To round out our 2016 trip to Europe, we just had to Stop in the United Kingdom to visit one of my best friends, Kirsty, and her family. We spent three nights at a hotel called Thistle which was right by Trafalgar Square in the heart of London (Thistle Trafalgar Hotel). It was modern, clean and incredibly centrally located.
I had been to London, Oxford, and Brackley back in 2011 when I was studying abroad in Greece so I had five specific things I wanted Scott to experience:
- Indian Food
- London Theatre
- A Sunday Roast
- Afternoon Tea
- A Bus Tour
The first thing had to be the incredible Indian food that is ALL over the United Kingdom. Indian food in the UK is like Mexican food in The States, and it’s amazing! Rather than going to a curry house of which there were many, we went to a more gourmet Indian experience and chose a restaurant close to our hotel called Lotus (http://www.lotus.london). Unfortunately, Lotus is now closed, but we had a great time there sampling some dishes we’d never seen at Indian restaurants before.
Scott and I spent a very short time taking in the sights before we had to take the Underground (London’s version of the subway) to a train station and get ourselves out to the countryside to see Kirsty. As incredible as London is, there is something about the English countryside that really called to us. It is vibrantly lush and green and the people are kind. We were exhausted and amazed so we completely forgot to take photos, but we adored our train rides out to Kirsty’s house.
Upon arriving in Brackley, we settled in to Kirsty’s guest room and prepared for dinner with her parents and brother. We drove a short way out from Brackley (on the opposite side of the road which was trippy for Scott at first) to Aynho and came to a small farm-like restaurant nestled into the green hills of England called The Great Western Arms (https://www.great-westernarms.co.uk/index.html). This was some of the best British food of our entire stay here in the UK and it was gorgeous!
The next day, we scooped up Kirsty and took her back to London with us where we all stayed at The Thistle and played tourists for a day. There is SO much to see in London so we all bought a Red Bus hop-on-hop-off tour and spent the day driving around and staring in awe. The coolest thing about London, to me, is the juxtaposition of new and old everywhere you look. There is nothing like it in The States. There are glass and steel skyscrapers in the background and ancient stone castles in the foreground. Scott was shooting off of the open air bus for hours and I could post his photos for days. Here is a sample of the sights:
That evening we went out to a casual restaurant that Kirsty had been dying to show Scott (because Scott’s favorite food is simply: chicken) called Nando’s (Nando’s Website). This place is so popular in the UK that they even have a slang phrase “Cheeky Nando’s” for when someone is being feisty. It definitely lived up to the hype.
After dinner, it was time to see a show. Similar to New York, you have to see a show if you’re in London. Every day they sell discount tickets, dinner-and-a-show packages, and other ways to have the experience at a discounted rate. In 2011, Kirsty and I saw Chicago and it was my first live musical. It was life-changing. This time, we all decided to see Thriller, which was a montage of Micheal Jackson songs. I’ve NEVER seen an audience get so involved in a show, the energy was so high and the performers looked like they were having the time of their lives. We even got to meet some of the cast members after thoroughly enjoying a night of theatre.
We finished with a few drinks at a pub in London in a trendy area and met some true characters before crashing after a long, active day.
The next day Kirsty had to return home to Brackley and Scott and I had another day to explore the city. At this point, we had been abroad for a couple of weeks and were starting to miss our bed, our dogs, and our friends, but we were determined to see what we could see. So, we took the advice of some friendly strangers and went to check out some of London’s amazing shopping.
If you’re shopping in London, your first stop should definitely be Oxford street. Here you can find everything from low budgets trends to high end fashion statements and I bought enough to fill a second suitcase (which I did not have, oops!).
One of the last items on our list was a famous British Sunday Roast. Scott and I got reservations at a very fine London hotel and had the experience of a roast with all the fixens: Yorkshire pudding, roasted carrots and potatoes, roasted turnips, au jus, etc. You can literally find this at almost every pub, restaurant or hotel in England on any given Sunday.
Then we went to one of London’s incredible street markets: Camden Passage. The street markets in London are like nothing I’ve ever seen before (they blow Seattle’s Pike Place Market out of the water). These places are eclectic, hectic and exciting. I believe that everyone who travels should collect something. In every country I visit, I find a piece of street art so that I can be taken back to that place whenever I see that particular piece. In the markets of London, we found some of the BEST and most affordable street art hidden in their crazy bazaars throughout the city. We bought some for our home, our friends’ homes and still wanted more. We also found jewelry, clothing, and food that we couldn’t resist.
After shopping and exploring until our feet were about to fall off, we visited a curry house near our hotel for the second or third time called Salt N’ Pepper (http://www.saltnpepperuk.com) and returned to our hotel room to drop off our loot.
For our final night in Europe, we were so tired we couldn’t imagine another dinner out or walk around the city, so we simply revisited the theatre district and discovered what it was like to go to the movies in London. We saw The Secret Life of Pets and ended our night early to get ready for the long flight home.
The one thing on our list that we didn’t get to do this time was Afternoon Tea. This was one of my favorite experiences from my first trip, I guess that means we will just have to plan a return visit to one of my favorite cities!!