June of 2018 I found myself booking a flight into London as the less expensive option for entry point to Europe. I decided to spend a few days exploring London and began researching what to do and see. I discovered that London is filled with local markets and of course is well known for Afternoon Tea and Gin. My itinerary was starting to shape up pretty fine as I made a list of markets. I only had 2 days in London so I had to make the most of my time.
The first day after traveling overseas is always a bust. I was able to half sleep for several hours on the plane but still struggled with that foggy euphoric feeling. The rule is, stay up, don’t go to bed when you arrive at your destination. Staying up is supposed to be the key to getting your body regulated to a new time zone. It may help, but is there really anything that you can do to lessen the effects of travelling through so many time zones? Your body just has to figure it out on its own.
The Tube should be your main transportation hub. It is easy and inexpensive to use to travel around London. Before relying on Taxi or Uber transportation, do a little research and familiarize yourself with the system. Initially the Tube was a bit overwhelming, but after a day it was pretty easy to understand.
The West Brompton station was our home base. From West Brompton we could easily catch the District line into Central London, then transfer to other lines at one of London’s many Underground access points. You should be able to get around with ease in no time. Buy an Oyster Card instead of single journey tickets, it is by far the cheapest way to use the Tube.
The Oyster card also has a daily cap. This means you can travel as much as you like in a single day and the amount you pay for your travel is capped at a lower rate compared to a Day Travelcard that will cost you £12.30. Don’t be frightened of traveling on the Tube, it is the most efficient way to get around.
North End Road – Hammersmith
Arriving in London the next task was to find the apartment that was located in Hammersmith and Fulham near Kensington. It always amazes me that you can travel across the world, end up in a home, on an obscure street, that you found on the internet.
Once at front of our door, we entered the secret code in the lockbox and were delighted to pull out the set of skeleton keys to unlock the door to our London flat. Here we found a delightful apartment with a back yard complete with a cute little kitty.
Places to Eat in London
North End Road Market
The Flat was well situated to access the Underground and the 130-year old North End Road Market was nearby. One of the markets on my must see lists. The market runs from Monday through Saturday from 8am to 6pm. Of course, the North End is easily accessible by the Tube. The nearest underground station is Fulham Broadway on the District Line. You can also take bus 391 which runs right through the market on North End Road.
This market is a bit on the grittier side, giving you a real feel of the fringes of London. The vendor stalls lining street sell just about everything. The majority of vendors are selling fresh fruit and vegetables. You will also find fishmongers, olive vendors and cheese specialists.
Vendors have been setting up here since the 1880’s. Once a year, in the summer, North End Road will close to traffic and the market grows in size for a pedestrian day.
One of the challenges you will face visiting London for the first time is the traffic direction. I had a quick lesson in crossing the street during my first walk to the North End Road Market. Those zigzag lines on the street are the marked areas where pedestrians should cross.
Cleverly marked on the curb of many London streets is a reminder for pedestrians from other lands. Look right, as the traffic is coming from the opposite direction then you may be used to. I found myself taking the extra time to look right, left, right, left and right again. I just wanted to be sure that my head was in the right place before stepping into traffic.
Afternoon Tea in London
Before touring The Tower Bridge, I stopped in at The Ivy at Tower Bridge, a British brasserie, to make a reservation for tea. The Ivy at Tower Bridge is one of the newer establishments in the historical Ivy Restaurant collection. It sits on the Thames with a view of the Tower Bridge. The restaurant is open late and serves many British iconic dishes. You can enjoy either the patio or dining room and indulge in a British tea. The Ivy is a great place to sit back, relax and watch London go by.
It was my first afternoon tea in London, and I was looking forward to the three tiers of savories and sweets. The little finger sandwiches of Cucumber and dill, and smoked salmon on rye bread were delicious. I was trying to eat in order from the bottom up, but those sweet delights looked so good. I had to pop some of the chocolate & salted caramel mousse in my mouth a little out of order. I am in love with afternoon tea and must find more.
After tea I headed out to walk along the streets and banks of the Thames, toward The London Eye. I took Southwark and stopped at the Borough Market on the way to the Eye.
Southbank Centre Food Market
Just a bit further down the road is The Southbank Centre Food Market with fantastic aromas lingering in the air. Cuisines were steaming, frying and grilling inspired from around the world. Another destination where you sort of just have to start and sample your way through each vendor and “try” and decide which meal you will choose, or how many meals you will try to eat.
It must have been a lucky night to wander around in London or maybe it was well planned, but after leaving the Southbank Centre Food Market I came upon the Underbelly Festival.
The Underbelly Festival was celebrating its 10th year in 2018. The menu of entertainment included live circus, comedy, cabaret and family entertainment all wrapped up in a five-month pop-up event. On the Southbank of the Thames. Of course, there was more food, a large variety of international dishes, and some of London’s largest outdoor bars. The shows are about an hour long and around £20 each; Affordable summer evening fun.
It was a busy Friday night stroll in London.
London and Gin
The post Eye walk took me across the London Bridge and before heading back to Hammersmith, I popped into the Rudyard Kipling Dining Room above The Princess of Wales pub. To find the dining room, head up the narrow stairway just to the left of the pub entrance and make your way up the stair case.
The restaurant is a Nicholson’s Ale & Gin Establishment which means they have been serving the best Gins in London for over 140 years. The menu was filled with enticing Gin drinks that I also had to try. The Gins were infused with all sorts of aromatic botanicals and the cocktail recipes we expertly blended with citrus’, bitters, cucumbers, or berries and paired with the perfect tonic.
I opted for the City of London Gin that was paired with pink grapefruit and juniper berries and Fever-tree Indian Tonic.
There were so many blends it was really hard to make the choice, but I was happy with my final decision and enjoyed the Fish and Chips which was a delightfully breaded whole cod filet, truly a London moment.
I didn’t want to miss out on the Borough Market, so an early morning was planned so that I could take it in as it swayed in full swing. The Borough market, one of the largest and oldest food markets in London dating back to the 12th century, can be found next to London Bridge station. Be sure to arrive with an empty stomach and full wallet as the stalls were full of all sorts of gastronomical delights.
I walked down the stairway from the street at the south end of the London Bridge and stepped into a culinary dream. Stalls of specialty foods unfolded out at my feet. There were so many fresh foods, bright vegetables and fruits, aged beef, baked goods, candies and teas. I wanted to try it all. I started at one end and grazed my way through each food group.
I am a licorice lover and was captivated by the big mound of licorice extract at the licorice stall. Here you could buy the root, the extract, and various anise candies. My other weakness is baked goods, I was also drawn to all the bakery stalls, trying to decide what to eat, buy or just photograph. I ended up leaving with a variety of shortbread cookies that I nibbled on for the rest of the day.The Borough Market also has a wholesale market that is open weekday mornings from 2am to 8am. The retail market is open Wednesday and Thursdays from 10am to 5pm, Fridays until 6pm and Saturdays from 8am to 5pm. Be sure to find this treasure under the bridge on your journey through London.
Afternoon Tea at the Milestone Hotel
The last day in London was closed out with a formal Afternoon Tea at the Milestone Hotel with my family that had arrived that day. My husband, my Sister, her husband and my two nephews all found our way to the tea room to enjoy the Brittish meal. I really like afternoon tea and think we should do it more often in the states.
Afterward we strolled off the savory and sweets from our tea and wandered through Hyde Park to the Kennsington Palace to sneak a peek at the royal family. We looked all about but did not see a sign of them anywhere other than the gift shop that was filled with royal watchers. We hopped an Uber to downtown to the Buckingham Palace as well.
Things to See in London
One of the easiest ways to get a quick read on a new city and get acquainted with landmarks and notable historical tidbits, is to grab a 24-hour ticket for the Hop-on-hop-off bus. London’s version, is called the “Original tour”.
The first Red Bus we hopped on was the yellow route, covering the Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, St Paul’s Cathedral, London Eye, The Shard, Tower Bridge and Leicester Square. We jumped off the bus at the London Tower bridge to start exploring London on foot. I recommend that you bring a good pair of walking shoes, so you can cover a lot of ground as the bus didn’t always run on our schedule.
I was looking forward to seeing Big Ben, but as I quickly discovered, Big Ben was shrouded in scaffolding as it was undergoing a major restoration project. I did get a quick glimpse of Big Ben’s face peeking out from the scaffolds as we crossed the river. it is always a good idea to check the sights in the city you will be visiting to see what attractions will be accessible during your visit.
The Tower Bridge
The Tower Bridge was built over 120 years ago and took over 8 years to build. The intent was to ease traffic and maintain river access to London docks. The Tower Bridge was considered to be the largest and most sophisticated bascule bridge ever completed. It was operated by hydraulics and powered by steam engines. An icon of London the Tower Bridge is a beautiful piece of history that you will want to visit.
After touring the inner workings, you can head to the upper level and walk across the glass floor. I am a bit skittish about heights, so I stepped precariously along the edge of the glass while others posed for a picture in the middle. Not my cup of tea.
The meandering journey to Eye was great, in fact at the Underbelly Festival I only needed to turn around and I could see the London Eye. Now I had to face the reality that I don’t like heights. All my big talk of going on the Eye was fine, but now I had to step aboard, which I did and there I raced the other acrophobians to the benches in the center of the pod which felt like the safest spot for me. I could comfortably sit and look straight out over London, and not have to look down at the ground, or up at the nearby passing planes. The journey from start to finish was about 20 to 30 minutes, and my knees were like wavy gravy the whole time.