It feels a little weird writing a Tourist Tuesday about London as I spent nearly two years doing that while I lived there. However, two weeks ago I was in London visiting my friends, I had a blast, and I wanted to share the highlights. If you’re interested in past posts about London, you can find them all here. Today’s post has some tourist highlights, some new adventures, and some mundane vacation fun. Strap in, it’s a bit of a long and rambling post. Enjoy!
I started the week off bridesmaids dress shopping with my best friend Sarah. I’ve been a bridesmaid on the other side of the ocean before, and it’s always a bit of a bummer that I can’t be very involved. But, I got lucky, and Sarah and I found the bridesmaid dress! I tried it on, we took pictures, we hugged, we squealed like silly girls. It was such fun and it meant a lot to me that I got to help. ”
We also did some goofy shopping too. The two of us went to H&M and tried on the craziest clothes available, and I tried (and eventually bought) a lipstick called “Lady Balls.” The cherry on top of this glorious day was sitting outside of a cafe drinking rosé and eating hummus and pita. It felt glamorous and fancy to be one of those women who is dining out luxuriously on a weekday. See Sarah’s pinky up? We’re so fancy.
The next day I was on my own a bit so I went to the Science Museum to catch up with some old pals. I was surprised by how many people I actually still knew. I was lucky enough to catch my grand-mentor Carlos, who was celebrating his 20-year anniversary at the museum. While I was there, I also wanted to check out Wonderlab, the new interactive gallery that replaced Launchpad (where I used to work). I thought a lot of it was nice, but I didn’t take any pictures. Mainly I had fun playing and chatting with people I knew.
After the museum, I went to the O2 to see Star Wars Identities, where they had awesome props like Han Solo in carbonite!! I also got to make my own Star Wars character and that was awesome too. If you’re in London before September 3, and you’re a Star Wars nerd like me, then you should totally go!
The best part was at the end of the day, SMAC, my girl crew, was finally reunited. Sarah, Charlotte, Abbie and I met for a picnic in Hyde Park. We sat on a blanket outside of Kensington Palace and had beer and snacks as the sun set. The weather was warm, the conversation was easy, and the company was perfect. It was one of those simple, yet immaculate summer moments, where everything is exactly right. The kind of wonderful moments that I have to remember during cold, gray winter months.
On Sunday, we went to a cricket match – Surrey vs Somerset at the Oval! My friend Anna, from DC, had arrived and Charlotte’s boyfriend Felix came too. Felix was integral as he told me everything that was going on. It felt weird to me that cricket is played in the center of the field, but overall I liked it. We saw a Twenty20 match, which is shorter than standard cricket, so not days long and no break for tea. This kind of cricket means 20 overs per team, and an over is six bowls – and I know what all of that means!
Surrey was the home team, and they won, but barely. So there was lots of excitement to be had. What was unusual is British people clap for both sides. That meant, as Somerset started to catch up, Anna and I were a bit confused. Why all this clapping from Surrey fants? Felix said you can appreciate good athleticism while wanting your team to win. Fair enough.
Anna and also I did do some proper touring. We went to Hampton Court, which was Henry VIII’s palace. I’ve written about it twice before, once when I made eggs in a hole and again when I went to the BBC Good Food festival. I love this place. It’s gorgeous, full of history, and it feels like being in the country while only being an hour outside of London. My favorite thing during this visit was watching the interpreter roast meat in a huge fireplace. Sarah, who has been to training sessions at Hampton Court, said that staff can sometimes take that meat home! That is an awesome work perk.
That night, all the ladies went out for a fancy dinner to celebrate my birthday (which was back in June). We went to Le Meridien, which is a restaurant in a lovely hotel off of Picadilly Circus. The restaurant was beautiful, with a terrace and a curved glass ceiling. The five of us dressed up and had a three-course meal with bubbly and wine. At the beginning of the meal, the waiter was very together and professional, but somehow as the meal went on, he got more and more nervous. He spilled some wine, he kept coming back to confirm what we ordered, and he seemed generally a bit awkward. It was so unexpected, and therefore it was sort of endearing.
For food, I had a starter of seafood that included a scallop (yes!), fish for dinner (hake), and a key lime pie with elderflower cream (yum!). I love elderflower in everything and immediately back in DC I bought myself a big bottle of elderflower cordial. It was yet another night with my friends, and yet another wonderful evening.
True to my style, most of the rest of the trip was a mix of touring and eating. Sarah, Anna and I went to Camden Market (which I wrote about before too). There had been a fire there two days before, but we didn’t see any signs of it. I went to the market specifically to buy gin from Half Hitch, a small batch distillery. I am not so good with drinking liquor, but this gin is so good I would even drink it straight. In addition to the usual botanicals, Half Hitch also uses black tea. It adds a nice mellow flavor. I bought two bottles to ferry home for me and Ryan.
The three of us also ate halloumi fries from Oli Babas and doughnuts from Crosstown. Since neither Anna nor Sarah had been to Camden Market before I showed them the horse stables, piles of antique suitcases, and the always memorable Cyber Dog.
A little less fun, but totally worth mentioning (because I am crazy about it) is that we also went to Sainsbury’s to buy beauty products. I fell in love with Sarah’s face wash and so bought myself some. Anna did too. The brand, Dirty Works, has turned into an obsession for me and Anna. Dirty Works is not sold widely here, but Anna’s been able to find it at TJ Maxx and Marshall’s. The face wash is so good, it’s creamy but not heavy and smells amazing. Go get it. You won’t be sorry.
On our last day, Anna and I toured the Globe. Unfortunately, we couldn’t see a show, but while we were in the theatre we did get to see rehearsal! It was so cool, even though we couldn’t take pictures. Anna said, the only bad part was that she was so mesmerized by the actors that she didn’t look around enough.
After, we met up with the rest of the girls and had lunch at Borough Market. I got a pie from Pie Minister, which doesn’t look like much, but is truly delicious. What more do you need than a flaky crust, tender beef, and rich saucy filling? Not a whole lot.
For dessert, I had a super rich and gooey brownie from somewhere else. I don’t remember the name of the vendor, but it was so good. Just go to the market and try them all. We then went to a nearby bar and I got a drink with St. Germain, an elderflower liqueur. The bar had a two for one drinks special, so what was I supposed to do? Not get two?! Obviously not.
For dinner was Wagamama, which I know isn’t a big deal in London but is a big deal to me. I love Wagamama. Does it exist in the US? I need to know. It’s fast casual, not too expensive, and I can get some delicious spicy ramen – yes, please. Also they have some good choices for vegetarians, and vegans like Charlotte, so that’s a plus too.
The night ended with us walking across the Thames, taking photos in the dark, and ending at one final pub. It was such a beautiful night, with some of my most favorite people. I always get a little upset saying goodbye, but I left feeling so content. They are wonderful friends and we were together, full of yummy food, laughing, talking, and feeling so happy. Out with them, I loved London just a little bit more.