I opened my last blog post about London by saying I’m in love, and I’ll do it again. I’m in love with this city! What is it about London that is so incredibly compelling to me? Is it the familiar Western Culture mixed with alluring European distinction that combines to make me feel like this could be my home, yet an endless source of adventure & joy? Is it that both times I’ve been, I’ve encountered not one drop of rain? It’s hard to say.
All I know is I love the grand history mingled with the modern and varietized. I love the energy of walking home at midnight on a Wednesday, the streets still filled with young people talking and laughing and drinking beers outside of the pubs. I love the fashion, all pretty ruffled dresses and white tennis shoes right now.
How fortunate for me that I got to visit this place for four whole days (compared to my last trip was a whole 48 hours) with some awesome people that I happen to work with.
Although it was a short trip, there were still many memories made & recommendations to be given. My trip in a bottle below:
London Drinks Situation
This was a focal point of the trip, as are most socially-oriented gatherings in my life. I’m actually really trying to cut back in terms of the amount that I drink (and kind of failing miserably). There’s just so many outings that revolve around it. If anyone has advice as to how to create a social life that is less dependent on alcohol for fun, I’m all ears. In the meantime, here’s some of the pretty awesome places that we enjoyed a beverage or four:
- The Coral Room: Located within the Bloomsbury Hotel, this has to be one of the most beautiful interiors in London. True to it’s name, the walls and furniture are all coral or salmon pink, accented with antique details and gold. Drinks are not cheap but nothing really is in London. Probably why this San Francisco girl feels right at home!
- Aqua Kyoto: Cute rooftop situation near Oxford Street. It’s also pretty massive in terms of bar space, so big groups work well here. I ordered Paloma after Paloma, as tequila is my new spirit drink (& helps immensely with the jet lag!).
- Archer Street: We were in this bar for a total of 5 minutes, but I’m positive that if I lived here, I would be a regular. It was full of good-looking young people, jam packed at 11pm on a Wednesday, famous for its Broadway-theater actors who bartend on the side and take turns standing on the tables & belting out crowd-pleasers like Journey.
- Lamb & Flag: This is the spot if you’re looking for a traditional British pub that still has a ton of life. It’s picturesque in it’s quaintness, but still has a hoard of people drinking beers and smoking cigarettes on its doorstep. Aka fun.
- The Shard: The Shard is the tallest building in all of London, and anyone can go to the top for the views if you’re willing to order an(other) expensive drink. We went to Hutong’s on the 32nd floor, which isn’t the highest (52nd is as tall as it gets), but we still felt pretty pleased with the view.
- London Eye Champaign Experience: If you’re going to spend a low key crazy amount to ride the London Eye for 20 minutes, you may as well get the Champagne Experience. You don’t have to wait in line (which can end up taking much longer than the ride itself) and you get a glass of champagne to enjoy as you look down upon the peasants. Roughly $50 per person.
- Brewdog: This was a cool, funky little spot in Covent Garden where we stopped to get beers. On a nice day, their upstairs is full of sunlight and the guy who started the place actually started and sold his microbrewery for the largest sum in microbrewery history. Then he started Brewdog. So the beers are pretty good! They also sell hot dogs.
London Hotel Situation
- St. Martin’s Lane: I stayed here and was very pleased with the experience. Very modern hotel, much like The Standard or a Virgin Hotel with its funky oversize furniture pieces and retro décor. The rooms are beautifully white & modern, though a bit teensy. Nice & quiet at night and in the cutest area.
- The Bloomsbury: Most of my coworkers stayed here, so I became very familiar with it. Home to the gorgeous Coral Room and other beautiful spaces, it’s classic charm is pretty sumptuous & irresistible. I may try to stay here next time.
London Shopping Situation
- Covent Garden: Candles, tea, restaurants, other quirky shops. Very lovely setting, fun to wander.
- Seven Dials: Upscale boutiques, some big brand names (Vans, Urban, etc.), buncha shoes, fairly spendy. I loved this one little novelty shop called Magma. They had a bunch of stuff from this company called The School of Life that seeks to develop emotional intelligence with their products. An obvious fit for BSM.
- Oxford & Regent Street: All of the big brand names. Crowded and chaotic streets in the summertime. Didn’t spend much time here but would if I needed to do a legit shopping expedition.
London Food Situation
This was more of a social/professional trip than a cultural/foodie trip, so there weren’t many super notable culinary experiences. I don’t actually love traditional British food anyway, so it didn’t feel like too big of a miss. A few stick out though:
- Bombay Bustle: Incredible Indian food & “Derailed” tequila-based drink. I went with a group of 13 and has 6 delicious courses. London is famous for their Indian food.
- Shake Shack: I know this isn’t even local to Europe, but as someone from San Francisco where we don’t yet have our own, it felt right to get this for lunch two days in a row.
- J. Sheeky: I wont say I had the best meal in the world here, but it is something of a London classic and clearly so, because we saw both Stella McCartney & that actress from Three Billboards finish their meals while we were eating. It’s on the spendier side.
Mindful Travel Situation
Traveling for work is both an enormous blessing (one that I’ve wanted my entire life) and an exhausting lifestyle. In order to accept the yin with the yang, I try hard to maintain some sort of mindfulness practice while I’m traveling for work. That means finding time for my brain and body.
- Innerspace Meditation Shop & Space: I stumbled on this little gem while exploring the Seven Dials shopping area near my hotel. The first floor is a bookstore on all things mindfulness and meditation. The basement has a free, public meditation space, as well as a classroom where they run workshops. I took some time to leaf through a few books and felt inspired by the positive energy in the words.
- Insight Timer meditation: With all of the drinks and socializing that come with team offsites, it’s extremely important for me to get away, get some alone time to clear my head and find myself again. I found on this trip that meditating helped me feel more alert when I was crazy jet-lagged and also helped me pull back on the drinking once I’d realized it was just making me feel worse, not more fun.
- Gratitude journal: Just a few words at the end of the night about all there is to be grateful for really enhances my experience of life, no matter where I am. I have a naturally down disposition, so practicing gratitude helps get me up and stay up.
- Morning run: Part fitness, part plan to beat jetlag. I woke at 5:30 am on Tuesday morning, so decided to go on a run to explore the city and do something good for my body after the 10 hour plane ride. It felt really good to sweat, and it was such a fun way to explore the city.
- 10K steps or bust: When in a new city, there is no excuse not to get at least 10K steps every day, because you should be exploring! If you’re fortunate enough to find yourself on vacation in a city that is not your own, you owe it to yourself and the place you’re visiting to give 10,000 steps to these new streets. Fill your eyes and your heart and your mind with the new experience. Absorb it through your feet as you walk. I know this sounds corny, but I believe this wholeheartedly. Try taking everything in with your whole being, rather than just your eyes and your mind. Feel the experience physically, viscerally. Walking helps me do this.
- Only indulge in what’s worth it: For me, that was Shake Shack. It used to be that when I would go on vacation, I would stuff my face at any and all occasions because I was on vacation, okay? It would leave me feeling overly full & lethargic, to the point where I was no longer enjoying the new experiences and just feeling guilty about pigging out. Now, I try to prioritize fruits, veggies, & protein while traveling, until the fancy dinner or delicious dessert opportunity. Even then, I try to eat mindfully and only indulge until I start getting full. Try being the operative word here, but that’s all being mindful asks.
After my second successful trip to London, I think that if I were to pick up and move anywhere tomorrow, it would be here. Where would you go if you had to do the same? What city in this big ol world calls to you? Let me know in the comments.