London: A Trip Across the Pond

I say this a lot, but London really pulls at my heartstrings.  I’ve been trying to pinpoint the reason for my love affair with the city and I’m going to take it back to my love of Peter Pan, Harry Potter, and the fact that it was the first European city I visited.  There’s definitely something for every taste but I’m going to give you a few of my favorite things to do!

Where to Stay:

I absolutely love The Langham Hotel.  To me, it feels like a quintessential London residence.  Situated at the top of Regent Street, by the BBC headquarters. The staff is incredibly friendly and the hotel itself is sleek and beautiful.  On our most recent trip, we had access to The Langham Club, which has snacks and drinks out throughout the day and evening that guests can enjoy, complimentary. I will tell you, its a hell of a place to have your happy hour, or start your evening, munching on some finger foods and drinking Perrier Jouet.  The hotel boasts quite a few dining options, including The Wigmore and The Artesian.  For 3 years running The Artesian was ranked the best bar in the world.  See below, my “Suspended in Time” drink from a few trips ago.

Not far from The Langham is 44 Curzon Street, which boasts a few apartments for let.  If you are staying for a week I would suggest this place.  The one bedrooms have a kitchenette and living room, making it easy to get situated, have your coffee and read the paper in peace at home before starting the day. Plus, it kind of makes you feel like a local!

What to Do:

Like I said, there are a million things to do and I’m just going to give you my favorites.  I’m quite big on castles, I try to visit one every time I’m in Europe.  Recently, Buckingham Palace was open on our stay, so I rang in my birthday like the princess I always wanted to be, with a few hours and a spot of tea at the Palace. I thought it was the most spectacular thing.  There I was, standing in the same rooms you see Will, Kate, and Harry photographed during State events. The Palace is only open for a few weeks out of the year and this year, hosted gifts to the Queen from dignitaries around the world.  My favorite gift? An autographed photo of JFK personalized to Her Majesty.  Gotta love us Americans!

On the castle train, quite literally take the train out to Hampton Court.  It was Henry VIII’s home, so if you’ve ever seen The Tudors, or care about crazy kings who behead people, you will 100% want to check it out. I’ve seen my fair share of castles around the world, and perhaps because I know the story so well it adds to my fascination.  My visit coincided with Shakespeare’s 400th birthday, and an interactive performance of Hamlet was acted out in one of Henry’s private chambers. The grounds here are world class, and the flowers are to die for.  The castle is set just out of London along the Thames, and the town itself is adorable.  After our visit to the castle we walked around a bit then had a drink in The Mitre Hotel, just across from the entrance.

Now, I digress from castles. Sports! There are so many sporting events to see around London, that you could fill your whole trip with a game every night.  I’ve been to Wembley and the Emirates for games and have barely scratched the surface on sporting events in London.  There’s rugby, cricket, Wimbledon, polo in the summer, Henley Regatta, and the list goes on and on.  I’m planning next year to be in town during the summer so I can catch polo or Wimbledon!

If you are a Harry Potter super fan like I am, head out to Watford and visit Leavesden Studios where they have the sets up from the films.  It was the most incredible thing so be walking through the Potions room, and the Gryffindor Common Room, to just see all of these props, costume and sets from the film.  We spent hours there and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  I could do an entire book dedicated to how amazing the studio tour is but I’ll leave it at this- it is 110% worth the money and the time to go out there.  By the way – I love Draco!

Alas, just walking through the neighborhoods is enough to keep you busy for weeks in London. There are so many charming streets to veer down, colorful doors to see and street food to sample.  I quite love walking around Portobello Road, exploring all of the shops. This last trip I fell in love with the spring chips – so yummy!

Where to Imbibe & Dine:

I hate when people say that the food in London sucks.  While it may be heavy and carb loaded, I find it to be delicious.  Plus, you can find any kind of cuisine your heart desires, and who doesn’t love that??  For quintessential British food I would go to Maggie Jones.  It was recommended by a friend who moved to London and it was delicious.  Between the 5 of us we ordered almost the whole menu, the French Onion Soup was the winner of the meal – best any of us had ever had!

Andrew Edmunds is apparently a staple in Soho.  Its been around for 30 years and the owner is incredible. The food menu changes daily and the wine list is so extensive yet not overpriced.  We had an incredible white burgundy, Domaine Rapet Bourgogne Aligoté, and a bottle of Beaune Clos du Roi, for us red drinkers at the table.  Both were so good I’ve added them to my holiday wine roster.

In the mood for a steak? Normally I would refrain from recommending a chain but I would be failing you if I didn’t say GO TO FLAT IRON!  They only serve flat iron steak, with a special or two and some delicious sides.  When we were there one special was a flat iron ground into a burger with a bernaise sauce and holy moly was it unreal.  My boyfriend is a huge foodie and he was drooling over every bite of both the burger and the steak.  They also have meat cleavers for steak knives on the table that you can buy, so naturally we bought a few.

   

Pretty much every corner of London has a pub on it and they all seem to be getting bought up by these larger companies and streamlined, which takes away some of the beauty of them.  But, although Leicester Arms is a part of a chain, I really love it. Just off Regent Street, its a great place to stop after walking around shopping to grab a pint, or to watch a game.  I’ve been here my last few trips and always really enjoy the crowd. 

London has an incredible nightlife scene and I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy it on quite a few occasions.  I rang in my 26th birthday at Tonteria in Sloane Square and had one of the most fun nights of my life.  We did snack on some of the tapas but the real treasure here are the drinks. A lot of them are suggested sizing for 4+ people, but I feel certain you could get by with 2 people drinking them… or at least I did! The club has a Mexican theme and tequila comes around on the Tonteria Express toy train.  At night dancers are painted like skeletons with big sugar skull heads and people are eating fire on the dance floor.  Absolute madness!

 

Eclipse over in Chelsea is also a great spot with more of a lounge feel and cool vibes.  There is music and dancing but not as raucous as Tonteria.  They are famous for their Watermelon Martini, which is served as a martini, for a group out of a watermelon, or as a shot.  Lets talk about the shot list for a minute.  Its amazing.  They are so creative with the flavors and presentation.  We tried quite a few of them.  I definitely recommend a Crack Baby and a Money Shot, you’ll see why.

The list could go on for days, but these are my favorites that I recommend to anyone I know going over the pond.  Never fear though, I’ll be back there soon and will have a whole new slew of places for you to go!

 

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