London is a fun place and there’s always lots to see and do. It’s especially fun in summer when there are plenty of festivals and stuff going on and the weather is somewhat decent. These are some of my most favourite discoveries in London this summer….
London is full of classic sights and landmarks. Check out this marching band in full dress uniforms of red tunics and bearskins (hats). This was during the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.
Here is a picture of Tower Bridge on a grey and dreary day. The summer weather in London is pretty hit and miss! Londoners don’t get too many beautiful sunny days. On the rare days that are warm and sunny, they get a bit heat crazed and strip off to their underwear to catch some rays in the parks.
Modern glass dominated buildings sit side by side with centuries old dwellings. It gives London its character but it is a bit of a waste having such a thriving city hemmed in by old, drafty low-rise constructions. Surely there is a better way to modernize whilst keeping some old-fashioned charm to the city. Nevertheless, the Shard and City Hall are both modern, striking and distinctive additions to the London sky line (regardless of how grey the sky may be!)
One of the best things about travel is the food discoveries. London is an extremely diverse city and when you walk down the street you will hear numerous languages being spoken. Whilst at Camden Mela, I discovered this savoury Indian street food snack that punched me in the face with chilli-heat, tanginess, texture and Indian flavours. I love that first mouthful of a new food which is so unexpectedly delicious that it surprises you with a flavour explosion. I think it’s called Bhel Puri. It was made at a small stall and it was laced with tiny chopped up green chillies and it was so hot my scalp was sweating. I was eating these dried, sweet and sour boroi fruit to try to calm my burning mouth. I’d never heard of this fruit before. Boroi also known as the Indian jujube and grows in Bangladesh and India.
Later that week, I had another version of Bhel at the highly rated Dishoom restaurant. This version was much more posh, with the addition of pomegranate seeds which add a delightful pink colour and a “pop” sensation in your mouth. I’d recommend this restaurant but prepared to queue if you go during peak meal times.
The thing that the English take for granted is how green and verdant their landscape is. For those who come from drier climates, the English gardens look simply idyllic and extremely fertile.
It’s no secret how much I love to do things on the cheap and there are so many great options for this in London.
There are free museum tours in some of the famous museums in London. The one at the National Gallery was excellent and informative. Unfortunately, the tour at the Tate Modern did not give me any new appreciation for modern art. I still think it’s too bizarre and unfathomable. Check out this equation on the wall at the Tate Modern.
the whole world + the work = the whole world
hmm…for this equation to make sense then;
the work = 0
I don’t get it at all! The point of it all eludes me!
Even if you don’t like art, a wander inside these old buildings like the National Gallery is still very interesting. The best thing about London is that most of the world-class museums are free! You can just duck in when it’s raining or just pop by for an hour to get a bit of culture.
Free (“tips-only”) walking tours are also a great way to learn about the city and wander into places you would not normally venture. We did a Brixton Twilight Food Tour with Free Tours on Foot. This was an interesting evening wandering around Brixton which used to be a dangerous, poor and run-down area but is now becoming “cool”. Here a pop-up installation called “Pop Fields” has been set-up to get the community more active.
Brixton even has its own currency dispensed from this single vending machine at a set exchange rate. This was a program created to support local business and the community. Local small business that accept the currency would get patronage by locals who would get a discount if they used this currency.
As with most cities, it’s the stuff that you come across at random that thrill me the most. These little discoveries are what makes my journey personal. Around the back of our accommodation was this lovely green space. St George’s Gardens dates back to the 1700s and was used as burial grounds. Today it’s a quiet, green, peaceful sanctuary in the centre of the city.
Another hidden gem location is Little Venice. It’s off the beaten track, not overrun with tourists and is extremely picturesque.
Even the department stores in London are an attraction in themselves. Here are a couple of photos from Harrods. Even if buying stuff at Harrods is not in your budget, walk around the higher floors and check out the indulgent stuff for sale and the building itself.
This is one of my favourite discoveries in London. This Merchant Square Footbridge that spans across Paddington Basin comes up in a staggered way like a Japanese fan to form a striking and distinctive landmark. This kinetic sculpture combines form with function. What a great concept for the area!
Not everything about London is great. For example, when the weather gets above 25C, the fridges and freezers in every supermarket and corner shop seem to breakdown! Every one! We pop into Waitrose on a warm day for a cool drink and we are greeted by signs saying that due to the “extreme weather”, the fridges and freezers are not working. We went to Sainsburys, same story! It’s totally bizarre because every other country manages to have decent refrigeration at ambient conditions greater than 25C. Why is this an issue in London? Not to mention the waste! Just think of all the frozen goods and ice cream that spoils every time they lose their freezers.
Another issue with the summer temperatures in London is that it gets very warm inside the trains for London’s underground Tube system. Supposedly, the EU temperature limit for livestock to be transported is 86 degrees Fahrenheit (30 degrees Celsius). In summer, on warm days, the temperature on the trains exceed this. Londoners love to tell people they are having to suffer through temperatures that cows, sheep and pigs are not allowed to be subjected to. It is quite horrible during peak hours when the sweaty commuters are sweltering and pressed up against each other. Especially for short people who inevitably end up in someone’s armpit.
Let’s end this post on a positive note. Sometimes, it’s the simple things which are the most effective. These guys are using the breeze and soapy water to making bubbles. It’s simple but it’s so magical and everyone loves it! Kids are running around popping them and even adults are smiling and reaching for them. It’s lovely!
Interesting that you say that some of the most interesting places are the ones that you find at random. I strongly agree. In my travels, I usually have a general plan to go to some places, but walking between the places often reveal fascinating places that turn out to be more interesting than the tourist places.