Sunday, January 22, 2012

Loving London Life

Greetings travellers from across the world! I was fortunate enough to spend last Christmas and New Year in the UK. London is one of those cities that just keeps giving. It's somewhere that is always buzzing, always on the go. It never stops. Having done all of the touristy stuff before, my trip was really just about visiting some good friends and exploring great places to eat, drink and play. Here are few of the awesome places I went to and experienced during my visit. Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

The Swan at the Globe: 21 New Globe Walk, London SE1 9DT
This place has probably one of the best views of St Pauls Cathedral going. Large windows across the front of the lower floor make for a fantastic spot to sit enjoy the view. The food (though slightly pricy for pub grub) was excellent. The tapas option is nice way to explore a few different items on the menu without having to order massive quantities of food. Try the butter's AMAZING and the tripple cooked chips. You can tell they use real hard core fat for frying. It's not so much that it becomes sickly, but they've managed to balance it just right so the chips are full of flavour but not greasy. A nice range of salads is also on the menu. After eating, you'll need a pint to wash it all down. They have their own ale on tap which isn't a bad pint as well as a very well stocked wine rack.

This is a great spot if you want something a little nicer than the local pub, but not too up market that it lacks a bit of atmosphere. The only disappointment was that on the day before NYE they closed up a little earlier than we would have liked (10pm)...which was a bit of a shame (and a bit odd for central London), but as I said it was the night before NYE...their opening hours are normally a lot later. 3 out of 5.

The Winchester, 2 Essex Road, London (Angel) N1 8LN
After a big night out on NYE in London I was nursing a bit of a hangover. Feeling a little sorry for myself I thought the best way to deal with the situation was to go to the pub. We spent a lovely sunday afternoon in the Winchester. It's a warm, welcoming environment with friendly staff who are pretty damn good at what they do. We went for a late lunch and stayed into the early hours of the evening. The cocktails are just fantastic. An absolute must is the 'Tease Me'. It's an exquisit combination of Absolut Pear Vodka, Peach liqueur, lemon juice and a blend of English breakfast tea. It's a super refreshing and very tasty way to start your afternoon. Sunday offers 2 for 1 Sunday Roasts with beef, lamb, chicken and a vegetarian option. They all come with Yorkshire Pudding and are all very hearty for a wintery sunday lunch option. They also have a free WiFi network which is kinda handy if you need to jump online. Relaxed, friendly and comfortable. 4 out 5.

January Sales Shopping
London shopping is fantastic. It might not be as cheap as shopping in NYC, but they have some fantastic stores. The only problem is the crowds. It seems that between Christmas and New Year all of London wants to go shopping, and they want to go at the same time. Not a good idea if you have a hang over. Go when you're in the mood and not going to be bothered by the crowds.

My top tips for London sales are:
1. Selfridges (Oxford St). Easily now one of my favourite department stores in the world (Harrods is for tourists, take a picture to say you went there and move on). During sales time it can be mighty crowded so be prepared for lines, crowds a bit of push-shove at times. The range of clothes they offer is fantastic. Great designers and all of the big brands you want all in one spot. Don't forget to check out the food hall on the lower ground floor.

2. UNIQLO (Regent St). In true Japanese style it's a pretty minimalist approach in terms of their designs but fantastic for basics. My favourite thing however is their new heat tech designed winter range. It's mostly socks, t-shirts, underwear etc but it's all very light fabric but super warm. It also draws moisture away so you don't get sweaty when you go in out of the cold. Best of all it's not expensive 2 pairs of their jazzy socks was only 9.90 GBP! Best things I've bought since arriving in Europe. You really need them for the winter in Germany!

3. TopMan/TopShop (Oxford Circus). OK at the sales this place is just nuts. I stood upstairs and looked down at the crowd below and it looked like a sea of small ants buzzing around. Sooooooo fricking crowded. BUT the clothes are great and they are really affordable. As I say, during the sales brace yourself for a bit of a crowd but if you can handle that then go fo it. Great range of casual clothes and accessories at good prices.

4. Kurt Geiger (Various locations including Regent St). This shoe store is amazing. LOVE LOVE LOVE Kurt Geiger shoes. Stylish, comfy and good quality shoes.

New Years Eve Options
My advice is DO NOT go to the Thames and just stand around to see the fireworks. The crowd is ridiculous, there will be no way out once you're in and I am sure the lines for bathrooms etc would be horrific. If you want to see the fireworks up close - don't be tight about it and fork out some cash for a ticketed event.

NYE at the Tattershall Castle.
The Tattershall Castle is a boat floating bar/restaurant that is permanently moored in the Thames directly opposite the London Eye near Embankment tube. Entry was 75 GBP and it didn't include anything other than entry. However, after seeing the crowd gather on the street and seeing the view we had in our comfortable seats close to the bar, it quickly became apparent that it was money well spent.  It's not the classiest venue in London, but it was perfect for our NYE where we didn't want to be spending loads of money only to wind up in an over crowded venue with no access to a bar etc. The tickets were capped at 500 so the crowd wasn't at all a problem. The view was AMAZING. We had our own table, we didn't have to fight through any crowds and the drinks were surprisingly affordable. Good option to consider if you're in London town for NYE!

Summerset House, The Strand WC2R 1LA
This amazing building was built in 1547 and now houses galleries, shops, a fantastic cafe (that has a GREAT brunch) and in winter they have an ice skating rink in the courtyard. Brunch at Fernandez and Wells was amazing. A broad range of meats, cheeses, breads that they serve as platters, in sandwiches and a whole load of other options. You can build your own meat platter by choosing different kinds of salami, chorizo etc. All of this can be washed down with one of the many wines they have on the menu. They also do Raclette for those who love their cheese. 3 out of 5 (would have been a 4 but it was kind of drafty/cold...they didn't have the heat on for some reason!?).  We went ice skating at the Museum of Natural History, however the rink at Summerset House looked a little nicer (and less crowded by children!)

That's all for now kids. Stay tuned for my next update and don't forgot to follow me on Twitter @Night_Day_Matt