Anyone who has moved to a new city or country probably has done the same thing as me. You start out doing touristy things, and exploring your new location, sightseeing a bit - but then life sort of takes over, you're working and time just gets away from you. Before you know it, you've been there for years and you haven't seen some of the major sights still! I did that when I moved to Manhattan in 2003 (I still haven't ever been to the Statue of Liberty!) and I did it again when I moved to London.
But this past weekend, I had the best excuse to go sightseeing again. My bestie from NYC came over to visit me! I hadn't seen her in over two years, and she had never been to London before. Since she was only here Thursday night to Sunday morning, we had to cram as much in as we could on Friday and Saturday. It flew by in a crazy blur, but we had the BEST time! Prepare yourselves for photo overload....
I picked her up from the airport on Thursday night (anyone keeping track, Heathrow T2 is amazing!) and we had a great catch-up chat in the car for the hourlong drive home. It was after 11 when we got in and we had an early start the next day so we only stayed up long enough for M and KC to 'meet' for the first time in person. It's wild - I forgot that they had never actually met before!!! They've Skyped a lot but just never been in the same place at once. It was so good to see them getting on like a house on fire - and to see Bug so excited when she woke up and found KC here in the morning.
Friday we started the day at The Diner at Spitalfields to shore up our caloric reserves (which we did in spades ha!) and we explored the market, buying some Peruvian handmade items for our little girls, and then we headed down to Trafalgar Square where we caught the Original Big Bus Tour - those double-decker open topped buses that hit every major sight that you can explore by road. It was SO fun! And really informative. I was amazed by how much information we got at every place. Below is St James's Palace and the lavender house at the end is Clarence House, where Prince Charles and Camilla live!
After we whizzed by the sights on the bus, we went up to posh Mayfair for a traditional afternoon tea and a girly chat at the May Fair Hotel. I introduced KC to clotted cream (it sounds horrible but it is the most DELICIOUS thing you can slather on a scone with some jam!), and we shared a tower of finger sandwiches, scones and tiny desserts with tea and coffee. We took a wander over to Buckingham Palace afterwards, to get some up close photos (buses aren't allowed to drive in front of it, for some reason - but cars and taxis are!) and explore St James's Park.
Sadly, we were not invited in to party with the Queen - she was in Ascot for the day :( - but we got some great photos! Then it was over to hip Shoreditch for a luxe pedicure at Cheeky Parlour, the coolest place for a blowdry / manicure / pedicure in London! Feet up, beverage in hand, and got our feet pampered for an hour before we took our newly minted toes onto Hoxton Grill for dinner and drinks. I had the most amazing grilled halloumi, pepper, and chickpea salad that was surprisingly filling. (I seem to have missed taking photos that night!! #fail oops)
Saturday we started even earlier, since it was our last day to run around! We began at the London Eye for the first revolution - thank goodness for Fast Track tickets for all of these exhibits, or we would have spent our whole day standing in line, there were such long queues! - it was a cool thing to do, great views up and down the Thames. They don't cram too many people into the pods, so there's room to walk around and get photos from all of the angles. Although the wheel never stops moving, which I didn't realise, so you have to board and disembark the pods while it passes along the platform! We made it on just in the nick of time.
After the Eye, we walked down onto Waterloo Pier and hopped onto the most fun thing I think I've ever done in London sightseeing before - the London Rib Voyage!! Basically it's a speedboat tour of London along the Thames - you go from Westminster & the Elizabeth Tower (aka Big Ben, which is actually the name of the bell, not the tower!) all along the Thames seeing the bridges and the gorgeous architecture along the river (like Somerset House). Once we got past Tower Bridge, the throttle was released and we SPED!!!! It was a crazy, windy, slightly wet and hilarious ride out to Canary Wharf and back, and our captain used every possible wake from other boats to try and unseat us - so fun!! I highly recommend, if you're ever looking for something different to do in London.
A quick brush of our hair and we were on our way, walking the length of the Southbank - one of my favorite places in London. After living in Shad Thames at the south end of Tower Bridge for nearly two years, the Southbank is the place where I probably spent most of my time on the weekends. It's chock full of cafes and restaurants, shops and galleries. It's also home to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, the Tate Modern (where M & I kicked off our first date), Borough Market - one of the best outdoor food markets in London, and City Hall. We jaunted across Tower Bridge and went into the Tower of London, an old and magnificent sight. We tagged along to a fantastically funny Yeoman Warder's tour - the ceremonial guards of the tower and crown jewels. It was amazing to see such ancient structures and hear stories of intrigue and deception that happened at them centuries and centuries ago!
We spent the afternoon up in Dalston, at a BBQ thrown by my friends Nat and Adam as their farewell to London (they are moving to LA next week...!) and it was really nice to see my old friend from NYC meeting and getting on with my new friends in London. Then we went to one of my favorite restaurants in Shoreditch, Pizza East, for a second dinner. We were so full after we finished there but the food was amazing! I had a spicy sausage, mozzarella, and tenderstem broccoli pizza and we shared raspberries semifreddo for dessert - yum. We wrapped the day - and the tours - at the local pub around the corner from my house called The Crown. It was exactly the way to end the visit - cosy atmosphere, friendly locals, and cold drinks with a view of the Lee River.
I hated saying goodbye yesterday, but it was such a treat that she could come in the first place that I wasn't sad. I was just thrilled for her taking the time to come over, and for the time we got to enjoy together revisiting old memories, and making new ones!!
As it's another Grateful Heart Monday over at EmberGrey, I have to say that today I am so grateful for time with friends. No matter where or when, it warms my heart and inflates my spirit!
I hope that you all had wonderful weekends and are enjoying your Mondays! Are you grateful for something special today? :)