Dr Samuel Johnson once wisely said: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”. This phrase resonates with me every time I go down to London. What is London going to surprise me with this time?
To be completely honest, me and my husband had a few things planned. We went down to London to celebrate my 40th birthday and it was also our wedding anniversary. He planned a stay at 5* Marriott Hotel at Canary Wharf and this was the first surprise we experienced on this particular trip. We tend to stay in different areas of London whenever we visit so Canary Wharf was completely new to both of us. It turned out to be a real gem in the crown! Since Canary Wharf became the new financial district with its skyline dotted with skyscrapers, the area has received big injections of cash. It boast a massive, and I mean massive, shopping centre, clubs, bars, chill out areas, a stage where a country music festival was taking place when we were there. The whole area is conveniently connected to the city centre by either brand new (ish) Jubilee line or DLR which both take around 15 min.
West India Quays
Canary Wharf and especially the West India Quays are also proud of their heritage. Our hotel was just next to the old docks that were used to unload goods that came from the West Indies (Caribbean). The complex has been renovated into apartments, restaurants and is also the home of Museum of London Docklands. On this particular weekend, the museum was holding an event “Hello London, Hello Barbados” with free workshops for the whole family. I was personally drawn to the steel pan class as I can’t imagine myself ever having an opportunity to try playing them. I think I did pretty well, please watch me in action here...
hyde park and chinatown
Part of my birthday treat was a meal in Chinatown at a restaurant called Lido . It was a way of prepping for my trek as I was immersing myself in the culture by walking through the Chinese arches and tasting the food. However, before we got to Chinatown we took a stroll through Hyde Park. The weather was gorgeous and as it was a late Friday afternoon the park was busy with picnics, Pimms, Santander bikes and people just chilling after a long week at work. As we walked past the Serpentine Lake, I could not resist an hour long pedalo ride on the lake which turned out to be so much fun but also such hard work. We could definitely feel it in our quads the next day. If you have time to spare and the weather is nice, I would definitely recommend this experience. You can watch me pedalling following this link.
I have to say the walking and pedalling, mainly against the wind, made us quite hungry so when we got to Lido Chinese restaurant I was ready for my banquet. Don’t expect much from the decor but as far as the food goes this is the place to go. We decided to share a platter of food and it just kept coming. At some stage we actually had to say to the waitress to give us 10 minutes to get the food down. The meal started with crispy seaweed (loved it), spare ribs and spring rolls, then colourful dim sum made an appearance, followed by crispy duck make-your-own pancakes and then the main dish, black bean beef and sweet and sour chicken with all the accompaniments. We were stuffed… We obviously washed it all down with Tiger beer.
Portobello road market
Visiting a London market was another thing I planned for our weekend in London. It was a choice between Borough Market and Portobello Road Market. As we had never explored the Notting Hill area before, we decided to go there. We got off at St John’s Wood tube station and walked towards Portobello Road. It took around 40 min. Our route took us past beautiful and really expensive houses and also past Abbey Road Studios where tourists try to recreate the famous zebra crossing scene.
And then you know you had reached your destination as you see the crowds, hear the noise and the smells are so intense. The Portobello Market is divided into 3 very distinct sections: antiques and bric-a-brac, clothes and most interesting one, the food section. The whole market spreads for around 2 miles so there is lots to see. If you like food, then lunchtime is the best time to visit as you can try anything from freshly made paellas, stews, German sausage hot dogs, rustic bread sandwiches, potato kebabs and have a pineapple cup smoothie for dessert.
However, if you do visit the market, don’t just look down at the stalls, the buildings along Portobello Road are also worth a look. The colourful row of houses at the top of the market ( Notting Hil Gate tube station) is a must as, for me, they exectly reflect the diversity of the area where not everything needs to fit the mould.
A night at the musical
Pitch Perfect is one of my favourite films with Rebel Wilson and as she is currently starring in the West End production of Guys and Dolls we had to go and see her. Our seats could not be better. Sitting in the third row from the stage we were definitely close to the action seeing every move and even a bit of back stage action. The musical was excellent! The singing and choreography were on point. And Rebel Wilson? Well, she was obviously great. Rebel has this special comedy aura about her so whenever she sings or finishes a scene she gets a massive applause. And you can’t miss Nicely Nicely Johnson’s (Gavin Spokes) rendition of Sit Down You’re Rocking the Boat. Absolutely brilliant and so uplifting!
A bird on a wire
As we were staying one tube stop away from the O2 and the Emirates Air Line, it was another unmissable thing I had to do. The round trip in the cable car over the Thames takes around 20 min and is around £8. It goes pretty high up so if you are scared of heights this might not be for you. however, you will get a great view of the O2, the river, the docks and London City Airport. Definitely a must.
Friday , saturday, sunday = perfection
The great thing about London is that you don’t really need to plan anything. I would say you are never far away from an attraction or an event so just check a free copy of Time Out , visitlondon.com or just keep your eyes peeled for leaflets and social media. I can assure you wherever your feet take you, you will find something special around the corner. Thank you London and till next time!
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