The advantage of visiting London several times over the last decade means I’ve scouted the city’s major tourist attractions a few times over. Now that I live in Europe and even have friends who live in London, I can explore the city with locals who know it best. Bill and I visited London for a weekend to meet up with a few people – a British friend, an American friend from college who recently moved to London, and also Bill’s cousin who was in town with friends for the NFL game (Redskins v. Bengels). We had a jam-packed social weekend shared over good food and pints. Here are some highlights:
A bustling gourmet food market near the Shard and London Bridge tube station. This covered market is stacked with 100+ stalls and stands offering a range of items from fresh produce to fish, meats, booze, cheeses and treats. We came hungover and on an empty stomach and were pleased to find a variety of options for drinks and street food. Of course the lunch rush is peak time for tourists to visit this foodie-paradise, but the lines can move quickly and are worth the wait.
I swear the traditional Malaysian Chicken Curry from Furness Food Hut was made with some Harry Potter magic because it turned me from a sleep-deprived zombie to an actual human being. The pork belly sandwich with crackling and Bramley apple sauce from Roast gave Bill a pep in his step and we gulped them down with a little hair of the dog, hot mulled wine with the option to “make it medicinal” by adding a shot of rum.
The prices are fair, the options are endless, and you will undoubtedly leave with happy taste buds, a full belly and maybe a few bags worth of fine cheeses and meats to take home with you.
When in London, do what the Brits do. Naturally, we ended up on a bit of a lash with our British mates. Our first stop was The Anchor Bankside, a cheery pub on the south bank of the River Thames, also close to Borough Market and the London Bridge tube station.
This pub is full of history and is the last surviving riverside pub in this district from Shakespeare’s time, as this neighborhood was the heart of London’s theater culture. The Anchor sits quite close to the original site of the Globe Theater and it is supposed that Shakespeare himself enjoyed a pint or two within the walls of the Anchor.
Next stop was The Southwark Tavern a cozy pub adjacent to Borough Market which offers a range of beers on tap and in bottle.
Other stops over the weekend:
Clapham – a popular neighborhood for the young & hip in south-west London. It’s described as more laid back than other parts of London. We frolicked down Clapham High Street, a strip of seemingly endless bars where all are bound to have an effortless and fun night out. We sipped G&T’s and danced to hip hop & pop at Cafe Sol and ended with a night cap (or two) at The Clapham North.
Smithfield – in the last two decades this area in the north-west part of Central London has become a hub for young professionals frequenting the numerous bars, restaurants and night clubs. It is also an area well-known for Smithfield Market, a wholesale meat market and one of the oldest markets in London. The market supplies city butchers, shops and restaurants with quality fresh meat, but this means places restaurant/bars like Smiths of Smithfields (SOS) can serve up mouth-watering cuts of meat without having to search too far for their provisions. SOS is a huge restaurant/bar so we were able to make last minute reservations for 11 people! They had a nice cocktail menu and wine list as well. With such a big group of people, we ended with a lively late night at Karaoke Box Smithfield.
London Markets – London has a slew of markets where you can buy just about anything from food to art to antiques. I’d love to return to this city and dedicate a weekend to exploring all the popular markets like Camden Market, Old Spitalfield Market, Malby Street Market and Portobello Road Market.
Overall, we had a blast the entire weekend, spending time with friends and locals in this bustling, dynamic and stimulating city. It was also a nice change to speak English the entire trip. Spending the weekend in an English-speaking country means I was finally able to partake in my favorite activity, eavesdropping on the conversations around me. As you can imagine, eavesdropping in Holland can be a bit more challenging, but I’m not ashamed to say it is also motivation for me to continue learning Dutch! Though future trips will be planned to cities we have not yet visited, there is something about the city of London that captivates and excites me, which means I. will. be. back.