Okay so I didn’t have tea with the queen per-say but I did take part in the English tradition of afternoon tea in one of the bujiest places I have ever had the pleasure to experience in London. I’ll come back to that one though.
This post will be covering what I did in London for the two days I was there as well as give a few tips on things I learned along the way. It was an amazing trip and dream come true for my younger self to finally see the places I’d seen in movies, but also experience the diverse atmosphere that makes up London.
We got in around ten o’clock the previous night to make the most of our two days there. We booked an Airbnb around the Acton/Shepard’s Bush area of London with a french man who, unlike most of the french, didn’t hate us for being American. He even mentioned the Irishness of my name to which my dad was very proud of when I told him.
Our first stop was breakfast with some friends who have been studying abroad in London. They took us to a lovely little cafe I can’t remember the name of. It was right across the street from a Whole Foods in Kensington. I had my first cup of English tea there and I have to say it was *says in British accent* quite delectable. I think it was a peach green tea.
One thing you have to know about me is I am a lover of teas. Green, oolong, black; you name it and I love it. So one of my must do adventures while in London was to have afternoon tea.
Before we got to the tea we first had to get to the oyster…card. *giggles at terrible joke*
The Oyster card is what you need if you ever plan on visiting London. It allows you to use the Underground in addition to the city buses. It’s about five British pounds for the card itself and then you can put however much money you want on the card. You can then in any Underground station in London. I found this useful getting to the city center since we weren’t staying close and often needed to take a bus or two.
Another helpful resource was an app called Citymapper that’s available in the app store. You put in your start location and destination and it gives you the fastest possible routes using public transportation. It’ll give you prices, real-time departures and the duration of time it will take to get you there. It works in just about any big city not just London. It was a lifesaver when trying to figure out what tube lines to take. Since there’s twelve.
Once the oyster card was squared away and after a stroll through the Kensington Gardens we proceeded to Camden Market where artisans and food venders displayed their craft. It was definitely more of a niche market with the types of art that decorated the buildings (see photo) and the interesting types of people walking around.
The food there made the experience for me. The diversity of foods available was crazy. It covered all seven continents in and area the size of a high school gym. There was Indonesian, Indian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian, Mexican and American to name a few.
I tried Indonesian coconut chicken for the first time and was blown away by the complexity of its flavors. The coconut milk gave it a smooth sweetness without overpowering the spices; they shared the stage together. The vendors served it on a bed of plain jasmine rice that didn’t add any flavor but simply broadened the texture profile.
After we plowed through the tourist trap shops we made our way to the one and only Harrods.
This shopping boutique is probably one of the bujiest places I have ever had the privilege to step foot into. Don’t expect to actually see the people who are rich enough to shop here. I’m almost positive they pay people to go and shop for them.
The employees there were looking at us as if we were running around with no pants on. We might as well have been considering I was wearing a ten dollar top from American Eagle.
So in order to feel as though we belonged in such an extravagant place, we made the decision to have our afternoon tea in the restaurant upstairs. However we about got the hell out of there when we thought one pot of tea was 55 pounds. It wasn’t thank god.
This blackcurrant hibiscus tea was absolute heaven. It had a rich deep maroon color that smelled sweet yet had some floral notes to it.
After sufficiently filling our stomachs with tea to the point we could here it sloshing around in our stomachs, we headed on over to the London Eye. We had bought tickets early on in the day during breakfast to beat the lines. I would recommend doing the same because I’ve been told the lines can get pretty long if you wait tell the last minute and by your tickets there. It was also very convenient since we could enjoy doing something else without having to worry about a line.
Before we got on the Eye it just happened to be next to a bucket list sight, Big Ben. It may have been almost entirely covered up along with some of parliament but I did get to see the clock face. I’ve always thought it was the best part anyway.
We scheduled our time perfectly to the sunset. As we were going up in the Eye, the sun was almost gone but left enough of a sliver of orange that it made for some amazing photos. I think it’s probably one of the prettiest city views I’ve seen to date.
After the Eye had made its full go around we decided to end the night with some fish and chips, mushy peas and a pint at a pub called Gloucester Arms in Kensington.
Alright, are you ready for another round because this day was just as packed as the last.
We started our morning off with a Harry Potter walking tour around ten in the morning. The guide took us around London to various filming locations as well as spots of inspiration for J.K Rowling when she was writing the series. I was even able to see the famous Platform 9 3/4 at Kingscross. However the line was way too long for me to get a picture with the cart.
The tour took about two and a half hours and we worked up a good appetite answering Harry Potter trivia questions. What better way to satisfy an empty stomach than with another market? In fact, we went back to a stop on the tour called Borough Market where the Leaky Cauldron was said to be.
Out of the two markets I went to in London, this one was my favorite for sure. It gave me an 1800s industrial vibe with the oxidized metal framework and exposed rivets.
Its located by London Bridge and Shakespeare’s Globe theater right up against the Thames. Due to it being the old stomping grounds for a certain play write, there was a Shakespearean theme among the art on the walls surrounding the market. One even depicts a portrait of the man himself with bright vibrant colors that seem to be spiraling out of his head. Perhaps to symbolize his creative genius.
Besides the art, the atmosphere was better suited to my personality than Camden. It seemed to cater more to the local London population than tourists which I appreciated and prefer. So instead of being pestered to by a t-shirt that says London on it, I was given free food samples. Food samples will always win.
I went for a falafel wrap and about cried tears of joy when I noticed that it was actually spicy. Since being in Europe there has been a severe lack of any heat in the food I eat. Seriously, in Spain they don’t even put pepper out on the table, just salt. I just want some pepper!!
Thanks to my Childhood and a dad who makes every meal with some kind of heat to it, I’ve grown to love the spice of life.
In addition to the spicy chili sauce, the falafel itself was prepared very well. It had a crunchy fried shell on the outside but was nice and fluffy on the inside with a beautiful light green coloring from herbs.
After devouring the main courses, we all decided to treat ourselves to the fudge brownies we spotted over in the pastry section. In my opinion it was the perfect kind of brownie: dense, fudgey and rich in chocolate flavor. Don’t give me a piece of chocolate cake and call it a brownie, it has to be dense.
To then quench the thirst made by the chocolate, I bought fresh mango and pineapple juice. I could have ended the day right there to be honest.
Nevertheless, three bucket list sights remained to be seen and those were our next stops after the market.
We first went to see Tower Bridge and Tower of London. Tower Bridge was amazing to look at but I didn’t find buying a ticket to tour it a wise investment. Also the line was super long and us Americans don’t like queuing for longer than 30 minutes.
I would like to come back again some day and tour Tower of London though. I’m interested in its history and learning about the numerous kings and queens who were jailed behind its walls.
After those two were crossed off we decided to go visit the queen at Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately, when we got there the flag indicated she was still on holiday up in Scotland. Probably to escape all that Brexit shit.
In all honesty the palace was not as exciting to see as I thought it would be. It was a lot smaller than I had anticipated and the American obsession with the royals hyped it up too much. I’m glad I saw it but I don’t think it would have been an end all be all if I hadn’t.
To see more of the nightlife in London we hit Soho for some shopping and to possibly find a place to eat dinner. Instead we found a giant M&M store and made the regrettable decision to go in. I’ve never seen so much chaos or felt so much anxiety in a singular store. I picked my self chosen M&M’s and got the hell out of that primary color nightmare.
Once it got a bit later in the night we made our way into China Town to find some dinner. It looked exactly the way I had expected it to, paper lanterns hanging from the tops of buildings and oriental decor covering most of the central shops.
We ended up finding a restaurant called Viet Food who had a great top floor bar. Watching the bartenders was like watching a magician do magic. They had so much flare and technique and the drinks they made were beautiful. My drink was called La Violeta or “the violet” in English (pictures above). It had prettiest lavender color with a fresh flower bud pinned to the side.
The food there was incredible as well. I had PhoGa which is your typical Pho with chicken. Their broth was flavorful and the greens added a nice crunch and pop of freshness to the dish, mixing up the textures. I would highly recommend this place if you’re going to be in Soho. The service was great and the prices were super reasonable for the quality of food.
Once again we made our way to a pub out in Kensington call Builders Arms. It is said by the locals to be David Beckham’s regular spot. He wasn’t there when we went but who am I to say they’re making shit up.
It was here, where I could feel my cheeks hurting with so much laughter, that I realized it truly is the people who make the place. I think I would have liked London regardless of who I went with, but I don’t think I would have loved it as much without my friends.
I am back in Spain now, have even been on another trip since being in England (my whole post got deleted sorry for the late upload), but I hope to come back again. There are still so many things I want to see and experience that two days just couldn’t cover.
Feel free to check out some of my other posts Here and stay tuned for some new posts soon!