Starting our backpacking trip around the world we were prepared to be extremely frugal; staying at hostels, packing day lunches and taking the cheapest, longest most painstaking transportation to lower our travel costs.
This however was not the case in London, thanks to a very generous family friend who hosted us and gave us the royal treatment, staying in the aptly named suburb of Richmond. We were pampered with cooked dinners, laundry, ironing and more!
Using this place as our base, we explored London.
After recovering from jetlag, we explored Richmond which is a beautiful town running along the River Thames. Our hosts treated us to a delicious home cooked lunch and then in the evening took us to have a traditional English gastropub dinner at a place called The White Swan where we had a warming Roast Lamb, Salmon and English Sticky Toffee Pudding with Honeycomb ice cream (YES!!).
In the afternoon we strolled through Richmond Park and accidentally stumbled upon a teahouse / Georgian mansion by the name of Pembroke Lodge where we had tea and DELICIOUS scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam. This is highly recommended!
Everyone knows how easy it is to become lazy on vacation. There are always such delicious foods to be trying, drinks to consume and treats to buy, so to avoid having to buy 2 seats each on future plane trips, we made use of nature’s gym (pic above). The brutal hill was the perfect place to exercise in the morning, running back & forth while taking in the view. Perhaps we were able to burn off one scone?!
After a few days in Richmond we ventured out into central London where we did the typical tourist sights. Walking all over London (40km!) we explored the things below. Some we had done a few things on a prior London visit so do allow 2-3 days to properly explore the places below. Our favorites are in bold, and what a surprise, they all relate to food!
- Big Ben / Houses of Parliament – Iconic clock in London’s centre, can’t miss it.
- London Eye – Take it or leave it, we did it last time so skipped it this time.
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- Borough Markets – Awesome markets, a must visit.
- Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre – Saw a show here last time, was a unique experience.
- Tate Museum – Modern art museum to stroll through. Free too.
- Millenium Bridge – Great to walk over to visit St. Paul’s Cathedral.
- Tower Bridge – Have to cross this at least once. Don’t confuse it with the London Bridge.
- Tower of London – See The Crown Jewels, worth a visit.
- Trafalgar Square – Not a must see but if in the area, worth a visit. The National Gallery museum is there too.
- Piccadilly Circus – This reminded us of Times Square in NYC due to all the advertising, Broadway shows & franchise restaurants.
- Leicester Square – Check out the Indian restaurant Dishoom (recommended by a friend), but be prepared to wait as it’s very popular.
- Soho – A cool bar we too was La Bodega Negra, from the outside it looks like a porn store but underneath is a trendy Tequila bar with a quirky & unusual interior. Great margaritas.
On another day we walked more of the city and saw:
- Buckingham Palace / Changing of the guards – Huge crowds here, so come early!
- Harrod’s – OMG, the best food selection in the world, especially the bakery & sweets. Gotta check this place out.
- Hyde Park – Huge place to relax, play, people watch and stroll.
- Regent’s Park – A quieter park to Hyde Park so a great place to relax .
- Camden Markets – Amazing food market here, a must visit. Come hungry. Try the velvety smooth liquid nitrogen ice-cream at Chin Chin Laboratories!
A British Food Experience
A sunny afternoon in London called for lunch on the water so we ventured to Founders Arms, a beautiful pub on South Bank overlooking the river. After prowling the menu and much discussion we struggled to decide on a meal, but eventually decided to get the “best of British” sharing plate. If this is the best, we certainly don’t want to know the worst. We were served cold ham & sausage roll pieces with stale pastry and gherkins – not our cup of tea. The photo actually looks quite appetizing though.
I’m sure there are other dishes at this establishment that will hit the spot, we actually finished our friend’s steak plate and that was delicious.
Outside London: Stonehenge & Bath
Another recommended place to explore in the UK is the quaint town of Bath, 3 hours drive south west of London, easily accessible by bus or train for a day trip. This town is known for the thermal hot springs which the Romans turned into a public bathing complex. You can’t go in them, however, there are places nearby that you can if that’s your thing.
If you plan to go to Bath, ensure you visit the nearby Stonehenge too, a prehistoric ring of standing rocks from 3000BC. Pretty amazing feat for that long ago.
After our trip in Scotland and Ireland (where we are now) we are heading back to London, this time staying in Shoreditch with another friend.
Marriage days survived thus far: 16 😉