A big adventure starting and ending in
one of my favourite cities in the world: London!
Way back on May 14th I played my part as a plaintiff in mock court for my law class, downed a beer with some mock jury members and caught a 40min flight to good ol’ London, England. There I met my mom and we started our epic 28 day adventure through Europe (detailed blog posts to follow).
London was perfect for us: convenient for mom to fly into from Toronto, home to our cousin Rachel, and hosting the UK premiere of one of my favourite shows, In The Heights! We started off our three days in London by exploring the area around our hotel. We walked through Kensington Gardens (where I excitedly pointed out where Will, Kate & baby George live) and shopped the streets of Notting Hill. It was nice to take things a little more leisurely than past trips, knowing I had ticked off most of the London tourist attractions long ago.
A big highlight for me, and something I hadn’t done yet, was high tea! Mom, Rachel and I sat down for proper high tea at The Wolesley complete with scones and mini sandwiches! It was adorable and something I would definitely want to incorporate into my adult life. Is it appropriate to just serve every meal on one of those cute tiered platters?
The other huge highlight was seeing In The Heights! ITH is a musical I was introduced to a few years back and I immediately fell in love with the soundtrack and story. It’s based in the Washington Heights area of NYC and incorporates rap, salsa, hip hop, etc. while still coming off as a theatrical broadway show. This UK version at the Southwark Playhouse was absolutely mind-blowing and surpassed all of my expectations. The choreography was incredible and the vocals were perfect. I was seriously debating missing our flight the next day to see the show again!
From London, mom and I flew back to my home in Amsterdam for the next leg in our journey. More to come on that, but fast-forwarding to the end of our trip when we landed back in London on June 10….
With less than 24 hours in London together, mom and I just had time for a quick dinner with cousin Rachel and a peaceful night at the loveliest off-airport hotel. We met Rachel at Shoryu, a delicious ramen restaurant in Soho, where we were introduced to the yummiest hirata buns and some very strong cocktails.
After messing up the directions and overshooting our tube stop the next morning, I hugged mom goodbye and sent her off to Heathrow with a suitcase stuffed with my junk, empty wallet, stomach full of seafood and pasta, uneven tan lines and, hopefully, lots of great laughs and memories. It’s not that often you get to spend a month adventuring around Europe with your mama!
Lucky for me, I got to tack on a few extra days to my adventure. An hour after waving goodbye to mom, I met up with two of my girlfriends from Amsterdam for their first trip to London! I was so excited to show off my city (yes, I’m claiming ownership) to London-newbies and was even more excited that their visit coincided with Trooping the Colour!
Our first day was dubbed the nerd day: we visited Abbey Road and did horrible impressions of the Beatles’ walk while trying to avoid getting hit by double-decker buses. We stopped by 21B Baker Street to solve some crimes with Dr Watson and Mr Holmes. And we got our photos taken, complete with house scarves and character wands, going through the wall at Platform 9 and 3/4! We ended our nerdy day with a little more cosmopolitan flair: shopping on Oxford Street and seeing Wicked, the musical! Despite having now seen the show four times, Wicked still remains my favourite 🙂
Our second day began with a tour around the Westminster area to take in Big Ben, houses of parliament and Westminster Abbey. For some reason I still feel the need to take pictures of these icons; they’re just that impressive! Then it was over to Borough Market for lunch before making our way to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. At the Globe we sat down for a performance of Titus Andronicus, one of Shakespeare’s lesser known and significantly bloodier plays. Spoiler alert: everyone dies. Literally 3 characters make it out alive. And the methods of death are nothing short of cruelly creative (two guys may or may not get baked into a pie their mother is then made to eat). Despite the gore, the play itself was very entertaining and almost enough to make us forget about the uncomfortable benches we were sitting on.
After the play we walked through Trafalgar Square and witnessed the celebrations for the start of the World Cup. Brazil fans were out in full force! We kept walking through Leicester and thought Jamie Oliver’s Italian would be a good choice for dinner. But we wrong! The food was mediocre and the service was worse. Luckily, we remedied our horrible meal with Shake Shack ice creams and the wonderful music stylings of a Covent Garden busker.
Friday started off with an impromptu picnic in Hyde Park where Gabby saw her first squirrel! Though even Stephanie and I, lifelong squirrel viewers, had to admit the London squirrels were much cuter and more spry than the North American ones. After the park we made our way to Soho Secret Tea Room (hint: the entrance is through a bar) for some traditional English tea and scones. We had time to hit up the giant bargain store Primark, where I managed to buy 4 articles of clothing, two pairs of socks and rings all for just 20 pounds, before catching a glimpse of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London right before they closed.
We ended our Friday night at the Dalston Yard Street Feast. Gabby managed to find this incredible hidden street food market where I was able to get another yummy taste of hirata buns. All of the food was amazing! We finished the night off with drinks back in the city before spending our last night in the hostel.
On our last day WE SAW THE QUEEN! AND KATE! AND WILL! AND HARRY!
We planned our trip so we could catch Trooping the Colour, London’s annual celebration of the Queen’s birthday, just a few hours before our flight. We joined the masses down by Buckingham Palace (via hoisting ourselves and all our bags over a railing) to await the Queen’s arrival. I had been to Trooping before, back in 2012, but just in time to see the royal family waving from the balcony. This time we caught the whole show: marching bands, horses, guards, 41-gun salute, air force fly-over, royal family members driving by in carriages and, the highlight, the whole family on the balcony. Despite the crowds, rain and humidity, it was so cool!
And with that lovely royal send-off, we headed to the airport and back to Amsterdam. It’s crazy to think that that was my 5th visit to London. And every time I visit I fall more in love with the city and find myself fantasizing more and more about living there. I told Steph and Gabby that by 25 years old (a scarily short 3 years away), I would be back in London on a more permanent basis. Gabby and I have even decided to flat together 😉 Till then, London!
Up next: filling in the rest of the trip starting with me playing tour guide in Amsterdam!