I have been traveling a lot this year and truth it be told, I thought of making the jump from fashion to travel. It would’ve made perfect sense, but then again I do travel for work in fashion so I can’t just turn my back entirely on fashion. Also because that would mean giving up the one thing I love a lot in fashion– bags *cough*… and shoes haha.
Traveling to London for the 1st week of December was easy– Manila has a long haul straight flight via Philippine Airlines to Heathrow. So it was literally just “one looong sleep” away from home. Blighty, as a number of Londoners lovingly call their city, is known to be gray and cold (and wet) most of the time, but I think I was very lucky and caught days of wonderful sunshine! Oh but indeed, it was verrrry cold. It went down to -2 degC with light wind when I was there. So gloves, thermals, and a beanie proved real helpful to keep warm.
One of my usual shopping stops in London is Harrods. Can’t beat the shopping experience there– it remains unparalleled worldwide. If you get lucky, you’ll see a number of really fancy cars parked (illegally lol) outside, and a celebrity or two 🙂
Knightsbridge (tube station: Knightsbridge) is a lovely area for shopping, and I think it’s safe to say you should spend at least a whole afternoon walking around the area. But definitely do spend the morning at the V&A museum, and at the impressive Natural History Museum, both within walking distance from Harrods. In the number of times I have visited London, I am actually quite ashamed to say I have never been to either. But this time around, my friend, Harrods’ social media director, Lisa (@stylisa) took me to see the latter.
There was an ice skating rink and carousel just outside. For a moment I was tempted to go ice skating, but hah I was already freezing and could barely feel my fingers. Haha I was afraid they might just fall off if I go skating still lol. Besides, I haven’t skated since college. I fear falling flat on my face– and that would be horrible for my Spuddie (a.k.a. my new nose) lol. Sooo, no. I chose to thaw inside the museum 🙂
I could not believe it– there was no entrance fee to visit the museum! I love that the city highly encourages people to visit here– this would’ve been quite beneficial for children who lived there (as opposed to heading to shopping malls on weekends). Sigh. Made me wish my kids and I lived here because of this kind of education they’d have outside the classroom!
The reception hall of Natural History Museum was immmmpressive!
If you have watched that movie, Night at the Museum, it is THIS in real life. Really, jawdrop moment for me.
We spent the most time in the dinosaur room.
And that huge hall which contained the mammals.
This was really a huuuuge hall which had replica animals in their actual sizes.
There were some weeeird animals too, like this preserved deep sea angler fish. I couldn’t fathom seeing this in real life when I go diving.
I would probably freak out lol.
And they have this mindblowingly impressive rock and minerals room
The wealth of the earth:
There were still other halls (creepy crawlies being one of them) that we skipped. But if we had more time we’d have stayed on.
Another day was spent between the Spitalfields Market
and its surrounding area within Central London (Tube Station: Liverpool Street),
and the Shoreditch area,
scouring vintage shops. I found this quite a welcome change from the more upmarket Bond Street/ Mayfair/ Knightsbridge area.
Oh and do stop by Poppie’s for some award- winning fish and chips!
Central London shows a super cool divide and diverse between the “suits” and the “free- spirits.”
A good place to eat or have drinks is at Duck and Waffle on top of the Heron Tower which has a sweeping view of London and yeah, The Gherkin 🙂
Of course the trip had to be capped off with a stroll along Oxford Street (tube station: Marble Arch) for high street fashion (Primark, River Island, Forever 21, and their like) which extends all the way to Oxford Circus (Liberty of London is a must- visit).
If you fancy a bit of antique jewellery shopping, I highly recommend a visit to Gray’s Antiques along South Molton Lane (warning: shops close early) off Oxford Street and just steps away from Bond Street.
Oh, December is also a month when the sun sets at around 4:00pm. So if you are tired of shopping, it might be a good idea to pop over Hyde Park for Winter Wonderland, which is within walking distance from the Marble Arch- Oxford Street!
Warning though, the queues are long so it would be best to pre-purchase your ticket!
Now if you happen to be in London on a weekend, a trip to Portobello Market in Notting Hill (tube station: Notting Hill Gate) has to be part of your itinerary. *P.S. Notting Hill is also close to Kensington Palace :)*
So many little things offered by different merchants!
There is also a little Christmas market towards the end of the street.
The long stretch of Westbourne Grove off Portobello Market (turn right into Westbourne Grove from Portobello Market) also offers a plethora of shops like Jigsaw, Maje, Bimba y Lola, Joseph, and 202 (this concept store/ cafe is a must- visit). Westbourne Grove is quite a nice walk from the maddening crowds at Portobello. In one of the corners of Westbourne Grove is Israeli- born British chef Yotam Ottolenghi’s 1st deli which he opened back in 2002. This compact eatery offers both sweet and savory food, but I made that pitstop initially to take home some Christmas mince pies.
Haha I love food (can you tell), and after I saw what was available, I not only ended up buying a lot of pastries which included slices of the carrot walnut cake and the Bailey’s chocolate cake, I also actually ordered something savory to eat! (Haha I called this my pre-dinner appetizer)
I had the English sliced beef fillet with mustard, horseradish, and rocket sour cream (which was excellent), turmeric basmati and wild rice with chick peas and fried onions, and one of his signature dishes, the butternut squash salad with tahini, red onions, and za’atar (a popular Middle Eastern spice mix).
To truly experience London though, I think you do need to stay at least 5 days. But if you only have 3, these are some of the spots I highly recommend visiting. Apart from a quick London Bus tour (which will take you to popular tourist destinations like Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, The Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Tower of London, The Tower Bridge *which many call The London Bridge*), a show or two during your nights in one of the theatres in West End (tube station: Piccadilly Circus) is also recommended. Soho is a young and hip area within Piccadilly and has lots of pubs and places to eat, so there is really no shortage of places to see even when night falls. If I wasn’t so pressed for time, I think I’d have stayed for 2 weeks in this lovely city. But boo, I didn’t even get a week during this trip!
Oh and here’s a very helpful tip: purchase an Oyster card and load it up with credits so you can go on the tube or take the bus around the city. It will save you sooo much money. London cab fares and Uber rides are really pricey!
Enjoy London and the freezing cold! Beer in a funky sounding pub as pitstops might be necessary 🙂