I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to the UK in July for work, which allowed me to take a few days off in London to hang with my friends and cousin. And I gotta say - I LOVE London! Despite the fact that I got lost multiple times trying to take the Tube/Overground/National Rail, London has completely charmed me. So here are the highlights of my trip to the UK. I was in London for 5 days and out of those, I did one thing 3 times. It's the least expected activity in the world. But just so happened that my cousin and I did the exact same thing 3 days in a row... Are you ready?
Hampton Court Palace: Okay, so this is not London, but during the week I visited Hampton Court (as suggested by my lovely colleagues) and I've got to tell you it was so worth it. I love palaces and forts (who doesn't? Also I was too lazy to write about it but I did visit Jaipur last year and those were some of the best forts I've seen ever!). And Hampton Court is HUGEEEE. But better than the palace itself were the gardens that surround it. I went by myself (read: reason I got lost) and found extreme peace in sitting in the garden reading a book (Robert Galbraith's Career of Evil). I only got to spend 2 hours before the Palace closed and that's not nearly enough time to cover the whole space. I found myself rushing through various rooms just to make sure I'd at least seen them all. A good 4 hours would let you see the place completely at a decent pace. It was also the week of the Flower Show so there were loads of people around, good weather, blue skies - I couldn't have asked for more. Below are some pictures I took. i really liked the fact that the pillars resembled castles on a chessboard. There was of course lots of history to learn but I took nothing away except that Henry VIII had many wives.
All-in-all, this was an amazing day spent exploring an unknown place alone (very cathartic I might add) but I wish I'd planned my journey better so I could stay longer and learn more from this place. Either way, these guys had it goooooood.
On Friday of the week I made my way over to London and got lunch at a Tapas place called at Meson Don Felipe close to Waterloo station. The food was delicious but really it's this board on the right about cricket I loved and had to share! It's pretty hilarious isn't it?
I spent Friday night with friends watching world cup games. I got brunch on Saturday at a small place called Over Under at Earl's Court and watched more football (duh). I had the best experience ever watching Croatia-Russia at a bar called G.O.A.T that was packed with Croatians. That atmosphere was just something else :)
Of course, as the biggest Potterhead alive I did have to do something Potter-related even if my BFF won't let me do Harry Potter world so my friends and I did a mixology class at Cauldron and I highly recommend it! It's about an hour and a half long session. You get to make two potions (cocktails) that are pretty delicious (I think one was a gin-lavender flavour and one was rum-black tea). You also get a wand and robes and a third drink that you get from the 'tree of life' that's either a beer of a berry-vodka concoction.
I spent Sun-Wed with my cousin at West Hampstead doing the more touristy things. Although, I had visited him for 8 hours 3 years ago so we had gotten most of the touristy stuff out of the way back then and didn't repeat doing London Bridge, the Eye, Big Ben etc.
Instead... I had the most British Sunday Roast at The Old Bull and Bush and then took a stroll at Golders Hill Park to see the deer enclosure and The Hill Garden and Pergola. It was a beautiful day and a walk in the park was perfectly complemented by some homemade ice cream. We also made our way over to Kenwood House at Hampstead Heath. Although not nowhere nearly as impressive as Hampton Court, Kenwood House still gives tourists a glimpse into houses owned by royalty and their giant art collection. Also drum roll please as this was the first day we did that repeated activity......
BUTTERFLY ENCLOSURE! Wait, what? That is anticlimactic AF. Yes, I'm aware. But by happy coincidence my brother and I visited 3 butterfly enclosures over 3 days and this one at Golders Hill was the first. I must say, they're really pretty from afar, but I was having definite palpations being in such close proximity to so many large butterflies.
The next day my brother and I set out to the Museum of Natural History! Tbh, I was super excited about this and it definitely paid of. The museum is massive and gorgeous and houses so many cool specimens - not to mention the gigantic skeleton of a blue whale. I've only been to Singapore's natural history museum before and while I love it (they organised it from virus/bacteria to single celled to more complex anatomical structures!!! King Philip Cried Oh For Goodness Sake anyone?!) this was different on a whole new level. My brother was super impatient though so I didn't get to stand and read as much as I'd have liked but I had an amazing time anyway. The area around the museum is also really nice with many more museums. And guess what? Obviously, the museum had a temporary butterfly exhibit! Woot woot!
This butterfly just wouldn't let my brother go! We had to hang around for a full 15 minutes before it decided to fly away. Pro tip: don't wear bright colours to a butterfly exhibit!
From the museum we took a short walk over to Hyde Park so we could pedal boat down the serpentine amongst the many swans!
We got a drink (Pimms of course) close by and then walked over to Saint Aymes cafe which is famous for being a flower cafe. While the decor was really cute with lots of real flowers adorning the walls, nothing else about this place was worth visiting for at all. The drinks were expensive and only for the gram (especially their unicorn drinks) and also came with gold flakes. Their service was terrible (2 coffees and a slice of cake took almost 30 minutes). And to top it off the even added gold flakes to our drinks
(without our consent) and charged us for it!
Anywho, to make our sorrows go away we bought kebabs and shisha close to Marble Arch, got a drink at The Holly Bush and ate at a really nice Italian place whose name I can't remember :(
The next day my brother was super nice and made me this delicious breakfast. Please take a moment to appreciate how amazing this looks (and it tasted muchhhh better!). That's avo toast with feta cheese, sous vide egg and masala corn - YUMZERZ.
Okay so after wolfing this down we went to Camden Market where I bought a ton of cool stuff for my friends back home and window shopped even more. We got a drink (Pimms duhhh) and ate at the market though I wish I had a bigger appetite so I could try everything there - it all looked so good!!
We then made our way over to.. THE ZOO! I was so excited about this. I haven't been to a zoo in years and I loveeee animals (so obv I have conflicting feelings about zoos and animals in captivity but the London Zoo is obviously one of the better ones with animals being taken care of and money raised for conservation and education). I had the best time seeing all the animals (especially the tigers, giraffes, and gorillas!). And obviously since it's the zoo, it housed our 3rd and final butterfly exhibit! What I really liked about the London zoo was that there were multiple walk-through exhibits. Of course there was the butterfly one, but there was also a spider one (went through this like flash on ecstasy), and the aviary, and also a rainforest exhibit with sloths and monkeys that were free to roam! And there was mad love/pride for this Gujju rickshaw at the lion exhibit.
Finally, we walked over to Primrose Hill to see the city from the top. The photo doesn't do this view much justice but I will leave you with this quote from atop the hill written by William Blake - “I have conversed with the spiritual sun. I saw him on Primrose Hill.”