Last August, Pete came home one day and told me that his work was sending him to London for a project. I told him, “my bags are already packed”. This is the tale of how to work and sight-see simultaneously in London.
Let’s start with the flight. Pete’s work had already booked him a flight on American Airlines (economy). Pete’s boss, however, had given me a couple of buddy passes so I could tag along. Needless to say I was definitely open to any standby seat upgrades. We waited patiently at our designated gate ay Sky Harbor, wondering whether I would be chucked into economy or upgraded. My name echoed over the speaker, I approached the stand and they handed me a business class ticket. BUSINESS CLASS TO LONDON! That’s right! I was jumping for joy on the inside, while trying to contain my excitement I told Pete in my most somber tone that I would not be joining him in economy. I wish I could tell you that he was excited for me. But that would be a lie. I contained my emotion all the way until we boarded the plane and had to part ways. Pete went to the right, row 32, Celeste to the left, row 6.
I had arrived in luxury! It was everything I had pictured and more. They handed me a glass of champagne and sparkling water while I settled in. I explored my new digs for the next 10 hours. Bang & Olufsen head set, a seat that transformed into a bed, a cozy big pillow and one large, heavy blanket. Oh my word! I am a ruined woman! I will never be able to return to economy again. I was then given a menu with my meal choices for the evening and they took my order before take-off. When the meal arrived they first set up my tray with a place mat and setting. It was pretty much a 3 course meal and they even had an ice cream sundae cart. I really hope you have seen the episode in Seinfeld called ‘the airport’ because I was living the real life version of this Seinfeld episode, ice cream sundae and all. However, poor Pete was facing the hell of economy, like Elaine.
We arrived in London. Pete was still bitter, of course, and sleep deprived. It was 09:30am and we had the whole day ahead of us (kind of). We checked into our accommodation, which was right next to Heathrow since Pete would be working next to the airport. We showered off and Pete set off to work. I had other plans. After a bit of freshening up I trekked out to Notting Hill.
One thing I want to communicate here is that this was my fourth time to London. So I wanted to make this trip about the places I had not been before and Notting Hill was one of them. I explored the small shops and stands on Portobello Road and then trekked into the side streets to view some of the cute and colorful buildings. I then walked down the hill to Kensington and popped into Kensington Gardens for a little garden therapy. By this time Pete was on his way into London and I was to meet him near Paddington at a pub for dinner. Lucky for us, Pete’s sister, who lives in London, was able to join us. Fish and chips, bangers and mash and beer; it was a pretty perfect first pub dinner back in the UK.
The next day, Pete set off for work and I set off for a pretty long walk… in the rain. Luckily we had packed our umbrellas knowing how finicky the weather in England can be. I arrived at Paddington Station and began my walk.
My walk first took me past the ‘Little Venice’ canal. It was green, the water was super green and maybe on a nicer day there would be a bit more happening here. But on this day, it was quiet, very quiet.
I kept walking until I reached the infamous Abbey Road. Well, it was just as I suspected – a road crossing. There were tourists taking pictures, trying to imitate the Beatles crossing the street. Since I was alone I was just able to get a sad picture of a crosswalk.
Anyways, onwards and upwards! I made my way past the Lords Cricket Pavilion, through Regents Park, up to the top of Primrose Hill and over to the town of Primrose, where I rewarded myself with a much needed Americano.
I then crossed over to the Chalk Farm and headed straight down to Camden Market. A few notes about the previously mentioned locations, Regents Park was lovely and would be an incredible place for a morning run. Same goes for Primrose Hill, however apparently at the top of the hill you are supposed to be able to see the entire city. Well, it was raining when I was there, so I managed to scope a few silhouettes. The little town of Primrose Hill is really cute and quaint. Definitely a great stop for a coffee or tea.
Camden market was a really cool place consisting of old brick stables that were revamped into shops and restaurants. I strolled around and tried to avoid the rain while simultaneously trying to avoid the clusters of tourists who were also avoiding getting wet.
My next stop was the British Public Library. Apparently this is a great place to work from as they provide desks, outlets and free WiFi. I stopped at a coffee shop at the library for a very sad sandwich and then headed into the library to scout out the place I would work for the next 5 hours.
Up to the 3rd floor, down to the 2nd, down to the 1st, okay back up to the 2nd; I found it! One little desk space opened up and I swooped on it! Listen, that library is crowded! Everyone and their brother is working in there. I honestly felt ridiculously stressed as I was scouring the floors for a work space. So if you don’t mind the search it is a decent place to get work done.
Six o’clock finally rolled around and Pete was on his way to London to meet me for dinner. We went into Kings Cross and explored Granary Square and The Drop Yard. We literally went into each and every restaurant and the wait times were all about 1 hour. So we stopped at a wine bar, had a drink and enjoyed some charcuterie while we waited for our table. We then ended up at Caravan Restaurant. I wish I could say it was an incredible meal. I mean, they have awesome reviews and a queue out the door. It should be amazing! We got 3 small plates to share and well, to be honest, the flavor profile just really fell flat.
The one thing you do start to notice as an American in Britain is there is a definite difference in palates. Americans like things stronger, saltier, spicier, an explosion of flavors in your mouth. Brits prefer everything a bit milder.
Onward to our last day in London! We were up bright and early as Pete headed off to work. My plan for the day was to explore the Shoreditch. I am going to be honest, the Shoreditch area might be one of my favorite places in London. It is artsy, hip, vintage inspired, revamped and a little rough around the edges. Pretty much everything I look for in an ideal hangout location. I started off by exploring the Old Spitalfields Market which was a compilation of antiques, clothing, jewelry and random goods.
I then headed up to the Brick Lane Vintage Market. If you love vintage shopping this is definitely the place to come. They had loads of treasures smashed into each stall.
I then wandered through the adorable side streets exploring the artsy storefronts and boutiques.
I soon made my way to Box Park, which is comprised of businesses, shops and restaurants inside storage containers. I grabbed a chicken shawarma plate for lunch. I was expecting an awesome garlic sauce to compliment this pretty common dish and in return I got honey mustard. Ugh! Such a letdown.
I then made my way to a cafe/bar called the Book Club to do some work for the next 5 hours. I found a table next to an electrical outlet and trucked away until 6pm.
Pete then headed down and we cruised over to Oxford Circus to meet Pete’s sister and her boyfriend for dinner. After dinner we took a lovely stroll down to Piccadilly Square. I mean, c’mon as touristy as those two locations are, you cannot deny how incredibly stunning the architecture is and what a vibe they have to offer.
I love London. I love everything about that city; the diversity, the buildings, the street cafes, the pubs, the gardens, the palaces, the shopping, everything. There is so much to see in this city that even though this was my 4th trip I felt that I had barely even scratched the surface. But I am perfectly okay with that, as it gives me more reasons to go back.
Our 3 days in London had come to a close and as much as I adored my early morning explorations I was definitely ready to see a different part of England.
Next stop, the Cotswolds.
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