Having arrived into the city just past lunchtime on a Sunday afternoon and with a flight to catch the next evening, time was not exactly on my side, but with the help of google maps, I plotted my way through the touristy bits of the British capital and having just a day (okay, maybe a day and a half) to explore the very historical and cultural city that is London, I think I did not too bad.
I’m sure many others can do better with these few short hours but in the interest of anyone who somehow finds him or herself in the same city with just a bit of time to spare, here’s a quick rundown of what I did, where I went and what I ate.
First stop, Covent Garden. Not for shopping, well not yet, but to check into my hotel for the night. No, not the Savoy, but something a little less fancy called The Fielding Hotel. A hotel I guess can be best described as “basic”. But it was clean, had air conditioning, and was located smack bang right next to the bustling streets of Covent Garden.
Bags down, it was time to hit the streets of London. First stop, lunch at Hawksmoor Seven Dials. I grabbed a quick fillet steak with bone marrow. Having had numerous heavy meals for the past few days, I settled for just a simple main for lunch. It wasn’t too bad although, maybe I should have gone for a proper cut of beef. Nonetheless, I polished off my plate and was on my way to explore my new surroundings.
But first, having spotted a pet store just around the corner on google maps. I had to go visit. In the end, I picked out a toy alligator for Hayley.
Didn’t last very long once it got into her paws, unfortunately. But it’s still mostly intact (for now).
With lovely weather surrounding me, I walked over to the National Gallery for some cultural points. The National Gallery was huge but with only an hour or so allocated, I had to fast track through the exhibits and sadly, only had time to stop for a handful of significant artworks.
I still don’t understand the relation of London Choco Roll to the city.
Saying goodbye to the National Gallery, I headed over to Buckingham Palace by way of Westminister and had a nice walk through a park towards the Queen’s residence. I guess I was lucky to have such nice weather.
With not too much to do at Buckingham Palace besides taking pictures for the ‘grams. I didn’t stay too long in the area and googled mapped my way to the nearest underground train station.
Along the way, I had to pop into the gift shop. Love the little Corgi and all the various doggo stuff on sale. Didn’t buy any though. On hindsight, maybe I should have picked up a scarf for one of our girls.
With the day almost wrapping up, I just had to tube over to King’s Cross for Platform 9 3/4. I know it’s touristy and cheesy but really, I only had a day in London, I needed this! Considering its magical hiding properties, platform 9 3/4 wasn’t that difficult to find, which also meant there was a rather long queue for everyone wanting to take a snap. This queue took me an hour to get to the front but with free wi-fi at the station, it didn’t feel that long.
While it was possible to have booked a ticket to catch one of the musicals on the West End, I decided to meet up with an old friend for dinner instead. Or rather, he met up with me right after I had my Harry Potter fix.
Post dinner, I pondered visiting SOHO but it was a rather long day of travelling around I decided to rest for the night. I had initially planned to only arrive in London in the evening today so, with almost half a day’s worth of exploring completed, I considered it a bonus day. Props to The Fielding Hotel for having a proper shower area in the bathroom, not one of those bathtubs with a fussy shower curtain.
With an entire day’s worth of touristing lined up, I woke up to an early morning and checked out of the hotel, leaving my luggage with the reception. Grabbing my first bus ride with the new Routemaster bus and going by several locations with names I only remember from playing Monopoly, I headed towards Hawksmoor Guildhall for my Full English Breakfast.
Unlike yesterday, the skies were much greyer today with little light drops of rain coming down occasionally. Not quite enough to sour my mood, London so far, has been fantastic.
With most online reviews of their Full English Breakfast usually referencing the slightly larger plate that is meant for two, this is what you get if you are dining alone. Grilled bone marrow not included, of course, I added that on my own. It was so good. One of the highlights of the meal was quite interestingly the trotter baked beans, I’ve not had beans like this before. Baked beans with smoked pigs totter chunks with a “home-made” sauce. It was amazingly good. Not a fan of black pudding thought it had a strange texture.
With breakfast and morning coffee downed, I headed towards London Bridge. But turns out London Bridge looks rather… boring. Turns out, the iconic bridge most commonly seen on postcards and in the movies is not London Bridge, but Tower Bridge. Since the rain had come to a standstill and the air was nice and cool, I decided to take a nice morning walk along the river, past London Tower, towards the bridge. London Tower looked rather interesting but with time constraints, I had to, unfortunately, give it a miss.
Reaching Tower Bridge just as it opened, I figured it didn’t hurt to give it a visit. So tickets purchased, I headed up, Far from home.
With historical exhibits and stories showcased alongside a lovely view of the city, I spent a pretty enjoyable hour inside. Totally worth the entrance fee. Next stop, Borough Market.
It seems no trip to a city is ever complete without a stop at one of its local albeit touristy markets and in London, that has got to be Borough Market. With an amazing array of food to buy and to eat. With a limited amount of room in my stomach, it was quite difficult to choose what to have. You might have noticed a lost hour or so in my timing, that was due to a small detour I took to explore the “London Bridge Experience”, a erm… charming little scare attraction that while fun, is not something I’d recommend to anyone, mostly due to the price of entry. Still, it was worth trying. Anyway, back to the market.
In the end, I settled for a generous serving (or two) of oysters. One of each please! The good stuff.
After mustering up the stomach to order up a tasty serving of mushroom paella to finish up my lunch, I decided it was time to leave the market for a nice stroll towards the Tate Modern Museum.
Along the way, I also stopped by a delightfully curated Paul Smith store. Although prices were slightly lower than what we get back home, there wasn’t anything inside that caught my eye.
As you can tell by the dark grey skies, by the time I reached the Tate, it was just about starting to rain so I headed inside. If there was one place I wish I had more time to spend it in, it would be the Tate.
This place was huge with so much to see. In my view, much more interesting than the National Gallery.
The initial plan was for me to just spend an hour or at most, an hour and a half inside, but with the rain still coming down rather hard, I decided to stay on. No regrets at all.
I’m not much of an art fan but I think I could easily spend half a day here just wandering about.
Being a fan of Roy Lichtenstein, I even had the opportunity to engage my inner fanboy. Having only seen his work in magazines, prints or on the interwebs, seeing it in real life was almost surreal. Yes, it was a big deal seeing it for real reals.
I never imagined the actual paintings were so big in scale and the textures and colours on the artwork give added dimension to the piece that I think prints just cannot replicate.
After slightly over 2 hours in the Tate and with the rain subsiding, I had to move on to my next destination. A place my friend from the night before suggested I had to visit since I was a Potter fan, The House of Minalima.
Seeing that the time taken by public transport would be close to walking, I decided to continue my exploration by foot. The weather was nice and cool anyway, something that I know I will surely miss once I get home.
It didn’t take too long before I was standing in front of the theatre playing the Harry Potter Cursed Child play. Another day perhaps, another day.
Right around the corner, I found the store in all its quirky and whimsical pink glory. For the uninitiated, Minalima is the design studio behind the graphic props of the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films.
The House of MinaLima then is a gallery and store showcasing their entire treasury of graphic works for the Harry Potter franchise, as well as other artwork and publications. All housed in a quirky (and uneven floored) experiential space filled with artwork and prints for all Potter fans. I was floored.
It felt like being back in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, except, slightly more authentic. It does feel like you are inside a house that could exist in the movie. It was so well done.
Even though you can buy one of their prints online, I had to get one right from the store if only just to relive the experience.
With the day and my stay in London coming to a close, it was time to head back towards where I started a day before, Covent Garden, to take in my last bits of the city before grabbing my luggage for my train ride to the airport.
Having spent just slightly over a day in London, I’d like to think I did pretty well visiting quite a number of places. But to be honest, with so many things to see, do and experience, I’m very sure I barely just scratched the surface of what this city offers. I will love to come back again soon.
With my bags collected from the hotel, it was finally time to say goodbye to London and head into the underground for my train ride to the airport.
With fast track access through the airport, I headed into Qatar’s Business Class lounge at Heathrow and wow, what a nice place to be.
Having a fantastic shower space to clean up and wash away the day makes a difference when you’re just about to board a long flight but with meals on order, it is altogether on a slightly different level. The Qatar Heathrow lounge deserves a shoutout for being so very excellent in both food, service and amenities.
With dinner taken care of in the lounge, it was time to get on my plane for the flight back to Singapore. Again, a special mention for Qatar’s wonderful Q-suites business class seats. Hands down, the best in business class.
Thank you Mini for this wondering experience to Frankfurt and the UK and thank you London for being such a wonderful place to visit even for just a day. You have all been wicked!