Playing tourist in London

A few weeks ago, I had an unexpected few days to spend in London and decided to revisit my old stomping ground like a tourist would. Starting with an evening in Soho, I wanted to walk my old "commute" from Oxford Circus down to Golden Square along Carnaby St. I can confirm that it's much more fun when you have time to browse the shop windows, smell the blooms at the Liberty's outdoor flower stall and pop into Kingly Court for a cocktail :)

Strolling through the chilly winter streets, it wasn't long before we were craving a chance to warm up - and where better than my favorite Italian deli, Princi. They have the most incredible pizzas, focaccias, salads and cakes to takeaway but you can also grab a pew at one of the long tables and settle in with a coffee or glass or Prosecco and watch the world, and the evening go by.

Day 2 had a packed afternoon schedule but the morning was free to allow amble along Bond Street with my Mum :) We're both suckers for antique's and where better to admire them than Burlington arcade. The second you step past the Burlington Arcade Beadle patrolling the entrance onto the plush red velvet carpet, you are transported back to the 1800's.

Next stop for this guy must be Downton Abbey.

Re-emerging out of the Arcade and back into the bustling 21st century amongst the chaos of Piccadilly, we made a mad dash into another old English Institution in search of more solace in the form of Fortnum & Mason. Meandering your way through endless counters serving everything from caviar to sugared almonds and tourists furiously purchasing tins of tea from the courteous cashiers in full tails, you would struggle to realize that just down the spiral staircase is a hidden Wine Bar serving (amongst other items) 2 of my favorite things: wine & cheese.

All too soon it was time to face the real world again. The pitstop at The Wine Bar had just tickled the tastebuds enough to inform my tummy that it was time for lunch. A quick tube ride along the Jubilee line took me straight to Borough Market a.k.a. food heaven. It's good thing that holiday calories don’t count because entering through the market archways, a never ending sea of stalls spreads before you, selling delicious offerings from all over the UK and the world - it's the perfect place to try a little nibble on lots of different things.

First things first though - the brain needs to stay hydrated in order to concentrate properly.

Then a little snack for him - a fresh, steaming scotch egg whilst I chose my target.

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Finally I settled on the Raclette - molten swiss cheese, scraped off onto salty potatoes and cournichons. Happiness on a plate.

Washed down with cookies as big as your head.

Satisfied that we'd had our fill of the wares on offer at the market we marched up the road to see if we could catch the sunset from one of London's newest lookouts - the 32nd floor of the Shard.

TOP TIP: Do not pay for tickets to go up to the viewing deck. They'll set you back £25 and hold you to a specific time. Instead waltz past the entrance to the Shangri La and into the restaurant entrance. The elevator will whiz you straight up to the 4 restaurants you have to choose from on the 31st and 32nd floors. Grab a table or a stool at the bar of either one (although I think Oblix would be my have if I had to choose), order your poison and enjoy. The journey up is free and you can spend the £25 you've saved on your choice of refreshment! Sit back, relax and enjoy the view (while taking 1 million photos!)

As the sun set over the increasingly impressive London skyline we raced into Covent Garden for a fun night catching up with friends. Starting with dinner at Bills in St Martin's Courtyard, a new little shopping, dining and office area just up from Leicester Square, I would highly recommend the quirky chain of restaurants to groups of friends looking for an affordable place to eat out, or a couple on a date. Unlike most restaurants we tried in central London, Bills gladly took our reservation for 20 people and served up delicious food and wine for a reasonable 35 a head for 3 courses. The interiors are cosy and well decorated and I’m told each restaurant is slightly different, unlike most “cookie-cutter” chains.

With this lot though, we’d have fun anywhere.

It was a magical couple of days re-exploring the city and catching up with our favorite people. When you’re playing tourist, London is AWESOME.

winter in london