Over Easter weekend, we went over to London to visit one of our best couple friends and Rob’s BAE bestie. We have to say that our friends really know how to pull out all the stops to ensure we had the most amazing weekend exploring their home from a London local perspective. Truth be told, I was never really a massive fan of London, I am not sure if it is because more than half my high school somehow moved over there straight out of school, or that it just seems too big city for my country simple living vibe that I just thought London wouldn’t be for me. The one thing we love about Dublin is that it is a small city but it also has loads of craic (find out what this Irish word means in a previous post) and a really big heart. London just always seemed so show-offey (that’s a word I just made up) and OTT. Like anything I can think of, London has done it and done it bigger, and well, I have always been a bit weird and awkward and not quite so popular, so I guess I never really thought I would suit London. Our friends have been living there for a little longer than we have been in Dublin – and we showed them all the reasons we love living in Dublin, so we had to go an experience London through their eyes. Whilst I still might not want to live there, I can definitely see that it is an awesome place to visit and explore. One long weekend was certainly never going to be enough time to explore this big city but our dear friends really gave us a one-of-a-kind true feel for the place. And after all my grumbling about not liking London, I may actually be converted into a bit of a fan of the place now because London in the summertime looks rad on Instagram. London really does offer so much to so many people – and it would be hard to not find something to suit all sorts of tastes.
To save some leave days, we opted to fly in after work which in hindsight we should have rather opted to arriving early in the morning and making the most of an extra day. We arrived at our friends a little after 11:30pm and the proceeded to drink and catch – it was Rob’s birthday and our friends even bought him a small (which ended up being massive) rainbow birthday cake. Barring the lumo yellow icing, it looked just like our wedding cake, and it was delish!).
The next day we were treated to a home cooked brekkie – shakshuka (which is honestly my new fave savoury brekkie!) After a slow start we then went off to explore a bit of London. It was a little rainy and being in Ireland kinda makes you forget that when it rains you really should have an umbrella. I guess we have lost one too many umbrellas, that we now just trudge through rain with our water resistant coats. But in London, almost everyone has an umbrella, like when the weather is wet, you can almost just see a sea of black umbrellas. So we went and bought two umbrella’s so we could blend in with the locals. Rob chose a bunny one, and I chose a pale pink one. See I told you we were awkward!
After successfully getting kitted for the wet weather, we walked over to The Shard for drinks and a view. Our friends know how much we love a great view, and also love a bit of a sneaky bargain. If you go straight to the bar and order a drink (it can be anything), you get a great view of the city and it saves you having to book a table and eat an expensive meal for the same view. Granted the drinks are a little pricey, but the view definitely makes it worth it.
Then when you are feeling a little hungry for lunch, you can always go down to Borough Food Market which is literally across the road – for a whole range of tasty treats at far more affordable prices. I had a yummy pad Thai stir-fry, with extra lemon and peanuts – yum!
After a little mosey through all the food stores, we walked down Oxford Street which is like Grafton street in Dublin but on steroids. It is massive, with tons of high-end stores and loads of people. It is not really our scene, but it was still great to see it and my fave was seeing all the London cabs driving down the road.
To get away from the crowds, we walked down a few alleyways and found some cool street art in what I think was a part of Soho. It was on the way to China town – of course once we got to all the Chinese lanterns, we had to do a few boomerangs with our newly acquired umbrellas.
Walking back to the train, we walked through Trafalgar Square. The last time I was there, I was 12 years old and it was during a quick stop over with my family on our way back from visiting family in Canada. It was our only overseas holiday we did as a family, so being back at there really made me think about that trip and made me miss my family a little more.
We went home and had a few drinks and a home cooked meal – which after a bit of a wet day, it was so lovely to sit in the lounge in front of the fire and chat and catch up. It is crazy how even though we have been apart for a while, it was like we were all back in Joburg just chatting away. Such a special friendship, and we have all been there for each other through this expat experience, which has made the friendship even more special.
We slept in a bit and took it relatively slow and easy for breakfast. The sun came out a bit, and we took a past Fulham Stadium and then walked along the Thames River, under the Hammersmith Bridge straight to the Dove for some tasty London pub grub. If you are thinking standard pub grub, you would be wrong – i had a delicious wild mushroom gnocchi which was anything but ordinary! It was a very relaxing day which was just what we needed, filled with tasty food because for dinner we had another splendid meal made from scratch by our wonderful friends.
We had to get up a bit early, so that we could catch the bus to the Colombia Road Flower Market which is open only on Sundays. This is a lovely flower market that has been running since 1949! One thing I will say about London is that they do keep up with traditions, heritage and history. Another handy tip for people travelling to London, you can now use your bank card to tap for busses and trains – this is such a great feature, I would love if Dublin got connected like this!
After some coffee and a mosey through the flowers, we made our way to The Bookclub which is a great little brunch spot around the corner from the market. We had our hearts set on prosecco with brunch and were disappointed to find that they don’t serve booze until 12pm, which quite frankly sounds obsurd! Prosecco brunch is such a popular thing here in Dublin, I would have thought this trendy restaurant in London would atleast offer the same. Nonetheless I still had some berry pancakes which were out of this world so all is forgiven.
We then walked off brunch by exploring a bit of shoreditch, on the hunt for great street art and even found a banksy original which was a real treat!
Then we made our way to the highlight of the weekend for Rob and a great bucket list wish was ticked off – I guess there is a reason why Rob has a BAE bestie, because this wonderful friend managed to organise not one but four tickets to watch an Arsenal Football match at the Emirates stadium. Rob has been a loyal supporter of Arsenal since he was a teenager, and long before we decided to move to Dublin, we often talked about going and seeing a match at the stadium together so I am so grateful that our friends made this dream come true for both of us. It was such a special moment, that I am happy we all got to share together. Plus, Arsenal actually won the match – which given their track record, was a great thing to see in real life!
After the footie, we went in search of more food – and tried Home Slice in Neil’s Yard for some extra yummy pizza. The restaurant is in a the most instagrammable courtyard, so colourful and bright plus the pizza is super delish!!
It was our last night in London so we decided to a do a bit more walking around, and ended up walking through some gardens, along the river near the London eye, past Westminster Abbey, as well as the statue of Nelson Mandela. It was a great way to finish off our final eve.
Before our flight, we managed to get a early breakfast booking at the Duck and Waffle which is in the city, with a great view of the city. The food is incredible, and pretty affordable, although the portions were a little small. Rob had the signature Confit Duck leg and waffle, and I opted for a sweet waffle (obvs). It was a great cherry on top, and perfect ending to a really awesome weekend with our London local friends!
HAVE YOU BEEN TO LONDON – WHAT WAS THE BEST PART OF YOUR TRIP?
Live Simply & Travel Slow,
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