What I missed: London
For something new, I thought I would re-visit places I am dying to return to and specifically write about the five things I would like to do the most in those places, things I hadn’t seen or done before. First up is London, a city I adore but one I haven’t been to in over a decade!
While I’ve always been a tea drinker (ever since high school, possibly before), it’s only been in more recent times that I’ve truly become a tea aficionada. I’ve had afternoon tea at two places here in Pittsburgh and an utterly unforgettable time in Hawaii, and when I travel I’ll often buy unique flavored teas if they’re available (case in point-cacao tea from a chocolate maker on the Mexican island of Cozumel). While I did drink tea the last time I was in London, it was more a beverage, not the whole elaborate affair that is high tea. My ultimate dream would be having high tea at the Ritz (you can’t get any more English posh than that, nor pricey; it’s £54 per person), and yet enough travel/expat bloggers have written about other non-Ritz spots offering high tea that sound just as lovely and definitely still special. The Ritz offers a chocolate mint rooibos (I adore rooibos) so I’m somewhat sold there.
Imperial War Museums
I’ve always been an uber history nerd so I still regret I never made it to the Imperial War Museums on my last visit to London, especially since I was there for nearly two weeks. It was a class I took in my sophomore year of college that got me incredibly interested in The Great War (known as World War I to my American readers). The museums are a national organization comprising five branches, three in London, two elsewhere in the country. I’m specifically interested in the London Imperial War Museum (this focuses on the people’s experiences of modern war from World War I to present-day) and the Churchill War Rooms, a group of basement offices in Whitehall (the district home to the government ministries) that served as the epicenter of Britain’s war effort during World War II. It essentially was a bunker and was occupied by prominent government ministers and military strategists including Mr. Churchill himself.
Roam around Notting Hill
London, like any other major city, is home to countless neighborhoods and needless to say there are plenty I’ve never been to including the quite well-known Notting Hill. It’s been featured in numerous Hollywood films due to its overall beauty and bevy of pastel colored buildings (my favorite) as well as those stereotypical English streets with tube signs, pubs, and gardens abounding. Thanks to Instagram, I’ve discovered just how lovely a neighborhood this looks to photograph. And as I’ve said before, roaming an area with your camera is a wonderful activity in a city and one that’s also free.
Go on a food tour
I don’t remember having any bad meals while in London, and yet the last time I was there I was a frugal 19 year old so searching out unique eateries was never at the top of my to do list. Thankfully I’ve grown a lot since then, and my palate too. English food as a whole has exploded in recent years, thanks to a combined effort of the English being tired of their country’s cuisine getting such a bad rap, and the ever growing influx of immigrants which means more delicious flavors and unfamiliar ingredients being incorporated into the English culinary scene. While there are numerous food tours available in London, I think I’m the most interested in ones that take you through the city’s East End (yes, of Jack the Ripper fame). This neighborhood has always been home to immigrants and more recently it’s started to gentifry. It’s also the site of Brick Lane, otherwise known as the famous Curry Mile. Brick Lane offers the best of Bangladeshi, Indian, and Pakistani cuisines.
St. Paul’s Cathedral
On my first trip to London, I DID visit St. Paul’s Cathedral. However, I didn’t get to go up into the cupola which is what I wanted to do more than anything else. The cathedral itself is one of the most famous and recognizable sights in London and its dome has dominated the city’s skyline for 300 years (it’s also among the highest in the world). A main reason I’ve always been interested in it was that even in the devastating carnage of the Blitz during World War II, St. Paul’s remained standing. One of the most famous photographs to emerge from the war was of St. Paul’s dome peeking through a haze of fire and smoke. It was damaged during the war, but never fully brought down, a symbol of the sheer resilience of the British people.
And honorable mentions for the Victoria and Albert Museum, the London Eye, and Highgate Cemetery.
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