London Town

This post is going to be slightly different because I’m going to combine several of our trips to England’s capital city.

When you peel back all the layers of London, as with any city, you will find that it really is a superb city with lots to offer.

Things to do in London

No trip to the Capital is complete without a trip to Buckingham Palace. Stand in awe outside this suburb building which is guarded by the “Queens Guards”, the Calvary, with their red uniforms and bearskins (the tall fur caps). You will be feeling all of the British vibes standing here. The Queen usually doesn’t stay at the Palace in the summer months between August and September. During this time, it is open to the public, so if you are keen to have a look around, Summer is your best bet! According to the ‘Buckingham Palace guide’ the highlights of the tour include: –

  • “The 19 beautifully decorated State Rooms, used for receiving guests and official functions
  • The Throne Room – often used as a backdrop for royal wedding photos
  • The magnificent Grand Staircase
  • The special exhibition, which changes each year
  • Fine art, including works by Canaletto, Rembrandt and Vermeer
  • An audio tour by Prince Charles!”
Buckingham Palace
Outside Buckingham Palace

From Buckingham Palace if you walk through Green Park to Wellington Arch and continue a bit further you will come across Hyde Park.

View from inside Green Park looking on to Buckingham Palace (far right)
Green Park, London

Here, in Hyde Park, during the winter months you will find Winter Wonderland. We went for the first time last year (2019) and we had an incredible time. I won’t lie to you, it is expensive but hey, you are in London!

Winter Wonderland, Hyde Park, London

We queued for a long time as it is free entry into Winter Wonderland. You are able to purchase ‘queue jump’ tickets ahead of time. I’d strongly recommend this for families because the queue is like being part of a herd of cattle (not pleasant and very claustrophobic).

Once we, finally, got in we walked around, taking in the bright lights, sounds and smells. We were totally shocked by how big it was. They had huge looping rollercoasters set up, not just the usual small fayre ground rides I’d expected. Cosy Bavarian themed bars surround the park with all kinds of dining options, Street food, seated dining by candlelight and a woodfire, bar food, the whole lot!

We had already enjoyed a delicious meal at Wagamamma for lunch so, as we only needed a snack, we headed to the STREET FOOD! Street food is a traveller’s dream, cheap (usually), quick and delicious!

Some of Winter Wonderland’s street food options are: –

  • Fish ‘n’ Chips
  • “Oh my Dog” – hotdogs
  • “Makatcha” – traditional Indonesian cuisine
  • “Hanock” – Korean
  • “Ghetto Grillz” – Cuban
  • “Tincan” – Vintage coffee truck (I like what they did there!)
  • Dutch Mini Pancakes
  • Mac ‘n’ Cheese

Alex went for the good ol’ Mac ‘n’ Cheese. I, however, went for a dessert option and had a yummy coffee from “Tincan” and the Dutch Mini Pancakes. Yum is all I have to say. It was delish. Alex’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese also was very tasty, I had to have a bite, I couldn’t resist.

Borough Market, London

Whilst on the subject of food, I really want to mention the absolutely amazing Borough Markets. If you haven’t been before, you need to add it to your bucket list. We went during my birthday visit to London in 2013 (I think – it was so long ago!) and it was brilliant.

Borough Market, London

The vibrant foods on offer are endless. Cookies bigger than your face, freshly sourced meats and cheeses, home baked cakes, breads and pastries and of course, delicious options for lunch.

Borough Market, London 2013

You can spend hour’s exploring this superb market, just be careful you don’t get lost in the maze of food stalls.

I promise I’ll stop talking about food, after this one last thing…

…Bertie Blossoms, Ed Sheeran’s new restaurant, I haven’t been but it is definitely on my bucket list. If you are in London, go check it out! Let’s show the love for our local Suffolk boy Ed. He was brought up just 20 minutes from where I was brought up. I can say we Suffolk folks are very proud!

If you have been to Bertie Blossoms, what is it like? I’d love to hear from you. I have been following the restaurant’s instagram and it looks totally yum.

If, whilst you’re in London, you can squeeze a visit to Wembley Stadium to see one of your favourite Artists, definitely do it! We went to Wembley a few years ago now but the atmosphere of the stadium still gives me chills. We managed to get a hostel really close to the stadium, just one tube and we arrived. We had dinner at the stadium too. There are lots of shops and restaurants to enjoy pre-event. It really was an amazing experience.

You’ll find Big Ben by the River Thames. Close by you will also see the London Eye. On a clear day it really is a wonderful view across the river. We took a “ride” on the London Eye once before and it was a fantastic experience. You can really see so much of London from up there. I would recommend doing this if you haven’t been on anything similar before.

Big Ben at the moment is covered by scaffolding for a restoration project of the roof and spire. They have uncovered the clock face and are slowly working to remove more of the scaffolding as they complete the work. When the scaffolding isn’t there, Big Ben is magnificent.

In Trafalgar square you will see the famous statues of four lions, surrounding Nelson’s Column. As it was the Christmas season when we visited, more recently, we were pleased to find a lovely Christmas market which followed the wooden “ski village” theme.

We made a quick detour through Covent Garden where we were greeting with an American marching band which was a great experience in itself. We took in the shops and stalls around the area before leaving the crowds behind for a quiet walk along the river. We meandered our way through the crowds, past the Houses of Parliament and nipped into Nero’s for a coffee whilst we took everything in.

All of these places are worth a visit. Of course, it highly depends on what you are into but if you are on a budget, like us, then just simply walking around London sightseeing makes an unforgettable day out.

London Eye

There are lots of free events in and around London that you can stumble across. During our visit in the Summer of 2015, we wandered upon a free music festival and, we spent the afternoon on the banks of the Thames soaking in the sun and music. It was absolutely fabulous.

River Thames, London

I had this little urge to visit the Tailor shop from the Kingsman movies on Saville Row, Mayfair. So, if you’re a movie fan, you can google maps the word Kingsman in London and it will bring you straight to the shop which is surprisingly rather known as “Huntsman“. You may bump into a tour guide showing a group of Kingsman fans around this shop, if you do, be sneaky and follow them in for a listen!

Since returning from the life of a backpacker, and not having to live out of a single backpack, Alex has taken to new shoes. He likes a nice pair of shoes and who can blame the guy?

So, with this in mind, we headed to Selfridges on Oxford Street. I think Alex just wanted to have a nose to be honest. He didn’t end up buying anything but the whole experience was very interesting. The shop is spread over several floors and quite honestly seems never ending. As you walk from floor to floor, room to room, the music and theme changes. The music is sometimes loud and sometimes a little softer so you kind of don’t know whether you are coming or going. I am not one for much shopping if I’m honest but I’m pretty sure, if you wanted to, you could spend the whole day exploring this maze of rooms.

Of course, Oxford Street is pretty cool and is definitely worth a look if you are in London. There is a real range of shops, starting with your usual high street stores up to your designer specialty stores. There really is something for everyone!

Last but not least, I must mention, Piccadilly Circus. Everyone has heard someone joke “this place is like Piccadilly Circus!” and well, that’s because Piccadilly Circus is a bit wild! It is London’s equivalent to the ‘Shibuya Crossing’ in Tokyo (just not on the same scale) and is definitely worth checking out!

Transport

Getting into the city

By Air

There are connecting transport options into the city from each of these airports. Click on the appropriate airport above to be redirected to each of their getting to and from information pages.

By Bus

National Express are a great value company to travel with from anywhere in the Country!

By Train

Download the trainline app or head to their website for the latest train times and to buy your train tickets.

By Car

We parked at Stratford International, just outside of the city, for £6.00 for the whole day. From here we had a look around Westfield Statford City before hopping on a tube which takes you directly to the city. Easy peasy lemon squeezy. You also miss all of the scary London traffic!

Getting around the city

Use the tube like a local! We found out that you can use the tubes for a capped amount by just using your contactless debit card. We paid just £5.00 for our transport on the tubes for our day in London. It certainly saves having to worry about purchasing train tickets and tube passes. If you’d like some more information for getting around London, check out the Transport for London website.

Accommodation

We’ve stayed in various hotels and hostels in London. It is highly dependent on your budget but I’d head to booking.com or Airbnb, those are my go to accommodation sites!

If you have any questions about any of the places or businesses mentioned in this post, feel free to drop a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

Thank you so much for taking the time to read my post. If you’d like to know more about a particular place, let me know and I’ll see what I can do!

I wonder where in the world we will be next time?

Check back next week to find out!

Norwich; the city of stories

Welcome to my first ever blog post my loves. I am quite excited about this I can’t lie.

This post is not only going to be my first blog post but also an introduction to me and my story.

I am currently in Norwich, the city of stories, because after returning to the UK after a 4 year backpacking adventure around the world, I took a huge gamble and decided to study law. I started my studies in July 2019 and here I am, 6 months later having just finished my first law exam…

… it went well – I hope!

As you have probably already established, my passions in life are travel, writing and a good cup of coffee.

Strangers Coffee Company, Norwich, United Kingdom

To be honest with you, it isn’t so much the coffee that I love, although it does help, it’s the atmosphere of a well thought out coffee shop that does it for me. A space to relax, create, catch up with loved ones and just watch the world go by.

So what’s the plan for my blog?

The plan guys, is to not really plan all that much…

… I am a big believer in life happening to you whilst you are planning something else. When I was 18 my plan was to be married and have two children by the time I was 25. Well, here I am, 25, unmarried, although in a loving committed relationship, no children and dreaming of the future.

Life has been kinda difficult for my partner, Alex, and I since we returned to the UK. We spent 2015 – 2019 travelling around some of the most beautiful countries in the world and then we came home to our old lives, living with parent’s again, I began studying again and, the worst part of it all, the boring old routine. It’s not like we don’t want to be here, it is just quite an adjustment that’s all.

That being said, we are immensely grateful for the support we received we initially got home. We were lucky to have a roof over our heads and we both had full time jobs waiting for us.

We are now saving for an investment property, not really a home per say but a place for us to call home until we can afford our “dream” home. It is another exciting chapter in our lives and all this hard work will be worth it in the end!

Turning to the city in the title of this post…

Upon walking around this city, which lies just 1 hour 20 minutes from my hometown, I have seen the words “Norwich, the city of stories” pasted on the side of a few buildings. So, with that in mind, I’ll tell you the “tourist” story of my time in Norwich.

View over Norwich from the Castle

Alex spent the afternoon with me yesterday and we took a look around Chapelfield Shopping Centre. It was just your average shopping mall if I’m totally honest – would make a good day out though if that is your cup of tea!

I’m a keen voucher/bargain hunter, especially now I’m a student, and I had an 02 priority for Byron Burgers (delish!) so we had that for tea before Alex headed home.

Last night, I stayed in the Abbey Guest House, Stracey Road, Norwich. It was very homely, run by a couple and well situated next to the train station (and my exam centre). I paid a very fair price of £48 for the night in my own room with a double bed and an en-suite. In the morning they provided me with a wonderful breakfast. You can have cereal, toast and a full english breakfast if you wish – all included in the price of the room! I booked on booking.com but you can also book through them directly on their website; Abbey Guest House

After my exam, I decided to have a wander around Norwich before my train home, it was cold but the sun was shining. I started off at Norwich Castle built some time between 1066 – 1087 – a good spot for any history buffs! It was unfortunately closed with it being winter.

Norwich Castle

From here I took a wander around Castle Quarter another shopping mall with a variety of shops along with some awesome community “hangouts”. I saw 3 units which were designated to the public, one was the “Community Lounge” which had some deck chairs, desks and bean bags everybody to chill out on. Another was the “Puzzle Room” a free space to go and complete puzzles (how awesome is that?). The last one was the “Honesty Library”, a unit with comfy sofas, beanbags, desks and most importantly a good selection of books to share. I haven’t seen many spaces like these so a big well done to Castle Quarter for thinking outside of the box!

Another passion of mine is Markets. I just can’t help myself. It isn’t like I always want to buy something, sometimes I simply just enjoy wandering around taking in the sights and smells. We have been to some real good markets in various places around the world, I can’t wait to tell you about them.

Anyway, Norwich Markets; the winner of Britain’s best outdoor market in 2019 and I have to say it was pretty cool. The stalls are kind of like little beach huts all lined up in rows. There were countless food stalls and the smells were divine. Whether you fancy noodles, falafel or fish and chips, Norwich market’s has you covered!

Britain’s Best Large Outdoor Market 2019 – Norwich Markets
Fresh Noodle Bar, Norwich Markets

Inside you will also find nail salons, craft stalls, gift stalls, bag stalls, ,meat and cheese stalls and a gorgeous herb and spice stall. You really can find everything and anything your heart could wish for.

All of the spices!
Craft stall – Norwich Markets
The ‘everything’ stall…

I wandered the cobbled streets to find the “Norwich Lanes”. I had done my research and found out where I could get the best cup of coffee, along with that amazing atmosphere I mentioned earlier.

Strangers Coffee Company est. 2009

Strangers Coffee Company, Pottergate, Norwich

Strangers Coffee Company got it’s name from the ‘nick name’ of the area in which it is situated. In 1564, the city authorities invited Protestant refugees from the Spanish Netherlands to settle in Norwich to boost the City’s textile industry. They were followed by many more and soon they accounted for over a third of the city’s population. They became known as the ‘Strangers’.

The Strangers Coffee Company has a sit in coffee shop as well as a takeaway shop in the city’s centre. I bagged myself a sweet seat by the window with a little work area just for me. The shop is decorated with beautiful live green hanging plants which stand out alongside the black framed windows and door. Whilst I sat there, many people came and went, a real hot spot for lunch in the city.

Inside Strangers Coffee Company

I went for a Latte and a huge slice of their Red Velvet cake – yum! The coffee itself was smooth and creamy, just how I like it, served in a deep mug marked with the letter ‘S’, which I thought was a nice touch. Of course, there are other options such as the brie and chilli jam or the sun dried tomato and pesto ciabattas. There is also a good selection of delicious cakes.

There is also art work for sale around the coffee shop which adds a creative feel. Strangers is bustling with life. If I lived in Norwich i’d be very tempted to come visit everyday so I will definitely be back again! Thanks for the coffee and cake guys. Check them out on instagram @strangers coffee or at their website on the link above.

Alchemista Coffee Potions

ALchemista, St Gregory’s Alley, Norwich

Around the corner, in St Gregory’s Alley, Alchemista is situated next to the church. By this point, I needed a decaf coffee as this was my 2nd coffee of the day and I am trying to reduce my caffeine intake this year! The Norwich Lanes website states that “Their journey to find the best coffee experience started in Australia and took them across SE Asia, sampling coffee in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Ho Chi Min, Chiangmai, Phuket and Bangkok.”

The guys at Alchemista had a good selection of big crusty rolls filled with things like bacon and brie and again cakes that look totally amazing. The drink’s list is extensive with a speciality section which includes their “greatest work”, the Opus Magnum, a coffee with equal parts espresso and hot silky milk, finished with another ristretto shot.

Alchemista not only serves coffee and sandwiches, it also offers cocktail potions such as the “Hex, a bewitching take on the classic Espresso Martini – Vodka, Kahlúa and espresso, finished with our house made Cold Brew”. Sounds very interesting, perfect for a night with the girls!

The vibe at Alchemista is very ‘Steampunk’ and has steam-powered machinery decor around the coffee shop. The lighting follows that same steam-powered theme. It has a very trendy atmosphere. An old yet new feel.

Even the bathroom was picture worthy!

I’m on the train home now, so that’s a wrap on my first ever post and a wrap for this little adventure in Norwich.

If you have any questions about any of the places or businesses mentioned in this post, feel free to drop a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading my loves, I wonder where my next blog post will find me?

Check back soon to find out!

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