We lived in London for several years just a few years back and truly loved it – me probably a bit more than my husband. I can explain that easily by the fact that he actually had to go to work everyday and I was always on vacation!
While I was very sad to leave, I still get to come back to visit at least once a year, as I have a BFF who lives outside the city. And every time I’m here, it just makes me smile. Seriously…I walk down the street and never tire of seeing the same sights. Even my husband went “It just amazes me that each time I come back, it still feels like I’m coming home.”
So, as I was walking the city the past few days, I started to take in everything and was able to concentrate on the details. Then, my mind took me to the things I love most about London, but not just the usual. Oh no, my mind went to the really cool things you don’t always think about – and I, of course, just have to share them with you…
My hair dries so much faster – With their 240 volt electricity, my hair seems to dry in half the time and with less frizz. Real or imagined, I’m happy…
Idiot proof streets – They actually mark on many street corners to Look Left and Look Right! I am so used to thinking left when I’m here, that it’s second nature. But, it’s a great aid for people who aren’t familiar with the different rules of the road.
Clean streets – I realize this will probably not be everyone’s experience, but I honestly can say I never see trash on the street. No one throws garbage on the ground, really. They actually have people picking up what trash there is and sweeping the streets every day. I just don’t see the crap on the streets like I do at home – or the graffiti for that matter…
Easy to use transportation – Whether you choose to walk, take the bus, take the underground, go by taxi, or ride a bike, it’s all so easy to figure out and just do, even by yourself. So, there’s no excuse not to get out and enjoy this city. By the way, the taxis are spotless and the drivers always know where they are going. You should google what they have to go through to become a taxi driver. We used to see them on their mopeds with their maps, learning all the streets before they take their test. Okay, so they’re expensive, but just take one ride.
I can run through 3 parks – Hyde Park, St. James Park, and Green Park are all so close to each other that you can run from one to the next in one workout – granted, a long workout. It makes for a great training ground for my triathlete. Way cool…
I can rent a lawn/deck chair in a park – During the warmer months, the city has these cool lawn/deck chairs set up in many of the parks that you rent by the hour or day or even the season. You usually just sit in them and someone comes up to you to collect or you can book ahead on line and print your ticket.
Gastropubs – We had several of these in our old neighborhood that offer upscale food in an upscale, pub-like atmosphere. The menus are usually on blackboards and you could sit at the bar or dine at a table. I loved that we would just walk out the door and find these within blocks of the flat. Two of our neighborhood favorites were Enterprise and Pantechnicon.
Take-Away Food – I have to say you can get really tasty, high quality, with a lot of variety take-away food that you could go most meals without having to cook. I have a few places at home, but the variety lacks tremendously. In London, they changed almost daily. You can go to places like Ottolenghi and Daylesford Organic Farm Shop & Cafe or even the supermarket, Waitrose, has really good selections.
Mews – I had never heard of this term until I moved to London and was looking for a place to live. They generally look like little alleyways. By history, a Mews is a row of stables with carriage houses, built behind large city houses. Today, they are really expensive, cool places to live, often with cobblestone or brick pavement, several floors, and garages.
The Victoria & Albert Museum – I just love this place. Not only is it a lovely museum with great artwork and relics, but they do really cool exhibits, like the current ones on What Is Luxury? and Alexander McQueen. Plus, they have an outstanding gift shop and upscale cafeteria that serves wine with an outdoor seating area! Speaking of museums, entrance is free in London; you just may have to pay for special exhibits.
Vegetarian Heaven – Okay, many restaurants here not only offer vegetarian options, but outright vegetarian menus; something I’ve never found in the States, unless it’s a vegetarian restaurant. Plus, it’s creative food and not just a plate of green beans!
Sunday Roasts, English Breakfasts, & Ploughman’s Lunches – Speaking of food, I just have to mention these three. I think Sunday Roasts are what my husband misses the most about London. Seriously. We would generally go to a pub for this ritual, where you get your choice of beef, pork, lamb, or even a vegetarian nut roast, along with all the wonderful sides like Yorkshire Pudding and roast potatoes.
English Breakfasts have eggs, sausages, potatoes, and beans and often blood pudding – no need to go into. They even offer vegetarian versions. A Ploughman’s Lunch, that you get in a pub, usually comes with bread, butter, cheese, and pickle/relish or is simply a cheese sandwich with pickle and butter. Either way, we still love and fix at home.
Afternoon Tea – I took everyone who came to visit me to afternoon tea. Most hotels offer it in the late afternoon or you can go to a tea room. I tried a different hotel each time for the unique atmosphere. It’s really something you need to experience at least once. But, please dress for the occasion and don’t look sloppy. I never even wore jeans. You feel so special and refined. Of course, I have mine with a glass of champagne.
History – This goes without saying and it just surrounds you. You’ve all heard of the usuals like Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, and Westminster Abbey and then there’s Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, and Jack the Ripper. But, I particularly love the little blue signs on buildings where someone famous just happened to live. I still stop to read them. My husband will be thrilled about “Nipper”.
Selfridges – Okay, I love to shop and Selfridges is a little bit of heaven for me, even if it has no resemblance to the Masterpiece Classic series Selfridges. It has been remodeled since I was there last and while unbelievable to me, they managed to make it even a better experience. It’s just laid out so nice and has everything I need OR want under one roof. I can wander for hours. I much prefer this store to Harrod’s – too busy and dark – or Harvey Nicks – close second. Problem is all of them are on busy High Streets, which is one thing I DON’T like.
If you haven’t been already, I hope some day you get a chance to visit this remarkable city. Just make sure you do all the touristy things and see all of the sights first, keeping your eyes open to the wonder that is going on around you. Oh, and make sure you listen for the children calling out for their moms, “Oh, mummy…It’s just so precious!