We headed across the pond in November for a business trip in London. It was the first time we had been to London together, as well it was the first time in twenty years, for both of us, to step on British land. We went with zero expectations other than completing our client’s project. Let me say right off, it felt weird to be in Europe, completely in work mode. While I hauled a camera around on our daily walks, I never once felt I should be attempting anything of a creative nature until the project was finished, and we knew our client was happy.
We landed on the 8th of November after a most enjoyable flight on Virgin Atlantic. Have you flown them? Did you know they have a bar on the flight complete with a disco ball? This was our first time on Virgin Atlantic, though we are big fans of Virgin America, and I have to say it was outstanding! Lucky for us were upgraded to Premium which was outstanding and a great way to get a good night’s sleep. Coming home we had an economy seat and I am being completely honest it was just as comfortable. Sometimes we hope to actually experience their business class which looks mind-blowing.
Anyhow back to London, we arrived to what I remember the most about London, dreary grey skies with a bit of drizzle in the air, as well as a nip at my toes. Good friends, we haven’t seen in what felt like forever greeted us at the airport, then sweep us away for a weekend in the part of London they call home. It was comfortable and embracing, just like we had only seen each other a few days back. Conversations picked up from where we left off, bonding with their son we hadn’t seen since he was a wee-one, and enjoying time together all fell into place.
After a weekend of good food, great company, and a new perspective on London, we headed to the St. Pancras Hotel. We would be calling this amazing hotel home as well as FullView Media HQ for the next five days. We spent most of our time enjoying this more than lovely hotel while we worked, and waited for a client event to kick off. Needless to say, the hotel did not disappoint. The service was impeccable, and the property was gorgeous. I have to say this is the first hotel I have stayed at, ever, where each bar and restaurant on the property offered something unique. We never bored of afternoon cocktails at any of the property bars, nor did we tire of the amazing meals served in their restaurants. Truly a delight! And, if you need to overnight before catching the EuroStar, this is the hotel for you as it is connected to the station.
Friday morning after the event was over while enjoying many cups of hot coffee, our less than 48 hours in London weekend started. We knew we had limited time, so we had to make the most of it, by getting the basics of the way. We already had an idea that our next trip back to London would be more intimate as we were slowly falling in love with the city. After enjoying our last leisurely morning at the hotel, we jumped into our car and headed to the apartment we would call home for the next two nights.
I used AirBNB to book our apartment in Central London. We travel a lot for work and pleasure; AirBNB never lets us down, and I like that they have price points for everyone. All of the apartments we have booked have really been spectacular. The area we chose to stay in this trip was considered Victoria, which is very close to the posh area of Belgravia. The location could not be beaten as we were near two Underground Stations as well as a few different bus lines, not to mention a more than pleasant walk to Buckingham Palace. There were many options within walking distance to grab meals, a cold beer, or even coffee. Highly recommend this neighborhood for a true “neighborhood” experience as a local.
We spent 36 hours walking the quaint streets of London. Taking in the jaw-dropping sites, enjoying great English beers, eating until our hearts were content, and falling in love with the British charm (everyone so nice and inviting in conversation!!).
We loved London and cannot wait to go back this year. We are already planning out sites that need to be seen, and restaurants that need to be eaten at; we just hope we have enough time to take it all in.
Apartment – our host has a few apartments for rent in the same building. The one we rented was this one, and it was perfect for a quick weekend. We would definitely rent from him again, as he was very professional and the property was very clean as well as reasonably priced for Central London.
Car service – is key when arriving at the airport with a lot of luggage. We used the following car service, which was fantastic. They were always on time for pick-ups, the drivers were professional, and they are reasonably priced for long trips around London or back and forth to the airport. Guess what?
Getting around – London is pretty walkable and enjoyable. Filled with parks, sites as well as great pubs, you will never get bored. As well, the Tube (the Underground) is really easy to figure out, not to mention the bus system. We used it very often. I do recommend getting an Oyster Card before leaving as it will save you a bundle in fares, and you will not need to have changed in your pockets. It is purchased with your credit card before you leave the states, and it is filled with a fixed amount.
Sight Seeing – by far one of the best views is when you come out of the underground at Embankment. WOW! Most of the major sites are within walking distance. Grab a map, and do a loop to take them all in. A really pleasant walk, and many little shops and pubs to pop into if you need a little break.
The Original London Sight Seeing Bus – Yep, I learned in Barcelona that Lenny loves these tours, so we have been putting aside a few hours during our trips to enjoy them. This was a great way to see everything in London, and you can hop on and off to grab a pint!
Buckingham Palace – We went to see the changing of the guard, just had to do a cheesy tourist thing. A few tips, get there really early, as in at least an hour before it begins. You need a telephoto lens to even get a decent shot. Would I do it again? Probably not, but I can say that I have, at least once in my life, and so should you.
Eating and Drinking – these were the highlights of this trip. Great food, atmosphere, and we would go back.
The Booking Office Bar and Restaurant – hotel bar and restaurant, that had a cool lounge vibe and served outstanding local beers as well as cocktails. The morning buffet was amazing, and one could not possibly eat everything they provided.
Malabar – really lovely Indian restaurant in Notting Hill. I think we ordered almost everything on the menu (there were 4 of us), and the bill was very reasonable by London prices. Very fresh ingredients and the staff was beyond helpful. Our friend bites into a chili that was too hot for him, and they kept bringing him a yogurt drink to soothe the fire.
Roti Chai – a recommendation from a friend, and all we can say is WOW. It is a restaurant inspired by the street food of Indian, and everything was outstanding. We were not sure what direction to go in and asked our waitress to just feed us. She brought out dishes that we would have never thought to order, and with each bite, we wanted more. Highlight dishes were the Chicken Lollipops and the Hakka Chilli Paneer which was a fiery dish from the Kolkata region.
Fish! Kitchen Ltd – this little fish and chips spot is located in Borough Market, which is a great local food market filled with vendors selling their produce and meat items, as well is dotted with prepared food. We stopped in at Fish! as they were advertising fish and chips made with halibut. Generous portions, we shared and were stuffed, and the fish is so fresh! Great afternoon stop.
Shopping – we did not have time to shop on this trip, but we did drive through some neighborhoods, that we will hit next time such as Kings Road and Fulham Road.
** Update ** November 2016
We headed back across the pond for another brisk trip. We were lucky enough to stay at the St. Pancras for the first part of the trip, and being creatures of habit we rented an apartment from the same gentleman, but this one was with a private bath. Both were outstanding. As well, we used Blacklane as our mode of transport to and from the airport, you cannot beat their amazing customer service and pricing. Highly recommend them for getting to from the airport. The trip was mainly business but we did sneak two nights into ourselves.
A highlight of the trip was making the effort to get up before sunrise and shoot the St. Pancras train station which is connected to the hotel. The Eurostar leaves from there, and the station is stunning. Great sunlight as it begins to open its morning eyes and the people-watching is outstanding.
Sight Seeing – we had jaunted around the city the year before so we focused on spending time at one museum in addition to wandering aimlessly about London. Really that is the best way to find quaint away from tourist spots.
Tate Modern – This museum is free, except for special exhibits, which I was concerned that it would be overcrowded on a Sunday afternoon. It wasn’t. We spent a few hours just wandering and taking in art, which is amazing even if you do not want to pay for the special exhibits. Highly recommend a lazy Sunday afternoon spent here.
Eating and Drinking – In addition to the above-mentioned places we tried out a few new ones. Update on Fish! Kitchen Ltd – wasn’t as good this time around. Not sure I would do it again. Does anyone have any recommendations for fish and chips in London?
Mi + Me – is located inside the St. Pancras train station. We enjoyed a light meal of cheese, cured meats, and wine one evening. The Suffolk Rosemary Salami and Dorset Air-Dried Beef were outstanding as was the Burwash Rose cheese. A great little place to linger at and people watch.
Honey & Co – I cannot say enough about this spot and the Middle Eastern-inspired menu. The menu changes seasonally, that being said start with the large mezze platter and icy cold beer. The falafel was crispy but moist and the labneh was enjoyed by the spoonful. Lenny enjoyed a baked lamb dish and I enjoyed and smoky eggplant with lentils. Everything was so good that we had no room for dessert. We will be back in 2016 and will save room!
Tapa Brindisa – We made the mistake of hitting the Borough Market on a Sunday in search of nibbles to bring to the apartment, but that was our gain as we discovered this lovely Tapa restaurant. Lenny hates tapas because of the small portions but we were not disappointed at this little spot. We enjoyed platters of Spanish charcuterie along with cheese and red wine, and it ended up being the perfect way to spend a Sunday afternoon after wandering through the Tate.
Neils Dairy Yard – we stopped by the Covent Garden location to pick up supplies for the apartment. I mean, isn’t cheese a supply? The staff is more than helpful with picking out cheese, and we sampled our fair share along with the couple of pounds we brought home. The yogurt is a must as well; it is rich, creamy, and made with amazing ingredients.
Bang Bang – (2016) We love Vietnamese Food and it is one of the ethnic foods that we have not found “our place” in Oakland. Stumbling upon this gem in London was really great. Great space that is very hip and vibrant. The food was authentic and the portions were more than generous. Super cute served on white and blue enamel wear too. We ate like a king and queen and enjoyed great G&Ts as well. The green papaya salad was out of this world as were the duck summer rolls. Really, you cannot go wrong with anything on the menu.
** Update ** December 2017
Our yearly trip to London kicked off in November, and it was really lovely to be back! Unfortunately, we only had a couple of extra days so our adventures were limited.
Our meetings brought us to The Langham Hotel this year. While it was a beautiful property, I have to say we really missed being at the St. Pancras Hotel. One of the great things about The Langham was the location, as it was located in London’s West End which is close walking distance from SOHO, The British Museum as well as Westminster. Once our project was over we stayed at the same Airbnb we have for the past three years – that is recommendation enough.
Sight Seeing – besides losing ourselves by walking the streets of London, which is easy to do, we took in the below museum. You have to go to a museum in London as they are fabulous.
Tate Britain – (2016) As the Modern, this museum is also free except for special exhibits. Located across the Thames from Vauxhall, the location is perfect as it is also within walking distance of Big Ben! The building it is located in is gorgeous with beautiful gardens, even in November. The museum houses British Art from 1500 to the present day, which is typically not my preferred style; but, it is really a nice spot to lose yourself in on a brisk afternoon.
Eating and Drinking – Needless to say, we were pretty tired from a busy work year, so we found comfort (and it was easy) in going to a few old favorites such as Honey & Co, Neils Dairy Yard, and Borough Market (see above). Really cannot go wrong with any of those spots.
Gail’s Bakery – when we checked into our apartment the owner told us about a new bakery down the street from the apartment, that was out of this world. We immediately dropped our bags and walked down the street to enjoy lunch. We sat ourselves down with a couple of cortados as well as quiche and sausage roll and enjoyed a chilly London afternoon. Everything was so good that we grabbed a baguette to enjoy with some cheese and a bottle of wine. Guess what? The next day, I got up early to shoot and came home with fresh pastries and yogurt for breakfast!
Rippon Cheese – We worked up an appetite walking around Westminster one afternoon and on the way back to the apartment we were talking about how some good cheese would go really well with our leftover baguette. One thing about Europe that is a guarantee is that there is always a cheese shop or two located in your neighborhood. We googled our apartment location and found a gem of a cheese shop, Rippon Cheese. A small little shop with an out-of-this-world selection of European cheeses. We were invited in to see the backroom, asked what we liked, and picked out samples until our hearts were more than content. We wanted to experience cheeses that were local to the Great Britain area so this is typically something we do not see at home. The woman who helped us, packaged up three kinds of cheese (I wish I had the names), one a blue, hard and semi-hard cheese. On the way home, we grabbed a bottle of wine and had the perfect apartment picnic filled with some of the most amazing cheese ever. Cannot recommend this spot more!
Le Bab – We grabbed a quick but delicious lunch at this Middle Eastern spot over near Carnaby Street in the Kingly Court. We love this kind of food and was not disappointed. Started with cold beers and stuffed our faces with hummus, falafel, kebabs, and Turkish ice cream. Will definitely be coming back as everything was fresh and full of flavor!
Next Time – we would like to take in these sites as well as a few new eats during our next trip to London.
Tayyabs – London’s best curry
Paper & Cup – great coffee