Oh London, how I’ve missed you…
There’s always something to do or see in this iconic English capital, and this visit was no exception. I can’t count how many times I’ve stepped out of King’s Cross Station to the buzz of crowds, London buses, black cabs and the beautiful clock tower of St Pancras – and yet somehow, it never gets old.
We started this trip with not one, but two train cancellations, but after receiving an exceptional service from the staff of Lincoln Station, we were quickly rerouted and sent on our way. Yes, this may have resulted in us reaching London over an hour later than expected, but we were there; we’d made it. We were in dire need of a recovery drink!
Our hotel for the weekend may have just been a simple Travelodge, but its location right between Bank and Cannon Street stations could not have been more perfect in terms of access to the rest of the city’s many areas and districts. There are also plenty of shops and bars within easy walking distance, which was perfect for our cheeky nightcap! All Bar One anyone?
Saturday morning, raring to go, we headed first for a much-needed fry-up after the previous night’s one drink turned into two drinks and a jagerbomb (oops!). The Breakfast Club is a great spot for a morning bite – or an afternoon one if you so desire. Excellent American-style food meets fun and quirky decor, and the Spitalfields branch on Liverpool Street was thankfully just a stone’s throw from where we were staying without having to set foot on a single train. Another win right there!
Suitably fed, we next headed East towards Greenwich, stopping off for a brief whip around Westfield Shopping Centre in Stratford. Westfield has everything you could possibly want to buy, and is located in the same area as the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – site of the 2012 Summer Olympics a whole 10 years ago (where did that time go??).
Back on the line, we continued on to the iconic giant tentlike structure that is The O2. Not for a show, not to climb it, not even for London in the Sky – which has been on my list. No, our stop was something a little different, something we didn’t have to take too seriously, but that was a great way to kill an hour – Selfie Factory.
A small stop, no larger than a boutique shop really, the Selfie Factory is comprised of various fun sets and props you can use as the backdrop for some fantastic Instagram and TikTok posts. Of course, my friend and I aren’t influencers, we aren’t models, but we went for it anyway and had a blast doing so. Not a bad souvenir to take home. An hour in the Selfie Factory cost us £15 each.
There was still time before our dinner reservation, so after we’d had our fill of modelling, we headed back West towards Trafalgar Square to check out a special limited event celebrating the joy of the city’s vast musical theatre offerings. Honestly, it was a little disappointing, but numbers from a handful of different shows were performed on stage in the square and shown on screens outside the cordoned off inner area for free. Plus the sun was brightly shining, so who can really complain?
A record-quick change and turnaround back at the hotel, it was finally time to hit the town for the evening. First stop was Revolution for a burger, brownie and cocktails – and the food was just as tasty as expected from our previous experiences with the chain. Especially the brownie, I mean, just look at it. The Mean Girls cocktail was also a fabulous choice that I’d heartily recommend.
If you know me at all, you’ll know that I don’t tend to come to London without having some show tickets booked, and the main event this time took us waltzing up The Strand to the grandeur of The Savoy Hotel. Tip: To reach the Savoy Theatre, look for the driveway into the hotel. The entrance is tucked away just there on your right.
Now, it has to be said, Pretty Woman might just be the best West End production I’ve personally ever seen. Utterly enchanting, expertly acted and choreographed, and with just the right amount of humour to heart-stopping romance ratio, the show is a must-see for anyone who loved the 1990 film, or who enjoys a whirlwind rags-to-riches love story that bridges the class divide in ’80s Los Angeles.
Every character was written perfectly, and the actors were spot on at portraying them. And that’s not to mention the vocals, which were so powerful and on-point they’d impress absolutely anyone who heard them. The set itself too was so simple and yet so elegant, and the transitions between scenes were seamless. I literally cannot think of a single bad word to say about such an emotive and memorable show, and I would encourage anyone to see it at least once.
Wandering into Leicester Square, the ringing of applause and buzz of the moment still firmly set in our minds, we made the last-minute decision to head into Moon On The Water for a quick parting drink – which again, led to multiple doubles, further jagerbombs and staying until closing. But hey, it was Saturday night in London. What can you do?
Waking Sunday morning, I was delighted to find I hadn’t been plagued by the dreaded hangover, and after a slightly slower start than the day before, we headed for the Embankment where we spontaneously booked ourselves onto a sightseeing cruise down the River Thames for £14pp.
Being aboard the Silver Bonito was actually very interesting, even for a seasoned visitor to the city, and our guide Mark was both informative and humorous, putting a heavy emphasis on making sure we all waved to the passersby on every bridge we passed under (spoiler alert, the Thames is crossed by a lot of bridges).
For those who aren’t familiar with Central London and its history, you can actually learn a lot in 40 minutes while you enjoy the cool breeze circling the air around you. Things like how Cleopatra’s Needle is older than the city itself, how Waterloo Bridge is the longest in London and was built by women, or how Tower Bridge isn’t even officially registered as a bridge at all, but rather a ship, thanks to all its mechanical elements.
Safely back on solid ground, a spot more shopping saw us through to lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe in Piccadilly Circus. Nestling into a booth beside a purple velvet pair of Jimi Hendrix’s trousers, I soon settled in for an extravagant steak and a Cosmo – because why not? We were leaving soon. From here, we popped briefly to Oxford Street to check out some last-minute shopping opportunities, before heading for our luggage and the train station that would take us home.
A weekend is never really long enough in London, so if you are planning a visit, don’t worry about being short of activities. It really does have something for everyone, and if you can get past the chaos and crowds of the underground, the whole city truly is your oyster.
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