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A Weekender’s Guide to London

A Weekender’s Guide to London

Just over a month ago, Andrew and I scooted over to London for a long weekend to celebrate his 29th birthday. He had been feeling a little wary about marking the occasion since he was starting to mourn his twenties like he was already an elderly man but I left him little choice!

We had both been to London a few times before but not as a couple so it was lovely to explore new parts of the city together. There is such an amazing energy in London, an atmosphere that picks you up and runs with you. Through streets heaving with the stories of millions. A few people were surprised at us deciding to visit after the horror the city has experienced in recent months but it’s resilience and the spirit of the people there is palpable. Fear just isn’t an option.

Our afternoons were spent lazily strolling from one park to another (with plenty of coffee and cocktails thrown in to save our wee hooves) and evenings were for catching up with old pals. Getting around London is so easy and now you can just swipe your debit card in the Underground cutting out all the hassle of getting train tickets and Oyster cards. We flew in to Gatwick Airport and just hopped on the Southern Rail to London Victoria for a standard rail price. Quick tip: don’t get the Gatwick Express because it’s £15 more expensive and is only 5 minutes faster.

We discovered lots of new places on this trip so I thought I would share a few that really stood out for us. London is huge but we packed in a lot without feeling like we were rushing around. We also got really lucky with the weather so we tried to stay outside as much as possible, avoiding most of the museums I would normally visit on a cloudy day. Of course there is so much to do but this was a great itinerary for a sunny weekend. Feel free to pick and choose a few things from it and I hope you have just as good a time as we did!

Where We Stayed

London accommodation can be super expensive so to save a little cash we stayed with Andrew’s friend our first night. As much of a life saver it can be to have a friend in the big smoke, it’s not hugely romantic so we checked in to the Grange Hotel at St Paul’s on the Saturday (a surprise birthday present for Andrew!). It was such a treat to stay somewhere a little swanky and they even had some wine and cupcakes left out as a birthday gift – so thoughtful!

 

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The room was super cosy to come back to and the bed was almost too good to leave in the mornings. The breakfast made it all worthwhile – there was so much variety you could take hours over breakfast if you wanted! We loved being able to come back to such luxury after a day exploring on our feet and we headed straight for the spa in our dressing gowns to soak our weary bones. I would definitely recommend this place if you can book it. Weekends tend to be cheaper because there’s less business-folk around so make sure to look out for deals then!

Where We Ventured

Friday

We landed in the morning so after leaving our bags off we went searching for some late breakfast. We tried to get in to The Breakfast Club in Soho but the line was ridiculous so we dandered off to Carnaby Market instead for a huge diner-style brekkie.

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After eating and strolling through the decorated alleyways, we walked towards the Natural History Museum. I’ve been to the museum before but Andrew hadn’t so I knew it couldn’t be missed. It’s easy to spend a whole day in there (especially if you have kids) but because the weather was so good we didn’t want to stay inside for too long.

 

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When we had managed to see both the life-size T-Rex and the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition we reemerged in to the sun and made our way to Hyde Park. Visiting parks is my favourite thing to do in a new city because even tourists can blend in as locals. Bodies were lazily strewn across the grass basking in the afternoon heat and we found the perfect spot to have a nap.

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Feeling energised after our siesta, we headed towards Notting Hill via Kensington Palace. The street behind Will and Kate’s gaff has some of the most amazing mansions I’ve ever seen. I couldn’t help but peak through the fences or over the walls to catch a glimpse of how the other half live (pretty well apparently). It was a fair walk from the Palace to Notting Hill but watching the buildings change from ordinary brick to candy-floss heaven made me glad that we were on foot.

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We kept going towards Portobello Road to check out the market and refuel i.e. welcome in happy hour. I also made sure to check out St. Luke’s Mews which is just parallel to the markets and an absolute Insta delight. You will recognise the buildings I’m sure since every London Instagrammer worth their salt has snapped the houses before and it’s definitely worth a visit if you’re a fan of super delicious houses!

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Saturday

On Saturday we were in a mad rush to meet my cousin and her new fiancé for brunch in Hoxton which wasn’t easy since we were coming from Clapham Junction and the heat was already melting us. We managed to just be a half hour late (sorry Camille!) and then wandered around the Hoxton Markets towards Brick Lane.

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I loved Brick Lane despite the fact it’s revered as a hipster haven. There is such a great energy around and the vintage shops were incredible if a little overwhelming (I’m not used to such high-end vintage delights!). There is music filling every alleyway as well as the smell of food from all of the carts dotting every corner. After exploring the area and sinking back a much needed Pimm’s we headed towards Spitalfields Markets. I honestly could spend a weekend just exploring London’s markets and come home a happy woman!

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We had one last pitstop before heading back to the hotel which was Dunstan-in-the-East, one of my favourite spots of the trip. It’s a bombed out church found amongst skyscrapers that has been reinvented as an urban garden, providing a sanctuary for those looking to escape the hustle outside it’s walls. If I lived in London I could be found here often I think.

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Sunday

We were feeling a little dusty after our night out on Saturday (home at 4am!) so were a little slower to start. We managed to peel ourselves away from our cloud of a bed and headed towards the Sherlock Holmes’ Museum around lunchtime. Now, I freely admit that the museum is an absolute tourist trap and the admission at £15 is a little steep but there is such attention to detail here I couldn’t help but feel impressed.

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After exploring Sherlock’s house we escaped to Regent’s Park to rest our hangovers and find shade from the heat. We walked over the bridge and past the pedalos towards St. John’s Lodge Gardens, a secret haven within the park that is without the crowds of a sunny day. We made daisy chains and waited until we felt ready for a little more walking.

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Feeling a little bit more alive we hopped on a quick journey on the tube towards Little Venice, a canal network that is found in a quiet leafy suburb that feels a million miles away from the city. There are canal boats here that are of different sizes and colours but all equally beautiful. It’s evident that many of them are used principally as homes with mini gardens on the roofs and flowers everywhere. I would imagine it would be stunning in the autumn when the leaves that hang over the boats turn bright orange before disappearing in to the river.

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Monday

Our last day was another scorcher which made it that bit harder to leave. We managed to score free tickets to St Paul’s cathedral from the hotel (win!) and hopped across the road for a quick tour. It was a lot bigger that I had thought and so beautiful, especially the ceilings which sparkled in the sunlight and made my neck ache from all the craning. Andrew was even brave enough to go to the very top of the dome while I waited outside like the wimp I am!

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We headed towards Covent Garden via the Thames to enjoy a little bit more of the cityscape before our flight. We strolled through the shops and listened to the classical music reverberating across the walls from a quartet in the basement and took a break from the heat in one of the cafés.

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Our last stop was Neal’s Yard, another Instagrammer’s delight despite it being so tiny. It’s gorgeous and I wished I could’ve stayed there the rest of the afternoon but alas we had a flight to catch. Next time, maybe.

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Where We Ate

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Boqueria, Brixton

My mouth filled up with water as I was writing this just remembering the suckling pig alone. It’s a tapas place with the best service we had throughout the trip and it made for a lovely birthday dinner for Andrew. I would definitely come back here the next time I’m in London.

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Monty’s Deli, Hoxton

This is a fairly new joint and very popular so be sure to book a table! We ate brunch here with my cousin (I had the scrambled eggs with lox – so good!) in one of the booths that made me feel like I was in New York even though I’ve never been to New York.

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Honest Burger, Liverpool Street

When we go on holiday we need to fit at least one burger meal in to keep old Andy happy and man was he happy after this burger. It was perfect, not a thing wrong with it but afterwards we were in the mood for something sweet and it turns out they don’t serve desserts!! WTF? Wouldn’t hold it against them though. Oh, and their cocktails are the bomb-diggity.

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Bill’s Cafe, Baker Street

We had brunch here on Sunday and I was so happy because it was the perfect Sunday brunch spot. The atmosphere was so welcoming and relaxing I could’ve stayed all afternoon. The menu was perfect and I wanted to go for everything on there (that could have been the hangover though) but settled on avocados with poached eggs on toast. Never a bad decision!

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Leong’s Legend, Chinatown

Our friends took us here on our last night and although Andrew wasn’t a huge fan, I adored the dumplings. I fell in love with dumplings when travelling in Australia (Chinatown in Adelaide specifically) and Leong’s reignited that long lost love. Next time I would just order a few different dumplings with rice since they were by far the best thing I ate there.

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Wahaca, St. Paul’s

I will never say no to a quesadilla especially the chicken club quesadilla at Wahaca! Holy Moses it is delicious and super filling too which makes it a fairly cheap lunch. We ate in the St. Paul’s branch which is in the One New Change building. If you go there for lunch you should definitely pop up to the rooftop terrace where you can get uninterrupted views of the city with St. Paul’s cathedral towering overhead. Just don’t go on a Friday evening because we heard there are queues from the ground floor which is a little much.

Where We Drank

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The Distillery, Portobello Road

The Distillery was a gin bar we stopped in to on our walk up Portobello Road which was beautiful on a sunny day. The interior is stunning however the drinks were on the more expensive side. Not a huge shock when you’re in London but my drink was tiny and for £8 I thought it was fairly steep. A nice spot for one drink though!

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Hope & Anchor, Brixton

We hopped across to this spot after our delicious meal in Boqueria. It has a great outdoors area out the back with beach huts perfect for a group of people on a summer’s afternoon. The beer garden closed at around 10pm though (we weren’t too sure why) and the bar turned in to a club then which was too much for us oldies so bear this in mind if you go during the evening.

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Boiler House Food Hall, Brick Lane

We didn’t eat here but had a drink out the back in the beer garden which was buzzing with people. I had a Pimm’s to get in the spirit of things and felt really wild drinking at 12pm. Beer gardens are the best on holiday especially when the sun is out so would definitely recommend this spot on a good day.

Translate, Shoreditch

No photo for this place since we were out with a group of friends and fairly well oiled but I had to include it for the music alone. It has the best cheesy 90’s music so if you’re not in to that sort of thing steer clear at the weekends! We loved it though and sang our wee lungs out in between sips of our cocktails.

 

And that is the round-up for London! I hope you can make use of some of the knowledge we picked up on our quick break and if you have any insider trips of you’re own, please feel free to share in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Pink Wellingtons
8 Ways I Prepare For A Trip

8 Ways I Prepare For A Trip

Andrew and I are in the midst of preparing ourselves for a week-long break to Croatia and I could not be more excited. We both need an escape so badly, especially one that delivers heat! We have been feeling incredibly restless within our jobs. Miserable actually. Getting up every morning to drive in to a job that doesn’t fulfil you and you get no enjoyment from is a draining process. Thankfully we have new jobs in the pipeline and we both start on the same day after we get back – sweet relief!

 

I also found my hospital admission to be pretty difficult and a bit of an isolating time, despite the fact I have been through this so many times. I was able to finish off IV antibiotics at home which was great because I was out of a ward that was full of elderly people making all kinds of noises from dusk until dawn, but it also meant that I was on my own throughout the day until Andrew got home. It was a stressful time for us both; me frustrated with myself for feeling tired and useless and Andrew worried about me. I’m feeling back to myself again and I look back on those 2 weeks as if there was a little black cloud over our house. It’s well gone now and Croatian blue skies are right ahead of us!

 

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We fly in to Split and plan to spend a couple of nights there before heading to the island of Hvar where we will base ourselves for day trips and island adventures. It will be a holiday filled with sunshine, the sea and not much else! Before we go though I always like to make sure to make a few lists to make sure I haven’t forgotten anything because I am notorious for being a scatter-brain (on our last overseas trip in January I left my wallet on the plane…with all my money in it…d’oh!).

 

If you’re heading away soon and you’re a fellow forgetter then you might want to have a lend of my list here and check a few things before you go…

 

  1. Clothes

OK so you obviously won’t be naked on your holiday (unless you are going on a very different kind of trip) so you need to plan ahead. A few days before I go, I like to plan every outfit for every day and make sure I can alternate different items across for different looks. This means you will bring less stuff which is essential if you’re only bringing carry on. You should try everything on to make sure it still fits which can be an emotional process. You will also need to make sure everything is clean too so it’s always best to leave time to get everything washed and dried!

 

Clothes I like you bring along to for a week in the sun are:

  • 3 x day dresses (all they need is heels for the evenings)
  • 1 x pair of shorts
  • 3 x tops
  • 1 x maxi dress (always)
  • 2 x bikinis
  • 1 x heels
  • 1 x comfortable flats
  • 1 x flip flops
  • 1 x wrap (great for the beach, sun lounger and picnics)
  • 1 x cardigan for the chilly nights
  • 1 x hat
  • 1 x handbag
  • 1 x beach bag
  • 1 x towel

And that is it! I do pack underwear but I’m sure I don’t have to list that although do make sure to pack a strapless bra in case you need one for your outfits!

 

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2. Toiletries

I only like to bring the absolute bare essentials with me and things that I know I can’t buy cheaply over there. My bare essentials tend to be:

  • Moisturiser
  • Few make-up items (concealer, mascara, eyeshadow, bronzer, blush, lip balm)
  • Cleansing wipes
  • Deodorant
  • Dry Shampoo
  • Nail Polish Remover (sand can really mess those little tootsies up)
  • Nail Polish
  • Shampoo & Conditioner
  • Toothpaste
  • SPF (face and body)
  • Hair Oil
  • Soap

We’re carrying on our luggage so I’ve bought wee containers for my suncream, shampoo, conditioner and nail polish remover. It’s good to get the liquids already separated out in to a clear plastic bag and leave it at the top of your case so it’s easily accessed when going through security.

 

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3. Do Your Research

Before I go anywhere I like to do plenty of research on the area I’m staying in; where to eat, where to drink, activities available to us. Of course there’s lots of room for spontaneity but I always like to have a back up plan in case we get lost or have no idea what to do. Before we went to Cuba I printed off restaurants, bars and excursions I had read about so we knew where to go and how to get there – our Spanish was so minimal that this saved us a lot of stress!

I like to search travel blogs because I enjoy reading a traveller’s perspective with honest accounts of where they recommend to go and places to avoid as well.  I like to check out Tripadvisor too for the top rated places to eat and drink for all price ranges so, depending on how much we want to spend on a particular day, we have lots of choices.

Another great tool is a Lonely Planet guidebook. I love these guides because I feel like a proper traveller flicking through the pages during breakfast on my holiday, dog-earing areas of interest. It’s nice to collect these guides as mementos from travels and displaying them on shelves at home.

 

4. Get Your Money Sorted

The whole EU debacle has meant that the sterling has dropped and we’ll be losing out on some money when we convert our cash to the Croatian kuna. It’s a pain but we try to avoid losing out on more by choosing the best credit card that won’t charge us a fortune when we use it abroad. To be completely honest this area is Andrew’s forte, I don’t own a credit card because a. it terrifies me and b. it terrifies me.

 

Make sure you know what your bank charges are when you use a card abroad and if they’re extortionate, think of getting a travel card from the Post Office. It allows you to transfer money across easily with an app, there are no charges and you can withdraw using an ATM. The only thing is that there are only 8 currencies available so it means we can’t use it in Croatia.

 

5. Medication

Having CF can be really inconvenient sometimes, especially when I’m travelling! I’m lucky that I keep quite well so I don’t have to take a lot of medication with me but I do usually have to pre-empt and order some extras in case of emergencies. Fortunately for me nebulisers are small and easy to transport these days, the old ones would have been a nightmare to travel with!

 

I know most normal people don’t need to take as much on holiday as I do but it’s important to plan ahead – there is nothing worse than trying to sign out with your hands that you have diarrhoea in a foreign pharmacy crowded with people. Nothing.

 

A few things I pack as well as my own prescribed medication include:

  • Painkillers
  • Ibuprofen
  • Rennie’s (or any other heartburn remedy)
  • Imodium
  • Dioralyte (especially if you’re going to a hot country!)
  • Anti-histamines
  • Anti-histamine cream (the only thing that helped my mosquito bites)
  • Plasters

 

6. Insurance

Boring I know but so important because I’ve heard too many horror stories to wing it. Health insurance is obviously an important one for me but everyone should have it no matter how long they’re away for. At the very least and if you’re travelling through Europe, make sure and apply for the European Health Insurance Card. The free card enables you to receive medical treatment on the same basis as residents of the country you’re in including treatment for pre-existing medical conditions and pregnant women – #win. The UK leaving the EU has led to questions about the validity of these cards however the NHS is still distributing them and they will work until we are told otherwise.

 

7. Prepare Your House

This is also a boring one but it feels so wonderful to come home to a clean house that doesn’t reek to the heavens of stale milk and damp! A few things to remember when you’re heading away are:

  • Chuck out anything that will go out of date in your fridge and cupboards
  • Water all your indoor plants and herbs and place them outside where they might get some rain
  • Put some fresh sheets on your bed (not necessary but feels great after a long journey home)
  • Wash and put away all dishes
  • General tidy up

You will say a massive thank you to yourself when you come home and can just rest your weary bones in fresh sheets!

 

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8. Save room!

Last but not least try and make room for little souvenirs you might pick up on your travels because you will kick yourself for bringing those extra pair of heels instead of making space for those handmade gems. Oh and make sure to bring a wee notebook for a diary too – sometimes better than photos when recalling a holiday!

 

At the moment I am frantically trying to follow my own advice and get everything ready for tomorrow! Can’t wait to post a guide to this amazing country and give you some great tips!

 

Take care!