I’ve been to London once before, many years ago, on my first real trip with the Boy, but we never managed to go back, although we really wanted to. That is, until we went on a London citytrip a couple of weeks ago! We stayed in London’s hip and happening East Side and did some off the beaten track travelling.
We stayed in an Airbnb in the East End, which is a neighbourhood that apparently is very hip. If you like to go out at night that’s probably a plus, but we’re the kind of citytrippers that walk all day and fall asleep completely exhausted at 11pm. Yup. Lucky for us, the appartement was located in a quiet building (although there were lot’s of pubs and restaurants in the neighbourhood).
The East End is very well known for its heaps of street art, so on the first day of our London citytrip we booked ourselves on an Alternative London Walking tour. I wasn’t sure what to expect of this tour, but it was a very informative and interesting tour of the area around Spitalfields Market. Our guide was genuinely interested in the welfare of that part of the city and he really liked talking about street art and the history of the neighbourhood. Going on this tour at the beginning of our stay in London was a great idea, afterwards we noticed way more street art pieces.
Normally the tour would’ve taken 2 hours, but as it was raining a bit and it was quite cold it got shortened by half an hour. If it wasn’t for the cold and the rain I wouldn’t have minded a way longer tour, it was so interesting! Afterwards we went and enjoyed a hot coffee and a piece of pie.
On day two of our London citytrip we decided we would start the day with an English styled breakfast. We went to Pellici’s, which is about as Italian as it sounds. It was still quiet when we got in, but after ten minutes the café filled to the brim and the atmosphere was bustling. Normally I don’t eat (a lot of) breakfast in the morning, so finishing my plate was a bit of a struggle, and although it was far from healthy, it was very tasty. All the staff was super friendly and when we left we got some free bread pudding with the words “my mum made it this morning”. It was still warm and delicious.
We spent a large part of the day in the Hunterian Museum, located in the Royal College of Surgeons, amongst dead things in jars and pieces and parts of animals and humans. I’m a sucker for these types of small museums ever since we’ve discovered the Medizinhistorisches Museum in Berlin. I know they’re not for the faint of heart, but they’re so interesting. They tell as much about the history of medicine and science as about the way people used to interpret things they didn’t fully understand yet.
After we’d had our fill of dead-things watching we walked around the city center, looking for interesting book stores. I’d made a list with bookshops I wanted to visit during this citytrip and although I didn’t get to them all, we visited: Foyles (can I go and live there? Please?), Forbidden Planet (for geeking out) and Gosh! (graphic novels and comics). I also had London Review Bookshop, Persephone Books and Word on the Water on my list, but we only had so much time and I decided to leave them for another time.
After the book shopping and sightseeing we went for another walk, this time between Tower Hill, the Globe theater and St. Pauls Cathedral. One of the downsides of travelling during winter is the lack of daylight. It did influence my photographing, but on the other hand, look at those pretty lights!
I’d kept one bookshop until last: the giant Waterstones on Piccadily Circus, because it was open until 10pm. This is such a large bookstore and I was too tired to climb the stairs to every level, but I did buy some pretty books. Afterwards we went to The Ginger Pig Café for a most excellent dinner. We both picked the steak, because after walking around for the biggest part of the day we could use it. We had som locally brewed Camden beers with it and I rather liked my Camden Pale Ale.
On our last day in London we decided to give the famous “Boris Bikes” a try. We went cycling next to Regent’s Canal and I almost slipped and fell in. Lucky for me, I didn’t, because it was again a very cold day and we planned a walk around Camden Market (= shopping!) and another tour. No busy city life on this tour though, we went to Highgate Cemetery.
I know visiting a graveyard during your London citytrip isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, but Highgate Cemetery is an original Victorian graveyard and it’s really pretty! I can only imagine how it would look in summer, but even in winter it’s worth visiting. All the overgrown graves, the trees, the angels on tombs,… it’s exactly as you would imagine such on old graveyard would be.
Highate cemetery exists of two parts: East and West. The East cemetery is accessible without a guide, although you have to pay an entrance fee. This part of the cemetery isn’t as impressive as the second part, although it’s still very pretty. The West Highgate cemetery you can only visit during a guided tour (because some parts of the cemetery aren’t safe). If you pay for the guided tour for the West part you can also visit the East part with the same ticket.
I really liked the West side cemetery tour. The guide was very knowledgeable and clearly passionate about the preservation of the cemetery.
After visiting the graveyard it was back to our appartement, packing up our bags. We’d hoped for some extra walking around in the neighbourhood of King’s Cross, but we were so tired already from all the walking around, we didn’t get too much any more.
I did visit the Harry Potter shop in King’s Cross though. I had hoped I would be able to take a picture with the trolley that disappears in the wall at platform 9 3/4, but apparently there’s a photographer and a giant line and you have to pay for a print out of the photo. Bummer. So I bought a Hogwarts patch instead. (And about half an hour later I found out Allan Rickman died, which explains why everybody was wearing the Slytherin scarf at the Harry Potter shop)
I did enjoy this short trip immensely, although the Boy and I promised each other next time we’d do a London citytrip it would be during the summer, as we’ve never seen it not during winter (last time there was so much snow the buses and the underground stopped working and the museums all closed early).
Have any of you ever visited London? Which spot do I absolutely have to visit next time?