I have just returned from a great midweek break in London… my daughter was away on a school trip, so I decided to take advantage of some very rare free time! I am often in London at the weekend when it is very busy so I was looking forward to a slightly quieter trip this time…
We arrived in the evening and headed to Jamie’s Italian Covent Garden for a meal – the antipasti and the pasta were very good and the Espresso Martini was a tasty end to the meal! The restaurant was pretty busy for a Tuesday evening (it is London though!) so make sure you book in advance. From there we headed to The Covent Garden Cocktail Club, a members-only club, for another cocktail or two. The dark, basement bar furnished with leather sofas and offering a varied cocktail menu is a great place to kill a few hours. Then back to the hotel and off to bed, ready for a day of exploring some of London’s many attractions!
I had a few ideas of what I was going to do for the next two days – mainly things an 11 year old would not appreciate (which is most things other than swimming, her iPad and music in Freya’s case!)! As it turned out, the weather also played a part in dictating which of London’s attractions I visited…
My first stop was the wonderful Victoria & Albert Museum. If you like art and design, this is a great museum to visit. But be warned, you can spend a lot of time here and still not see everything! I particularly enjoyed the Fashion Room, which displays costumes from the Elizabethan period through to up-to-the minute designs. My advice is to pick up a map and go and visit the sections which are of most interest to you. And don’t forget to check out the special exhibitions!
As it was raining, I headed down the road to Harrods… Again, due to the size, either pick a few departments to visit or, if time is not an issue, just wander around and see what you can find! One of my favourite departments is the wonderful Food Hall, which is worth a browse (see if you can make it through without buying anything – it’s a challenge!). Looking for a souvenir? Then make sure you head to the Harrods Gift Shop where you can get pretty much anything you can think of bearing the Harrods logo!
Next, it was a trip on the tube to the tourist hotspot of Covent Garden. This is a good (if expensive) place to buy souvenirs – the Apple Market has some lovely stalls selling handmade items such as jewellery, prints, and clothing. While you are there, take the time to enjoy a drink at one of the many cafes whilst checking out some of the very talented performers.
From there, you can walk up to the spectacular (and very popular) British Museum. One of the most impressive aspects of the museum is the Great Court – take time to admire it before heading through to marvel at exhibits from cultures from every corner of the globe. This is another huge museum but if you go at a time when it is not too busy you can enjoy several hours wandering through the many galleries. Unfortunately, this is not quite so enjoyable when the museum is busy (ie when the weather is bad, as it was when I visited).
My last stop of the day, as the rain had finally subsided, was Green Park to stretch my legs before heading on to the tube back to the hotel to get ready for another night out!
Tonight, we headed for The Port House, a stylish tapas restaurant on The Strand. The atmospheric restaurant, which is well located for the West End, resembles a cellar (exposed brick and steel) and is illuminated predominantly by candlelight. It was a good choice – the food and the service were both excellent. We finished up there with a cocktail and then ended the evening with more cocktails at The Covent Garden Cocktail Club!
The following day was warm and sunny so I started off with a stroll through beautiful Hyde Park, past the ducks and swans on The Serpentine… As usual, what looked to be a short distance on my map turned out to be much further than I thought and I was glad to eventually get on the tube for a sit down!
My next stop was Borough Market, London’s oldest food market, as I had heard a lot about it but had never been… It is foodie heaven and definitely worth a visit if you have time! There are hundreds of stalls selling every type of food (both cooked and raw) that you can think of, and many stallholders give out samples for you to try before you buy.
After lunch (a picnic in the park – you have to make the most of it when you get good weather in the UK!), I headed to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. Again, make sure you pick up a map on arrival – without one you will end up going round in circles as the layout is quite confusing! As I had been many times before, I just wandered around the galleries, stopping to look at whatever caught my eye, including the very ornate ceilings! As it had now started to rain, the gallery was getting quite busy so I left…
After a much-needed tea stop, I returned to the hotel, picked up my luggage and got on the tube to St Pancras for the train journey home. If you can, avoid travelling across London in rush hour – it is not a pleasant experience, particularly with a bag and a suitcase!
I love London, but after only a few days there I usually find myself exhausted! My advice is to research attractions that really interest you before you go and focus on them, rather than trying to cram too much into a short space of time and not doing anything justice… And don’t forget to factor in travel time, as London’s attractions are spread over a huge area!