to be incredibly lonely.

Sights seen: Kings Cross, Letchworth, Stotfold, Cambridge, Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences, Fitzwilliam Museum, River Cam, Kings College

1. Harrild & Sons / 2. The Fable / 3. Dinner with B / 4. Gino D’Acampo / 5. Fleet street / 6. Department of Coffee and Social Affairs / 7. Love the buildings here / 8. Kings Cross Station / 9. Houses in Stotfold / 10&11. Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences / 12&13. Bicycles everywhere / 14-19, 22-25. Unknown campus grounds / 20. Posing by a door / 21&26. All Saints Church / 23. Cool branches / 27. Colour blocking blue door / 28. Street looks similar to Camden / 29&30. University campus / 31. Fitzwiliam museum / 32. Nandos / 33. Picture perfect street / 34-48. Fitzwilliam museum / 49 & 50. Church & graveyard / 51. Pretty buildings / 52&53, 55. Punting / 54. Students drinking on the grass / 56. Street name on a building / 57. A church on every corner / 58. More bicycles than people / 59-65. Kings College / 66. Model of the town / 67&68. Street watching / 69. Market / 70. First pretty sunset in the UK / 71. My adorable niece

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Sights seen: 8
Photos taken: 568
Pounds spent: 122

Love & Travel,
CG

London Travel Diaries: Week 6

The pictures I took this week are some of my all time favourites. I am really glad I bought a camera to take with me because as much as I love my iPhone it just wouldn’t have been the same. You quickly learn that the weather in London is on the bipolar side – grey gloomy skies accompanied with wind and rain on the one day to blue sunny skies the next. People felt sad on my behalf that I was in London during Winter. I on the other hand didn’t mind too much, hot weather means being sweaty, becoming tired more easily, plenty of tourists everywhere and lastly a greater chance that the sun would aggravate a lupus flare.

It didn’t take long to form a weekly eating routine. Mondays are meat free for me so I usually bought delicious Falafel from Pilpel close to work. Opposite the shop is Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese Pub which many literary figures used to frequent. My first amazon purchase also arrived this week and boy was I glad to finally have my hands on the Cards Against Humanity game. I don’t know about you guys but when I want something I can’t get, it becomes an unhealthy obsession until I can.

I promised myself that I would attend any cool events happening in London. Once my mind is made up, come rain or shine I will make the biggest effort to do it. While I do have dead set determination I also happen to have the procrastination gene just to keep things interesting. It shouldn’t be surprising that I left it to the last night to check out an upside down car installation on the South Bank. I couldn’t locate it but there was a silver lining of walking in the Jubilee Gardens, discovering a statue of Madiba and snapping beautiful pictures of the London Eye and Big Ben at night.

The thing about being on secondment in another country for work is that you get tired from working during the week and need some recovery time on weekends. While I wish I was able to get up early and go exploring I usually only made it out by 11am on a good day. London is a city of walking, I hate exercise but I absolutely loved the walking even though it did take its toll. On days that I was by myself I would stay out till 8pm by which time I was sufficiently tired.

Camden market and Regents Park were on my list of things to do on Saturday. After seeing the gloomy weather and the threat of spontaneous rain showers the idea was swiftly dismissed. I took a little walk around Westminster station, along the river bank, strolled in the Whitehall gardens before heading back to the station to meet Michelle. We walked quite far down the South Bank looking for a place to eat and decided on The Gourmet Pizza by Gabriels Wharf. I loved the prettiness and pastel colours of Gabriel’s Wharf. It very much resembles a seaside cove. This was one of the few places I ate at in London where I actually enjoyed the food. We had the dough balls, pizza and chocolate fudge cake which were all are really yummy! Chatting and chilling with Michelle is pretty high up on my list of favourite things to do, with the time flying by so quickly that it was too late to pay a visit to the British Museum. We decide to walk up to the Tate Britain. I couldn’t resist taking a few more pictures of the London Eye and Big Ben. I am pretty sure every time I have been in that area i have taken a picture – typical tourist right? We also discovered a graffitied skateboard place and a guy making sand castles alongside the river on our walk.

At the Tate Britain we somehow managed to spent a good 30 minutes walking aimlessly and getting lost before deciphering the map. It seemed like we wanted to get some exercise in because we walked back to the London Eye to catch the Thames Clipper to watch Kingsman at Canary Wharf. The movie was seriously funny, I would recommend you watch it if you haven’t already. I found it quite interesting that you can’t flavour your popcorn in London, your options are either sweet, salty or a combo of the two. To compensate for this you can buy nachos or hot dogs as you movie munchies. I already had an inkling about how conservative Brits are did not realise that this also filtered down to the movies where they seem unable to laugh much.

I awoke to blue skies on Sunday, the perfect weather to put my original Saturday plans into action. The guidebooks suggested jumping off at Chalk farm tube station when visiting Camden to avoid the crowds. I can’t say if this was better or not as I did feel that I ended up walking a lot. There were three different markets I visited, The Stables, Camden lock and Camden market. The stables have a mix of everything, Camden Lock is the place to go for food and Camden market for vintage clothes hunting.

Lunch was mac and cheese with truffle oil, mushrooms and breadcrumbs from the Mac Factory. After exploring the markets I walked along the canals filled with house boats and ducks, walked past St Marks church before strolling in Regents Park. The parks here are massive! I walked from one side of the park to the other and then across to the inner circle where you can find the Triton fountain, open air theatre and Queen Mary’s gardens. Although I spent it alone it was the perfect Sunday afternoon.

Sightseeing round up: Golden Jubilee Bridge, Jubilee Gardens, London Eye, South Bank Centre, Whitehall Gardens, Tate Britain, Thames Clipper, Canary Wharf, Camden Stables Market, Camden Lock Market, Camden Market, Regents Canal, Regents Park, Triton Fountain, Open Air theatre, Queen Mary’s Gardens, St Marylebone Church & Madame Taussauds.

1. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese/ 2. Cards against humanity / 3. Outside my apartment / 4. View from the Golden Jubilee Bridge / 5 & 6. London Eye / 7. View of Big Ben from the South Bank / 8. Aquarium & County Hall building / 9. London Eye from Westminster Bridge / 10. Big Ben / 11. London Eye & Aquarium building from Westminster Bridge / 12. Big Ben / 13. London Eye from Westminster Pier / 14. Big Ben / 15. Norman Shaw buildings with a very small door / 16 & 17. Whitehall Gardens / 18. The Cenotaph / 19. Big Ben / 20. Westminster station / 21 & 22. London Eye / 23. Big Ben / 24. Sand art / 25. Ships on the Thames / 26. Gabriel’s Wharf / 27. Tiger prawn & shrimp pizza / 28. Chocolate fudge cake / 29-31. Tate Britain / 32. Movie snacks / 33-42. Camden Town / 43-46. Regent’s Canal / 47. St Mark’s Church / 48-51. Regent’s Park / 52. Plane flying over the park / 53. Regent’s Park / 54. Marylebone / 55-58. Queen Mary’s Gardens / 59. St Marylebone Church / 60. Madame Taussauds / 61. Stone wall

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Sights seen: 18
Photos taken: 1045
Pounds spent: 58

Love & London,
CG