Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Long Weekend in London: Part 1

It's always a pleasure visiting London, but each and every time I do, I have a list of things I'd like to see, do and eat that is as long as my arm - if not longer. It's one of those places that is permanently buzzing with activity and newness, and I suspect that even for those who live there, it's difficult to keep up. There are the pop up shops and the new restaurants, and then there are the up-and-coming areas that two years ago, no one would have set fut in. It's forever changing and evolving, and that's just one of the many reasons I love it.

Last weekend, we headed up for a long weekend, the first night of which was to be spent staying with friends. Upon our arrival into London, we headed straight for their place, and after a good catch up and plenty of tea, we decided to take a trip down to London fields and Broadway market. This was a first for me, and in spite of the biting chill in the air it was a joy to walk the narrow streets, taking in the sights, sounds and smells. There was vintage clothing and home-cooked food, and it was tempting to empty my purse right there and then. After a meander down to the end of the market, stopping to browse the stalls and sample homemade veggie scotch eggs and oysters, we ducked into a nearby pub for a glass of prosecco and the hance to warm ourselves up. There was a one man band putting on a fantastic show on his double bass, and despite the fact that it was still only around 3pm, most people were entirely on board, drinking, dancing and having fun.

After a while, we decided to head back to the flat and prepare ourselves for the night ahead, and it was there that I was met my the best of surprises - another of my friends was visiting from Manchester, and they had all kept it under wraps just to see the look on my face. It's very rare that we all get to see each other, so suffice to say, it must have been a good one.

That evening, we went for tapas in Stoke Newington at a restaurant called ....., washing them down with yet more prosecco, before heading to a nearby pub for more drinks and games. The plan was to end up at a club called Oslo, but our luck was out that night as we arrived to find it wasn't open to the public. The result? Much walking around, looking for somewhere to go. Eventually, we found a jazz bar and popped in for a drink or two, but the cold had been a bit much for us all, so we soon decided to call it a night.

The next day, after an amazing cooked breakfast courtesy of our hosts, we packed up our bags and travelled across London to the London Premier Notting Hill hotel, where we had booked in for two nights to celebrate our anniversary. I've found that although London hotels can be really pricey and a quick search of Booking.com can turn up nothing affordable, it's well worth scouring the site a few times in the lead-up to your planned trip, as they do sometimes drop when you least expect it.
The Premier Notting Hill is a four star, but we got it for a really good price - if you've got a trip on the horizon then keep an eye out, as I'll be reviewing the hotel soon.

After checking in and dropping off our bags, we took a walk down to Portobello Road and perused the market stalls, taking in the beautiful vintage crockery and Banksy artwork and once again trying not to open our wallets. I could spend hours wandering round the London markets, and it's another case of never getting to do them all. There are just so many to choose from, and I love the variety they offer. There's a certain charm about them that is so much more than you could ever get from simply walking down the high street.

We stopped off at a pub and ordered a Bloody Mary for me and a pint of cider for him - we were both in need of a hair of the dog after the night we'd had, and a charcuterie and cheese board was just the job to accompany our drinks.

In the evening, we decided to head for Shoreditch, but unfortunately it was easier said than done due to the fact that it was a Sunday evening and several of the tube lines were being worked on. Eventually, we figured out that we'd have to get to Liverpool Street and walk from there, but we ended up getting completely lost in the freezing cold night. Before long, I began to notice that there were a lot of Indian restaurants around, and suddenly cottoned onto the fact that we were actually on  Brick Lane - I remembered it from last time, but it definitely wasn't where we had been heading for! We actually relied quite heavily on an app called Citymapper while we were away, and for the most part it is excellent - all you have to do is pop in your current location and where you'd like to go, and it'll map out a route for you, telling you how you can get there by bus, tube, car and on foot. It was pretty much our saviour, but there were times when it wasn't quite up to date with the goings on with that day, which did throw a spanner in the works once or twice.

Eventually, we did find Shoreditch, and we decided to walk on to Hoxton and have dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant called Cyclo. We shared sweet potato and prawn fritters to start, both opting for a monkfish dish for mains, and all of it was delicious - not to mention surprisingly affordable.
Once we'd finished, we headed into The Shoreditch to make the most of happy hour (actually, it went on all night), before finally ending up in a little club called Cargo where we danced and laughed until we had no energy left. We managed to get a night bus home, and fell straight asleep when we got in - if there's one thing that's a certainty about London, it is that is has the power to exhaust anyone in a day or so!

I've got lots more photos of the trip, and another couple of days to share, but rather than make this post any lengthier I'll leave the rest for another day this week. There aren't any night time photos in this one, as I didn't fancy carrying my decent camera around that late, but I did take plenty of snaps on my phone, which will come in an Instagram updates blog post at the weekend.

What are your favourite London haunts? I'm always keen to get recommendations, as there are just so many options that it's often difficult to know where to go!



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