Our first major European city on our around-the-world trip was London – a classic choice. We spent four nights at an airbnb in East London near Bethnal Green Station. Walking to our apartment we felt a bit like we were in the rougher part of town but inside the place was great, and the price difficult to beat in London ($85 CAD/night for two people).
Our first full day in the city we packed in as much as we could in a self-made walking tour. We used the Triposo app on our iPhone which works offline; you can select all the sites you’d like to see and then “create a walk” and it will guide you through the best routes connecting the dots with a great map to follow.
We started at St Paul’s Cathedral which cost £18 each to get in (!!!!!) and decided it was beautiful enough from the outside (you can walk in the entrance way and look around anyways). From there we walked down to the river and across the Millennium Bridge towards the Tate Modern where we spent just over an hour. While the churches in London cost a small fortune to enter, most galleries and museums are free to enter (with donations excepted).
After the Tate we continued along the water to check out the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. From there, we zig-zagged up the streets to where we had reserved a table for 2:30PM at The Duck & Waffle. We tried to book for brunch but they had no openings during our entire stay. Luckily, they offer their signature dish – duck and waffle – all day. The view is absolutely fantastic and the decor in the place is great (just make sure to book ahead).
After lunch we hopped on the metro again – the convenience of having an unlimited Oyster card – and checked out the Palace of Westminster and of course, Big Ben.
Our second day we decided to leave the cameras behind and head to London’s most known shopping districts. We took the metro to the corner of Oxford and Regent and it hit us just how crowded the London streets can get. We window shopped as well as ducked into a few shops, more just enjoying the buzz of people and continuous action around us. We sought out a Franco Manco restaurant for lunch – they make the best pizza ever with a specialized sourdough crust.
On Thursday, we went to watch the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace. I have been to London twice and never watched, and for all the hype it gets we decided we had to check it out. The uniforms and hats marching down the street was somewhat interesting to see in person for the five seconds we got a glimpse through the extremely crowded street and palace entrance; but overall, not really worth it in our opinions.
Our last night in London we took the bus to BOXPARK in Shoreditch just down the road from us (we walked by it earlier the day before hunting down a coffee shop recommended by a friend as well as an eccentric tea shop called T2). BOXPARK is a pop-up mall in East London “constructed of stripped, and refitted shipping containers, creating unique, low cost, low risk pop-up stores and filled with a mix of fashion and lifestyle brands, galleries, cafés and restaurants.” While we went to just pick up a quick dinner and see a bit of London in the evening, it turns out that BOXPARK has quite the party scene at night. All of the picnic-style tables were packed and set up with hookahs down the centre and every restaurant was selling as many drinks as they were food – and our food cost less than our drinks, of course.
On our way back home from BOXPARK we noticed what appeared to be a street-corner urinal. Yes, that’s right, a completely public urinal, port-a-potty style. I suppose urinating in public on the street is an obvious sanitary problem and these movable urinals pose a unique solution…