Category Archives: travel

Things to do when visiting London

On my recent trip to the UK, my sister and I spent 7 full days in London, so you bet we did a lot of exploring. And I mean a lot! We walked so much that we actually had to take a day off just to recover because our legs and feet were hurting so much. Since I already talked about where to eat in London, in this post I’m going to focus things to do when visiting London.

Soho – Soho is a neighbourhood that’s a great place to go if you want to escape the hoards of tourists for a while. It’s part of the theatre district, and it also has a lot of great restaurants (check out 10 Greek Street, Bibimbap, Lick, and The Pudding Bar from this post), bars, and shopping. You’ll find stores like Diesel, Miss Sixty, and MAC, as well as independent boutiques and the department story Liberty.

Carnaby Street Soho

Mad Hatter’s afternoon tea at the Sanderson Hotel – I saw this posted on Khushboo’s blog and I immediately added it to our itinerary. It was such a fun experience! First they let you choose your tea from a set of samples on the table, and they bring it out to you in adorable pots with paper crowns.

Sanderson Hotel afternoon tea

Then the feast comes… there were finger sandwiches (ham and grainy mustard on sun dried tomato bread was my favourite), scones, and of course pastries and desserts. The matcha mousse in an edible chocolate cup and the Victoria sponge cake were probably my top two favourites.

Sanderson Hotel afternoon tea

That wasn’t even it though – there was also a carrot meringue with filling, marshmallow mushrooms, and a “drink me” potion. The presentation of everything was seriously amazing, and it all tasted as good as it looked. I highly recommend this to everyone!

Sanderson Hotel afternoon tea

Borough Market – this farmers market is a foodie’s heaven. There are all sorts of vendors with produce, oil and vinegars, mushrooms, meat, and best of all, cheese. We must have sampled cheese from at least 5 or 6 different stalls.

Borough Market

There were also a million places with desserts like meringue and pastries, but unfortunately I couldn’t find any nut allergy friendly places except for Flaxjacks, which had a line of totally nut free granola bars. I went for the date bar, which was fantastic. There are also lots of stands with ready-to-eat foods like sausage on a bun, Indian food, grilled cheese, and Japanese. We split the gyoza and rice noodles with chicken – both were delicious.

Borough Market Japanese food

See a play/musical – we were lucky enough to get somewhat last minute tickets to see Matilda at Cambridge Theatre on my second Saturday night there. We had a hard time deciding amongst all the great theatre options: Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Mamma Mia, The Lion King, The Commitments, etc. But I’m glad we went for Matilda – it was great to see one of my favourite childhood books/movies on stage. And the male actor playing Miss Trunchbull was spot on hilarious!

Matilda the musical

Hyde Park – I literally had no concept of the enormity of this park until I saw it. It is massive! On my last day in London we enjoyed a picnic lunch of focaccia, cured meats, and cheese one from Whole Foods, then went for a bike ride on rented bikes throughout the park.

Hyde Park

Portobello Market – This is a huge market that runs down Portobello Road in Notting Hill. There was everything from jewellery to vintage clothing to antique dishware to souvenirs. And of course there was tons of street food and baked goods as well.

Portobello market

Department stores – London has some seriously cool department stores. Harrods is the famous one, but personally I found it overcrowded with a confusing layout. I much preferred browsing the designer clothes and accessories at Liberty and Selfridges. Bonus: Selfridges has an awesome chocolate section!

Museums – I didn’t know this beforehand, but all museums in London are free, so they’re a great way to amuse yourself cheaply. We checked out the Science Museum (great exhibit on medicine through history), Victoria and Albert Museum (very cool “Disobedient Objects” exhibit and jewellery gallery), British Museum (loved the ancient Grecian sculpture), and my favourite: The National Gallery. I took a class on art history once, and it’s fascinated me ever since. It was awesome to see some of the paintings I’d studied in real life! I also highly recommend renting the headset for only a few pounds – getting to learn about the context and interpretations of the paintings really adds to the experience.

Crouching Venus

Historical sites and monuments – This is kind of a given, but I figured I’d throw it in here at the end. The Tower of London is a really neat site – but unlike what we thought, it’s not just a tower; it’s an entire fortress. So you definitely need to devote a good 2+ hours to this site. I also recommend buying the audio guide to learn more about its history.

Tower of London

We also made sure to visit the other famous sites like Big Ben, the Tower Bridge, the Parliament buildings, the Marble Arch, London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, and Trafalgar Square. They were cool to see, but definitely not something you have to plan your entire day around. Most of the time we just walked by and snapped a picture so we could say we’d been there!

londonlandmarks

So that wraps up my long, but not exhaustive list of things to do when visiting London as a tourist!

Anything I forgot to include in this list?

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Best London restaurants

I originally planned on writing one big post about restaurants, shopping, and sightseeing in London but I quickly realized that would be a massive post! And I know no one likes to read those, so I decided to break it up. After all, the topic of the best London restaurants could probably take up a whole blog on its own, let alone just a post.

So I’m just going to cover the best London restaurants and dessert shops in this post – stay tuned for another post about other great food from London’s markets and afternoon teas!

10 Greek Street – this is a small restaurant in Soho that I decided was a must-try after seeing it recommended on multiple websites. And it definitely lived up to its recommendations. Hayley and I shared some small plates, which were all good but the highlight was the bruschetta with burrata, onion, pine nuts, and broad beans. We are great at sharing except when it comes to dessert, so we decided to get our own. And I’m glad we did because there is no way I would have wanted to share my apricot and almond tart!

10 Greek Street

Bibimbap – To be honest I’ve never actually had bibimbap from a restaurant before, so I don’t have anything to compare this restaurant to, but I really enjoyed it and it seems to be popular since there was a 10-15 minute wait to get a table on a week night!

Bibimbap

C Lidgate – okay this place isn’t actually a restaurant: it’s a butcher shop that apparently has the best meat pies in all of London. After hearing this we of course had to try one, so one evening we picked ourselves up a coq au vin pie and took it back to Marlow to bake it. The verdict? Pretty delicious! The pastry was perfection, but I actually prefer my own coq au vin recipe.

C Lidgate coq au vin pie

Lick – This was actually my first time trying gelato! Usually gelato is a no-go for me because of my nut allergies, but the person at the counter reassured me that they take measures to prevent cross-contamination at Lick. Hayley and I shared the honeycomb flavour, which we both really enjoyed.

Lick gelato

Mildred’s – if you’re a vegetarian or vegan travelling in London, it has no shortage of restaurants for you! We tried out Mildred’s, which was a seriously hopping place so we knew it must be good. We split the pan fried halloumi, cherry tomato and wilted spinach with balsamic glaze to start, and we both loved it. I was craving vegetables after not eating many for the past few days, so I ordered their organic energizing detox salad with beets, carrots, fennel, sprouting beans, sultanas, coriander and toasted seeds with an apple ginger dressing and tofu for my main. It was good, but I wish I’d ordered something else like Hayley’s risotto cake with grape mustard cream sauce or the vegetarian burrito with guacamole.

Mildred's

The Pudding Bar – I’m so glad I was in London when I went or else I might have missed this pop up shop that is only open for a few months. The name might mean explaining though… because it’s not a bar devoted entirely to pudding! “Pudding” is actually what they call dessert in the UK. Hayley and I split two choices: the s’more cheesecake with clotted cream ice cream and the strawberry Eton mess. So delicious!

The Pudding Bar

Polpo – this is a small plates style restaurant that serves Venetian cuisine. There are a couple locations in London, but we went to the one in Notting Hill. We had the spicy pork and fennel meatballs; prosciutto, smoked mozzarella and rocket pizzette; and zucchini with Parmesan and basil. Everything was great, and I was really impressed with how they managed to make zucchini (a very boring vegetable in my opinion) so delicious.

polpo

Recipease – this is Jamie Oliver’s food and kitchen shop that offers a selection of prepared foods, pantry foods, kitchen equipment, cooking classes, and a cafe serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinks. Hayley and I stopped here for tea on our first day in London and we made sure to return for a meal before the end of my trip. I had two small plates: Smoked salmon with potato and radish salad and horseradish creme fraiche and smashed spicy avocado on sourdough toast. Both were fantastic and exactly the style of fresh, simple cooking I would expect from Jamie’s restaurant.

Recipease

Sticks n’ Sushi – Hayley declared she was craving sushi one day and of course I was on board (when do I not want sushi?), so she did a quick search and found this winner. On top of beautiful decor it also has great service and a really intriguing menu. The only downside is its prices. Luckily I wasn’t feeling too hungry so I didn’t have to order much, but my tatami roll (avocado, cucumber, salmon, dengaku miso, chives, red onion, and fresh ginger) and seaweed salad still came to over £16 (that’s about $30 in Canadian dollars)!

Sticks n Sushi

We clearly found a lot of great restaurants in London, but I wish I had another few months there to eat my way through the city!

Have you ever been to London? What’s your favourite restaurant there?

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Things to do in Marlow

Hi again everyone! I’m back from my trip to the UK – and it was amazing! I feel like I’m bursting with things I want to post about. But I’m going to take it one topic at a time, and start with my stay in Marlow, which is a small town about a 30 minute drive from London.

Things to do in Marlow

Hayley is nannying for a family who lives there, so that’s where I stayed, and we just made the trip into London most days. There were about 3 days total we spent in Marlow though so I got a pretty good feel for it. Here are some of my highlights from my time there and my suggestions for things to do in Marlow:

Food

Fego Cafe is a cute cafe on High Street that serves breakfast and lunch. I went there a handful of times and always enjoyed my meal. My favourite was their “Mediterranean Brunch”, which was grilled halloumi, avocado, peppers, tomato, spinach, and mushrooms on toasted poppy & rye sourdough topped with a poached egg, pesto, and rocket.

Things to do in Marlow

I also had Fego Cafe’s full English breakfast on my last morning there because I felt it was an English experience I needed to partake in (pictured below, plus toast). It was good, but seriously filling – I wasn’t hungry until 10 hours later!

Things to do in Marlow

We also went to The Cedar Coffee Shop for lunch one day. It has a Mediterranean inspired menu with sandwiches, wraps, and salads, but I got that day’s special of chili con carne stuffed sweet potato topped with crème fraîche. It was delicious!

Things to do in Marlow

Marlow is also the home of a two Michelin star restaurant The Hand and Flowers – it is actually the only pub in the world to be awarded Michelin stars. We went there one night on a whim and got a seat at the bar because tables are often booked months in advance.

I started with the potted artichokes with cured pork, summer truffle, trompette, and rye cracker. Unfortunately I found this dish pretty bland and unimpressive. My main was the fillet of sea bass with roast tomato fondue, peppers, and aubergine “provençal”, thyme salt, and French olive oil. I enjoyed this plate, especially the flavour of the aubergine, but the fish needed salt. I ordered the chocolate ale cake with salted caramel and muscovado ice cream for dessert, which again was lacking in flavour. Overall the meal was not what I would expect from a Michelin star restaurant. For the price we paid, which was about $330 total (including alcohol), it wasn’t worth it to me.

The Hand and Flowers

Things to do

Marlow is on the Thames River, and it has an amazing trail that runs along it and throughout the nearby fields. Hayley and I took a long walk one evening by the river, along fields of sheep, and down a path lined with tons of blackberry bushes that anyone can pick. The scenery almost made me feel like I was in Pride and Prejudice!

Things to do in Marlow

It’s also a great place for boating. On nice weekends you’ll see plenty of locals out on their boats enjoying the weather. There are also boating tours for visitors that will take you down the river to nearby towns and attractions. I never did one of those tours, but I did join in with Hayley’s kayak and canoe club one Sunday for their weekly excursion up the river to a little tea shop.

Things to do in Marlow

On my second day there we spent time exploring the town and shopping. Marlow has plenty of shops with English brands like The White Company, Whistles, Jigsaw, Cath Kidston, and Sweaty Betty.

One day we also took a day trip out to Windsor Castle, which is one of the Queen’s castles and is just a short drive away from Marlow. It was my first time visiting a real historical castle – I was in such awe of how big and grand it is! You can just tour the castle on your own, but we decided to do the audio tour which was really informative and taught us a lot about its history.

Windsor Castle

That’s a wrap for things to do in Marlow, but I’ve got some posts about my food and sight-seeing adventures in London coming up next!

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