London Travel Journal

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If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know that last weekend we did a quick trip over to London! I have to say, we really made the most of our three days there: hitting up museums and local markets, spending an afternoon in the country, and drinking and eating our way through several parts of the city. Of course there was so much we didn’t get to do, especially sight seeing wise, but we ended up having a totally lovely weekend. So often quick trips feel like more work than vacation, but we really hit the right balance this time.

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Our first stop once getting into the city (from Stansted Airport) was the South Bank where Ian had a quick business meeting. While he chatted fantasy sports, I took the opportunity to do a speed tour of the Tate Modern’s newly opened Switch House! The gallery spaces are mostly dedicated to conceptual art and preserving past performance pieces – there was even a small performance going on during my quick visit, which totally rocked my weird art world.

My overall highlights were original photos of Marina Abramovic’s Rhythm 0, a Cy Twombly-esque piece by Julie Mehretu, and the artist room of Louise Bourgeois, who is definitely my fine art spirit animal. Also, a conceptual work that was literally a piece of string intended to be held by two people and exploring concepts of intimacy and space – too good😂. I could go on forever about this sort of thing, but I’ll spare you and just say that if you’re interested in conceptual art or performance art from the last couple of decades then the new Tate Modern building is a must.

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Marina Abramovic’s Rhythm 0 exhibit. Photo from here.
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Part of Louise Bourgeois’ 10AM is When You Come to Me. Photo from here.

The rest of the afternoon consisted of wandering around the South Bank and making our way through the city to Covent Garden, where we chowed down at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant Union Jacks.  Along the way we stopped at the South Bank Centre’s food market for Pimm’s cups and duck fat french fries with garlic mayo (thanks for recommendation, Burke!) and took a ride on the London Eye. The views were fabulous, as you can imagine, and, despite the price, it was fun to get a little touristy while we were there. Afterwards, we walked by Big Ben and the Parliament Building and made our way along the Thames to dinner.

After a much needed meal of gourmet pizza (can you say braised brisket & artisanal cheese?), we headed home for an early night of late night British TV and room service in preparation for our trip out to the country the next day. The weather was a little spotty our first day in town, but we didn’t mind the incredible rainbows that accompanied the on-and-off showers. Seriously, they were the most vivid ones I’d ever seen – photos didn’t do it any justice!

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Day two started out with a train ride out to Bicester for an afternoon of driving. Well, Ian driving and me timing laps and taking photos… But all the same, the countryside was totally beautiful and the lambos were pretty alright too. 😉

If you’re in Europe or planning to visit and want to do some sort of driving experience, I would recommend TrackDays. They’re really the only company that does one-day test drives with driving instructors, which is what we were looking for. There are a lot of other companies who will rent out sports cars for full track days or do super luxury weekend long driving trips (😍), but if you’re looking for more of a casual thing this totally fit the ticket. Well, as casual as driving a Ferrari can be…

After lots of planning and attempting to keep the trip a secret (as it was a surprise graduation gift from Ian’s lovely parents), it was so great to see the whole thing come together. Even as we were driving up to the track, I was so nervous it wasn’t going to be what I had thought, but it really turned out to be perfect. Seeing Ian get to blow off some steam after working his ass off for a physics degree was awesome – so grateful it all worked out!

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I will keep the grainy, embarrassing, proud-girlfriend photos to myself but seriously the whole thing was so cool! I thought I would be bored watching, but I actually got super giddy seeing him fly around the track in each of the cars. I even got to ride in the ‘hot lap’ car at one point, which was driven by a pro – I felt like I was on a roller coaster those things get so much speed! Ian’s report card: the Lamborghini got the A for drivability and top speed.

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We ended our day by heading back to the city in time for happy hour, grabbing a bottle of rosé for our hotel room as we got ready. We got a quick dinner at the hotel restaurant, which Ian totally won by ordering the grilled tiger prawns, and headed out for drinks.

We were feeling fancy so we hit up Gong in The Shard for cocktails. The whole thing was an experience – from the 45 minute wait in the lobby to the heated toilet seats in the bathroom (I have seen heaven) to the drinks that come in birdcages – but be ready to have a good sense of humor about the whole thing. It was pretty pretentious and the cocktails themselves were, like, fine, but it’s really nabbing that window seat that makes the whole thing worth it. So dress to impress, be persistent, and steal a Vogue magazine from the toilets.

If you want the same view without the hassle, I believe you can book in advance at The View from The Shard, which is a champagne bar at the top. I think it’s a little more touristy, but has student ticket discounts and you will have a reserved time so you don’t have to creepily wait around the lobby…

From there we headed into Soho for some late night bar action and I honestly couldn’t even tell you where we ended up. I basically remember being creepily hit on by an old dude, hugging the bathroom attendant, and freaking out when Toxic by Britney Spears came on. I remember 4am samosas and chips were involved and I was coherent enough to take this photo of the sunrise from our hotel room. If you have more information about my night, please contact me.

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Sunday obviously began with sleeping in, a long hot shower, and a real solid hangover. But we didn’t let that get us down – we spent the day wandering around Marylebone and exploring some of my favorite little spots in town. One of my oldest friends, Janine, used to live in the area in high school and I got super nostalgic walking around the streets she used to take me down, showing me all the little shops and the best places to eat. I remember the whole neighborhood seemed to have some sort of magic to it and, even thought I’m old and jaded now, it still sort of feels like it does.

We were luckily enough to be staying in the middle of the neighborhood at The Marylebone Hotel, which we loved. Our room was small, but the service was outstanding; seriously, one of the best hotel experiences I’ve ever had. They just had all the little things that make a vacation feel luxurious, from turn down service to fuzzy slippers, and were so helpful throughout our whole journey lending us umbrellas and holding our bags the day we left – even charging our phones while we were out. Total pros, highly recommend.

We got Daylesford suggested to us for brunch and it was certainly worth the wait with their light, refreshing bloody mary’s and delicious eggs benedict. The whole place is really into all-natural foods and has a pretty incredible little food shop attached to the restaurant. Seeing all the fresh veggies, beautiful cheeses, and cured meats made me want to have a picnic real bad.

My next go-to was my favorite of all bookstores, Daunt Books, on Marylebone High Street. A little independent shop organized by region with just the most beautiful architecture; I could literally stay in that place for hours. I picked up this book while I was there and so far I’m loving the lyrical prose and the way the whole narrative feels steeped in regret – will keep you updated once I finish it.

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The rest of our afternoon consisted of sitting outside drinking cocktails and beer and watching the world (and the fancy cars) pass us by. Then before we knew it, it was time to catch our train back to the airport and our flight back to real life, but not without a stop at the Liverpool St. Station Krispie Kreme first…

A huge thank you to Ian’s parents, Kathy and Jim, for making our weekend so totally special. We couldn’t believe how much of a full vacation just three days away felt, especially only a 45 minute plane ride away. Just goes to show that you don’t have to go too far to really get away. 😘

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5 thoughts on “London Travel Journal

    • Madeline Brady July 12, 2016 / 10:28 am

      Thanks, Aunt Sue! We had a blast – would already love to go back! 😘

      Like

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