Been There, Done That

london, Travel

Both of my parents had been to London before, so the simple entertainment of crossing off all the classic sites wasn’t available. We had plans to see a show or two, and obviously a graduation to attend, but there was still plenty of day light to fill. I had to think of little surprises to prove to them that I had in fact seen more of London in my year living there than the average tourist sees in a week-long trip. So here’s a few of the bits and bobs that entertained three folks who’d been there, done that:

Leave London

I know it’s an absolute shocker of an idea, but there’s more to the UK than London. Bonus points: the UK has a great train system that’ll get you to plenty of exciting sites in an hour or so for relatively cheap. We went to Salisbury and eventually Stonehenge via train, but other options include Oxford, Cambridge, Brighton, Birmingham, Windsor, 

and Bath. If you’ve been to London before, you should spend a day of your vacation outside the city.50970752_2298766570359956_570854711880581120_n

For the History Buffs

We tried to see one of the four remaining copies of the Magna Carta at Salisbury Cathedral, but only got to view a replica because of bad timing. For my father, who carries around historical biographical tomes for light reading, we were gonna find some old dusty important stuff.

So we went underground: if you haven’t already visited them, the Churchill War Rooms are incredible. London was right in the middle of the action for World War II (which is a strange thought for Americans who visit a modern and constantly under construction city). The War Rooms take you back, fill a morning with history, and pop you out right next to the classic history of Parliament and Westminster. (Another historical spot worth visiting is St. Dunstan’s in the East, where the remains of a bombed out church have been turned into a community garden.)50985910_391025211632427_4581915461205098496_n

For the Artists

If you can’t find art in London, you’re not looking hard enough. A personal favorite gallery is the Courtauld Gallery in Somerset House, but if you’re looking for something quick and cheap, you can pop in and out of the Queen’s House in Greenwich, the National Gallery of Art, the National Portrait Gallery, or the Tate museums.

It was on a trip to the Tate Modern, crossing the wibbly-wobbly bridge (properly known as the Millenium Bridge), that my mother stopped to look at the tiny designs drawn onto the gum dried between the ridges of the bridge. Fortunately, it’s a pedestrian bridge so no cars could take her out, but there was a whole new batch of mini art pieces created since our last visit in August. As we reached the end, we noticed a man laying on the ground with a tiny paint brush in hand. A fantastic conversation later, Ben Wilson, the Chewing Gum Man, may be my mother’s new favorite artist.51464800_341016886744046_5651513002541711360_n

View from the Top

When the view from the ground gets dull, go high. To beat the jet lag, I took my parents on a meandering walk to Primrose Hill, but the views from the Greenwich Observatory are pretty good too. If you’re looking for some history on your way up: St. Paul’s Cathedral (you’ll also get the added bonus of traumatizing your child while you’re at it, thanks mom and dad). We had nice views from the top of the Tate Modern, as well, to make up for the weird art inside.51176038_295319167723476_8234029172079460352_n

Eat

When in doubt, sit down and enjoy yourself with a nice pint and some chips. You’ve been here before, there’s no need to rush. Take the time to see the folks around you and chit chat. As much as I love a quick Pret for the road, you have time to eat a long meal, like my personal happy place Dishoom. (I mentioned some of my favorite places to eat around the world in a previous post here.) Other recommendations: Have a cup of tea at Fortnum and Mason. Eat like a local at Nando’s or Byron Burger. Grab a pint at Temple Brew House or Marquis Cornwallis or the Sugar Loaf. (Other mentions include the best pizza at Pizza Sophia, the post-show meal at Angus Steakhouse, and the off-the-main-road-surprise at Mike’s Cafe near the Portobello Road Market.) Does this make me a food blogger? Or am I just ready for lunch?

King’s Cross to Primrose Hill

london, Travel

In between pretending to write my dissertation and my last few work shifts, I’ve given myself the mission to actually cross all that stuff off my London to-do list. I recently wandered Regent’s Canal for the first time since moving here and realized just how much of this city I’ve been missing my last ten months.

It started off with a long breakfast at my favorite spot in London. If you haven’t been to Dishoom, specifically for breakfast, you are missing out. A couple of friends and I munched on some Naan Rolls and drank copious amounts of Chai at the Dishoom in Granary Square. It was nice enough, despite the current heatwave, to sit outside and get a nice breeze.

Quick Tip: If you want to enjoy Dishoom without waiting in line, visit them for breakfast on a weekday. Especially at the Granary Square location, it’s no problem to get a seat for breakfast before 11 on any given Tuesday. Weekends are another deal and lunch or dinner is a whole new ball game. (Breakfast is best, and cheaper, anyways!).37807650_10214756228113186_3594843788020809728_n

Once hyped up on chai, we wandered through Granary Square, down the stairs to the canal. Our first stop was the precious Word on the Water. A floating bookshop on the canal, Word on the Water has a decent sized collection, though its ceilings are low and may not be suitable for tall folks or weak knees.

After a wander through the stacks, we avoided the swans and started down the canal. As we walked the canal, avoiding tourists and bikers, we keep catching quick breezes and little patches of shade, a nice refreshment in the middle of an endless heatwave. A nice spot for a walk, not so nice on a bike. The architecture from the canal is also worth a look as you wander, getting a different perspective than one might from the road.

37779873_10214756229593223_5733534005878325248_nThe canal path led us straight to Camden Markets, stopping first at KERB, as well as the old Stables Market and the food stalls. I grabbed a donut from Crosstown Donuts, which was yummy, but nothing too exciting. We also had some fish and chips (aka my friend ate the fish and I stole his chips) while we walked the stalls.

Once we’d grabbed some lemonade and orange juice, we made our way away from the canals, which are currently under construction, and up the hill towards Primrose Hill. We lingered for a bit on the top of the hill, soaking up some sun and enjoying the perfect view of London.37803602_10214756230473245_9193812607339855872_n

With plans for the evening, we made our way slowly down the hill, passing all the pups enjoying the park, and down to Regent’s Park. To get back home, we made the walk through Regent’s Park, which is always a lovely end to the day.