If I could just pack my bags, get on a plane and travel the world for the rest of my life, I would. Though for now, a weekend trip to Europe will do...
J and Z are some of the most spontaneous people I know. We wanted to repeat the past (e.g. that time we randomly decided to fly to Vegas for 36 hours...) and took an impromptu trip to London, England!
I know a 2.5 day trip to another continent is kind of insane but that's what made it so fun. Seeing how little time we had, I'm pretty impressed with how much ground we covered. So instead of draining the details, here are some of my favourite shots to summarize our weekend!
Day 1 | We stayed in Lambert North, which was only a 15 minute walk from Big Ben and the London Eye. So naturally, that was our first (typical touristy) stop.
Our roaming then took us to the stunning Piccadilly Circus which is a round, open space junction situated in London's West End. Known for its flashy video displays and neon lights, Piccadilly Circus definitely reminded me of NYC's Times Square.
I didn't think it was possible that every single building you lay eyes on is absolutely gorgeous. The grand architecture is such a breath of fresh air from the glass and concrete towers in downtown TO and of course, the abundance of brick in my suburban abode...
Our first meal was at Henry's in Piccadilly. Seeing that it was only 5 PM, the bar was packed. Guess Londoners really like their Happy Hour ;). Cliché or not, we had to get a serving of fish & chips. (Judging on how good it was, we regretfully should have gotten two. Or three. Guess we need to go back...)
London is now synonymous to 'shopping' to me. Here's one (of the hundreds) handsome window display. I have such a soft spot for menswear. Not like I'd be able to wear any of this, but I still want it all!
Despite a massive dinner, hours of exploring means empty bellies amongst three foodies. We headed to Leicester Square, the centre of London's cinema/theatre district. It was like a party on the streets, but there wasn't even a party... just casual Friday night shenanigans.
Compared to the dipping November temperatures we had here before we left, it was warm enough there for some patio apps and cocktails. I'm about this life.
First night in London calls for a night out but before we headed to the bars, we spent some time in Soho and Chinatown. There isn't a better word to describe London-by-night than charming. Streets were lit up, roads were bustling with gorgeous red double-deckers and sidewalks were filled with people (who were crazy well-dressed, might I add).
We finally decided to celebrate our first night at Bar Soho and we didn't make it back to the hotel until 4 A.M. Even then the crowd on the streets haven't died down. It's official - London's über late last call means this city is winning at life. Remind yourself to move here at one point or another.
Day 2 | With only a weekend to spend, there was no time for sleep! Rise and shine and onto the tube to our next destination.
What I loved about central London is that everything is so walkable, but even if you're not up for a walk, the tube will take you literally anywhere with your Oyster card (take notes, Toronto).
It was pretty clear amongst us 3 that we wanted to dedicate Day 2 to some (aggressive) shopping. Knowing that we have an exhausting day ahead, we fuelled up with brunch at the most charming boulangerie - or in other words - French bakery.
We started off with a mandatory round of espressos, followed by some shared dishes including la blanquette de Veau à L'Ancienne - calves flank, potatoes, carrots and sautéed mushrooms in a cream white wine sauce. T o d i e f o r .
Post-brunch, we made a quick stop to Covent Garden and then began our 4-hour shopping excursion on Oxford Street, one of Europe's busiest shopping districts. Oxford Street stretches an impressive 2.4 km and is lined with major department stores, numerous flagships and of course, some smaller boutiques.
This was a shopper's dream - if - you're able to handle the crowds. Of hundreds. It was definitely an experience, and a must-do when in London but I think I prefer something a little less chaotic. Though I did witness a marriage proprosal in the middle of the road #casual.
After a long day on Oxford (where I also got a shot of the cutest little boy), we wanted to make one more - London-mandatory - visit to Harrods. With 1,000,000 square feet of retail space on over 5 acres of land, Harrods is the largest department store in Europe (....and now you know why we needed to go there, even in the pouring rain).
This store is literally the gateway to retail therapy heaven, and well, therapy in general. From endless floors of luxury retailers like Chanel, Salvatore Ferragamo and YSL, Harrods also boasts some pretty insane in-store services. For example, there'sThe Studio, an interior design service specializing in glitzy residential homes, and Urban Retreat, a 20,000 square foot, full-blown salon and spa.
My initial reaction when walking through all the departments is that this place is not real life. Seriously, Harrods is like a fantasyland and I'm pretty sure I was put under its retail spell because I left with these bad boys:
My first pair of red soles! London, you've got me.
To end off a jammed pack day, we joined a local pub crawl and danced the night away at 5 different hot spots around Soho. This definitely took me back to my Laurier days (oh, how I miss you so). Met a ton of interesting people, including some locals, visitors from neighbouring European cities and surprisingly, some Torontonians as well!
Day 3 | As our flight wasn't until 6 P.M, we still had most of the day to take in more sights before flying back home. Our weekend wouldn't be complete without paying a visit to the iconic Tower Bridge!
The cobblestone streets, the aging brick, I loved it all!
After spending the morning walking the grounds, we stopped by this random inn (I can't even remember the name) for some late lunch. Since this was our last day, we wanted to be as 'traditional' as possible, so of course, we ordered another plate of fish & chips and some 'bangers & mash'. Not sure if that was my favourite dish in the world but hey, when else would I try this!?
Next on our agenda was the Tower of London, a historical castle situated on the North Bank of the River Thames. We were lucky enough to be in London when we were, as we were able to visit the Tower's art installation Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red. This Remembrance Day marked 100 years since the first full day of Britain's involvement in WWI, so in commemoration of the anniversary, 888,246 ceramic poppies were planted to fill the moat - each poppy represented a British military fatality during the war. Absolutely breathtaking.
After the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge, what better way to end the trip then to go back where we started! We headed back to the London Eye and Big Ben for the rest of the (now sunny) afternoon. One thing that stood out to us were the sheer number of engagement pictures that were being taken (funny enough, I found one of the couple's on Instagram the day after...)
We had the best afternoon just exploring, soaking up the (rare) sunshine and laugh at how it still hasn't hit us that we just spent a weekend in London. Sadly, it's time to leave for Heathrow, en route to YYZ.
Wouldn't have asked for a better group of to go on these random adventures with. Sending waves of love to J as he made this trip all possible!
London, it's been a ball. Such a beautiful city - this won't be our last visit!