London is one of my favourite places in the world. There is an almost overwhelming number of things to do. It’s busy, hustling, bustling, exciting and always takes an hour to get anywhere. As such, it feels trite to try and write a blog post encapsulating all the best bits. However, I’m up for it!
Growing up, I always fantasised about London, and a little has changed as I’ve grown older. It is a city steeped in history, wealth and stunning beauty. But it is also incredibly large, fractured and the divide between rich and poor grows seemingly deeper.
However, arrive in London for two days and you’ll find its energy, enthusiasm and bolshiness infectious. You can’t resist London’s charms for long and it will only be after you leave that you’ll breathe out with a sigh of ‘That was crazy.’
London proved to be the ideal place to set off for our 10 week trip. We stayed with family in Colliers Wood, so we didn’t pay for accomodation, which was a real plus. We ate often at Sainsbury’s supermarkets on the go, and walked lots and lots. Travel was mainly on the tube, by Oyster card. However, London is expensive, especially if you want entry to the sights (normally twenty-quid a pop) and although I didn’t buy any clothes or more than 3 pieces of makeup (which is really strict for me!), it cost one thousand pounds for the two weeks we had there, easily.
Highlights of London were the people: I was really excited to catch up with some special people, such as internet friends, Nik Speller (Instagram expert and sought-after-industry guru), Kristabel Plummer (London Blogger and inspiring Instagrammer - I interviewed her here in 2017), Jo Jones, Senior PR Advisor at The Communications Store and co-founder of Beauty Banks (on which I based ‘Soap For Society’), Editor of Blogosphere Magazine, Alice Audley (the bible for any blog fans or bloggers themselves out there) and Annmarie Bancroft, PA and Blogger with a London/Kiwi twist (she’s originally from Auckland).
Even more excitingly, the trip yielded some more Residents, who were recommended to me by Annmaree: New Zealand Chef and cookbook author, Peter Gordon, will be no stranger to Kiwis; Stu McKinnery is a recent local to Kent, but runs his famous original NZ craft beer, Yeastie Boys, as a London venture; and finally talented entrepreneur and patisserie chef Heather Kankuick who has worked for Gordon Ramsey, Peter Gordon and at the Mandarin Oriental, and now owns her own culinary consulting business, Smart Patisserie.
So many memories were made on the London fortnight: in particular being invited to amazing Annmaree’s 40th Birthday Party in Colliers Wood, complete with goody bags that included a hangover kit and lots and lots of 80’s, 90’s pop-rock-dance music. I also loved catching up with my old friend Sophie over a night out in Covent Garden: Sophie summed up her London experience, saying that in London, you may earn less and not progress as far in your career as quickly as a Kiwi, but you generally are trading that in for an amazing life experience you won’t forget - and oodles of travel to the continent.
The primary purpose of visiting London was, however, to enjoy the sites and the somewhat warmer weather of the Northern Hemisphere. While I had been before, I had forgotten much of what I’d done, and really relished my time in LDN.
Here are my top things to experience while in London, as experienced in the last two weeks of August.
This underrated yet fantastic collection of baroque antiquities and paintings as well as armour from around the world belonged to Sir Henry Wallace, a collector and philanthropist who gave his enormous collection of art, including iconic pieces such as ‘The Laughing Cavalier’ and ‘Girl on a swing’ to the United Kingdom as a gift, on the condition that nothing was to be removed and nothing to be added after his death. Set in the picturesque Mayfair area (the most expensive Monopoly square of course!), The Wallace Collection is rarely super crowded and truly houses some of the most unique and arresting treasures in London. The National Gallery is essential and houses some of the best art in Europe, including Titian’s, Rubens and Rembrandt’s galore.
Free entry, and so much art and design to see? The V&A is a real gem in London! I’d suggest leaving a whole day free for this wonderful museum, which is maybe my favourite place to go in London. There’s always a great art or fashion exhibition on, usually with a fair entry fee, but the beauty in coming to the V&A is the atmosphere and amazing architecture of the building itself. Visiting here is one of my fondest memories of London - and I have to vouch for the great food at the stunning cafe as well, surrounded by all the authentic fittings from when it was first established. Going to the V&A is like travelling back in time and is educational, awe inspiring and thoroughly enjoyable.
3. Book a show at Trafalgar Studios
As a gift to Matt before arriving in London, I booked him tickets to a local show, starring none-other than Wellington’s own Legolas…I mean, Orlando Bloom. I saw that he happened to be in a show while we were in town after Liv Tyler posted a photo of them together on her Instagram. Of course, due to my love of Margaret Hema and her stories about Liv and Orlando, it made perfect sense to bite the bullet and splash some cash on a once-in-a-lifetime performance which will likely not be repeated. The show we attended was ‘Killer Joe’, a dark comedy about a family who hire a hit-man to take out their mother. The intimate amphitheatre of the Trafalgar Studios was the perfect setting to see the show, which was dry, dark and very intimate (I have officially see Orlando’s bum in the flesh). While of course you could opt to go and see some of the long-running classics, like The Lion King or Les Miserables, it was a really neat experience to know that we were seeing a true Hollywood star (who’s acting was noticeably brilliant, even compared to his highly accomplished co-stars), right there, 5 meters in front of us, in a one-off London show.
4. Visit the Tate Modern & St Paul’s Cathedral
Close to the Thames lies a perfect pairing of two very different London institutions: like salty and sweet, yellow and pink or socks with shoes in my opinion St Paul’s Cathedral, and - just across the Millennium Bridge - The Tate Modern go brilliantly together. Past religious antique mosaics and marble tombs, topped with a vertigo inducing dome, compared with cartoonish pop art, from Lichtenstein and Warhol to Picasso. London’s huge diverse cultural achievements in art, whether for creative or didactic purposes, is here divided only by the river that runs through the city. Make sure that you climb the dome at St Paul’s Cathedral for one of the best views of London. At the Tate Modern, the Guerrilla Girls work is worth a look: this feminist collective drew attention to the fact women artists remain underrepresented by institutions such as the one they now hang in.
5. Visit Windsor Castle
If you’re still suffering from post-Harry-&-Megan vibes, you need to come to Windsor Castle just to soak up the visuals and witness the intense souvenir hawking based on the back of the Royal Wedding. There’s even a pub called ‘The Prince Harry’. Savvy marketing tactics my friends.
6. Explore Southwark
Bizzarely, I ended up coming here a few times and it was rather a cool area (apparently one of the oldest in London).
There you can find an amazing array of great stores, coffee shops and Borough Market. I’d certainly recommend spending time exploring, and having a nose about.
Also, it is where my favourite magazine, Blogosphere, have their HQ. I was lucky enough to be asked to be interviewed for a section called “Meet the subscribers” and have an amazing chat with Alice Audley, the editor, and meet delightful videographer Jamie. I’m not going to lie - I secretly want to move back to London so I can just hang around Blogosphere all the time.
7. Edith’s Teahouse in Crouch End
This was a time in my life - I got to meet Kristabel from ‘I Want You to Know’ blog, who is someone I love and have been reading for about 2 years. Because her following is still boutique and she’s a really lovely human, she agreed to meet me for coffee.
I was so nervous I broke out in heat rash and I felt seriously tongue tied. It was a bit embarrassing but she kindly didn’t (or pretended not to) notice. I really think that Kristabel has some of the most interesting curious content online right now and should be way more recognised!
Anyway, she suggested the beautiful Edith’s Tea House in Crouch End which was totally Wellington in its vibes. I would def recommend it for a tea and an Instagram shot - which is of course exactly what we did. I also would like to acknowledge what a pro at posing for photos Kristabel is. Mad respect.
8. Enjoy Dinner at The Providores
Alack, I sadly didn’t get a chance to do this but so WISH I had. Located in Marlyebone, I was fortunate enough to get to interview Peter Gordon at his flagship restaurant and I regretted not saving some up to splash on a great meal here.
I’ve hear wonderful things and of all the things we did or didn’t do on the trip, this is the only one I regret.
9. Explore Shoreditch & Brick Lane
This area used to be known as kind of seedy but there is so much going on here it has almost tipped into the mainstream.
10. Tower of London & a Picnic on the River Thames
At the end of a busy touristy day, you can’t beat a picnic on the Thames under London Bridge while watching the people walk by.
The bridge itself is truly a symbol of London, and while I probably wouldn’t visit The Tower of London again because while its cool once you’ve done it, you’ve done it, I loved getting some food from Tesco’s Express and drinking while watching the sun set with my old workmate Chelsea, Matt, our mates Evan and Becky, Matt’s sister and her boyfriend. Free and real.
A bit of a hike but although I had been there a few times with family as a kid, this is a great thing to do in London and has so much to see. You could spend a whole day at Hampton Court Palace and in fact I’d recommend it.
With beautiful grounds, stunning art and more Kind Henry the 8th than you can shake a sword at, this is definitely one of the best historical visits in London. Don’t go on a wildly wet day like we did though because you wont be able to get into the gardens and the parking is on a soggy field.
An old saying came to me again and again while in London for almost two weeks: “When a [wo]man is tired of London, [s]he is tired of life”.
If you want to get out of the main drag, a trip to Richmond will recharge your batteries. With beautiful bunting, ice cream trucks and cute houses like out of Just William, it is a lovely place to unwind.
Take the time to stroll along the river edge and visit one of the many historical pubs. Richmond isn’t really a place sadly I think we’ll ever live (because it has multi-million pound houses - a bit out of our price range) but is so beautiful for a day visit. One of our favourite London experiences.