Sometimes around this year last year, I was eagerly planning my winter holidays – not the normal/Christmas season but rather the one week off I would be getting in February. Destination: London, a.k.a. my second home. I could barely hold in my excitement knowing that I’d be going back, albeit for a short time, after more than a year of absence. I was looking forward to walking down the streets of London and getting lost as the geographer in me usually does, having hot chocolate at my favourite coffee shop on Fleet Street and see the new tiger territory at London Zoo. None of that happened, other than the getting lost part – I tend to manage that pretty well without trying too much. I had to rearrange my plans when my flight got delayed (that’s the short version, I’ll write about it at some point, maybe) and when the ex-boyfie, a.k.a the-douche-who-I-thought-was-the-love-of-my-life-then-and-with-whom-I-was-in-a-long-distance-relationship – if you’re reading this, well I’m not apologising – decided at the last minute to come down to London from the far North for some cuddly couple time.
We went along with his to-go-to list rather than mine which was more of a where-and-what-to-eat list. His argument was: we couldn’t just stuff ourselves all day long. I should have known then and there he wasn’t a keeper. Just for the record, I did end up stuffing myself all day long either way, so win!
First on the list was the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, a personal favourite. I never cease to get amazed, no matter how many times I go there and despite the screaming excited kids everywhere. We did manage to avoid most of them, so that in itself is a major achievement worth mentioning. You can easily spend the whole day at the museum, which we did. We ended up having lunch at the restaurant – just some soup – which was surprisingly quite good and most importantly, screaming-children-free.
We also had tickets to go watch the Lion King live at the Lyceum Theatre on the Strand for one of the days. Even though my campus used to be right opposite at the theatre, I had never actually seen the musical but it had been on my bucket list for quite a long time now. We got ourselves a private box, costing £43.60 each, cheaper than the front seats which went up to about £100 each – mostly because they were “restricted view” tickets although I don’t think we missed much. We even had one of the performers in our box at some point, waving some butterflies around.
The show itself was amazing as I had imagined. It was exciting to see my favourite Disney film come to life, and it is just what they have managed to do, down to the finest details. The costumes and music were exquisite and with such a talented cast, it was out of this world. It lasted a good three hours, but I don’t think we ever saw the time pass and I definitely left there with a big smile on my face. I bet I’ll come out of there feeling the same the next time I go, because yes I’m planning to go see it again!
One of my friends who had been working at the Houses of Parliament at the time offered to give us a tour (for free!). I had been there before – which cost me £15 back in 2012 but I wouldn’t say no to going back there and we thought it would be good for the ex-boyfie’s London experience. It was quite different from the last time I was there. For one, we didn’t even use the visitor’s entrance. We skipped some of the rooms that were occupied – it wasn’t exactly visiting time. Photography isn’t allowed inside other than in Westminister Hall. I highly recommend going to visit if you have the chance. The guides usually have interesting – sometimes funny – stories and you can even get an audio guide if you want. One more thing: the visitor’s cafe has quite some yummy things if you have a sweet tooth.
On our way to the Parliament, I got my wish of walking around a little bit from the Strand down to Trafalgar Square and White Hall. Usually I’d go further down to Leicester Square and end up in China Town – one of my favourite places in London, but we didn’t get that far. We had some fun on Westminister Bridge as we waited for our tour.
We did end up in Convent Garden as well and typically got lost as we went in search of SNOG, my favourite Frozen Yoghurt place. I think I was introduced to the culture of frozen yoghurt back in 2009 when it wasn’t a thing yet and I have been in love with it since. Good thing there are some dairy free options available now, not at SNOG though. I usually go for the Green Tea flavour – no it’s not gross – with pistachios, dates or brownies and mochi. Anytime I’m in London, I definitely make a stop at one of the many shops they now have all over London for a quick FroYo fix.
I also found a Moomins shop in Covent Garden which made me excited more than needed. If any of you don’t know what Moomins are, just get on YouTube and you’ll be hooked for hours. Or maybe that’s just me.
We also ended up at the British Museum on our last day but didn’t get to see everything – which I doubt is possible in a day. Some of the exhibits were closed and we were quite exhausted with all the walking we had been doing. It was quite disappointing to not be able to see the mummies but we definitely had fun exploring everything without a care in the world.
The romantic “fine-dining” options were left to the ex-boyfie, who’s somewhat a food connoisseur (being a ex-chef and all) and I have to say I was glad I left it to him. Else we’d have been having cakes for all of our meals.
His first choice was the Ceviche restaurant in Soho serving Peruvian food. I have to say I was quite sceptic at first but it has to be hands down the best food I’ve ever had. We went for the Don Ceviche from the Ceviche Bar, which is fresh seabass ceviche (fresh raw fish, if you’re wondering) in amarillo chilli tiger’s milk – no it’s not real tiger’s milk but rather a marinade sauce usually containing lime juice, chillies and a bit of fish juice) with sweet potato chips and red onions. Between us we shared a gorgeous Quinoa salad and the most amazing corn cake ever – whose recipe I’m still trying to get from him. If you like sushi, then ceviche will definitely be for you.
For our last meal, we ended up at the Grain Store, near King’s Cross Station. Yes, that sounds like the sort of restaurant I’d go to. It’s a fairly new restaurant I think but I really loved it. The restaurant had quite a rustic feel with an open kitchen and its wooden tables. The best of all, it’s vegan-friendly so that’s definitely somewhere I’d be going again although it’s a tad expensive. We both went for the sea trout and squid served with Vietnamese salad and for dessert I got chocolate cake with chamomile ice cream – again, not it’s not gross – whilst ex-boyfie got himself the chocolate and peanut delice with pineapple. Mine was better, just saying. If you are planning to go there though, I’d recommend booking a table in advance as it’s definitely quite popular from what we saw and were quite glad we had pre-booked ours.
And with this culinary experience, our short and sweet London adventure was over. Until next time!