England

London a la Carte

It’s better traveling with a mate. Each experience is more fun, more meaningful when shared. There is someone to laugh with or gripe with (never to gripe at). And it’s much more practical to have someone to share expenses.

Before we left home, we found the perfect apartment on Home From Home. It was more reasonably priced than we ever dreamed possible. When we arrived, it was even nicer than we expected. So was the neighborhood. Chelsea is the place to be: fashionable boutiques, cafes and restaurants. St. Luke’s Gardens was right next to us and the tube station was an easy walk.

London Bus Tour

We took the bus tour to get an overview of the city and its main points of interest. We saw the London Eye, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Parliament, Monument, Cleopatra’s Needle, Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square. That sure checked a bunch off our must-see list.

Since you can get off and on the bus, we stopped at the Monument, officially the Monument to the Great Fire of London that occurred on 2 September 1666. We climbed the 312 steps to the top of the Doric column for the most awe-inspiring view of the city.

Greenwich Observatory

We went to the observatory to be at the centre of world time. Call me silly (but not to my face), but I loved the idea of standing on the Prime Meridian Line with one foot in both hemispheres. But there is so much more to see and do at the observatory. We learned how the scientists of old mapped the seas and stars, touched an asteroid that is 4.5 billion years old, and journeyed through the universe with an astronomer for a guide.

Tooting

Tooting is a district in the south of London that is home to London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan. While that is perhaps worth a visit, we went for the selection of South Asian restaurants and trendy bars.

While there, we found the Tooting Market, which has to be the hippest market anywhere. It’s been there since 1930, but only recently has become popular. Everything you can imagine is there for sale. Some of our favorite shops were:

  • Lilyflower Vintage/Amber Skye’s Wardrobe: Vintage fashions from around the world personally chosen by the owners.
  • Unwined: This bar offers regular wine tastings, an ever-changing roster of guest chefs and a unique selection of wine to purchase.

  • Get Juiced: Not what it sounds like. In fact, if you’ve overindulged at Unwined, Get Juiced can help with its healthy smoothies and juices and vegan cakes and pastries.

Prêt à Manger

We ate at Prêt à Manger most of the time. The food is fresh, organic, ready to eat and economically priced. There are 180 of them around London, so it’s easy to find a Pret wherever you are. At the end of the day, the leftover food is donated to homeless shelters. There is also the Pret Foundation, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to create sustainable solutions to hunger and homelessness.

Warner Bros. Studio Tour London

https://www.flickr.com/photos/kreestal/8505007542/

Now we’ll let you in our secret—this was at the top of our London list. We are Harry Potter fans (okay, fanatics). The Studio Tour is an amazing look at the incredible sets, costumes and props. Some of the highlights were:

  • The Great Hall
  • Dumbledore’s office
  • The boys’ dormitory
  • Potion’s classroom
  • Professor Umbridge’s office at the Ministry of Magic
  • Diagon Alley with Ollivanders Wand Shop, Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes and Eeylops Owl Emporium

After our busy days discovering the famous (and not-so) sights of London, it was a real pleasure to come home (and it really did feel like home) to our apartment and the neighbors that we got to know—just like real Londoners.

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