Oh, London, how do I love thee?
Below i count the many ways I was able to enjoy you during my first visit. It is incomplete by far and a work-in-progress. I hope you enjoy reading through and if any reader can contribute to the ways to enjoy London, I would gladly add them!
- Have afternoon tea
At Harrod’s Georgian restaurant. Or somewhere equally nice, if not nicer (read: expensive). I tried Bumpkin, which is cheaper, and also had less delicious pastries and used only teabags.
If you want the full-on experience, pay for it. There are plenty of Groupon vouchers to cut off some pounds of the sterling kind, and it’s worth it
2. Visit its most famous address: 221-B Baker Street.
While you’re there, take photos with the wax characters in the Sherlock universe.
3. Go to the second most famous address: 10 Downing Street.
Wave to the prime minister’s home through the grills. Try to befriend the guards if they’ll let you.
4. Say hi to big brother.
Plenty of CCTVs in the city and you can do a dance number to amuse the watchers. Won’t land you in jail until V for Vendetta times strike.
5. Sing “These are just the worst pies in London” under a Fleet Street sign.
A visit to London is like doing your own homage film. Plenty of references to your favourite literary and historical characters. I was hoping to buy pies from Sweeney Todd’s landlady.
6. Go to Bath and walk around.
Bath is actually outside of London. So maybe it doesn’t belong in this list. If you’re a Jane Austen fan though, do not miss a day trip from London.
Bath is able to transport you to older England. A little bit industrial age, a little bit Victorian. I was in English literature heaven.
7. While in Bath, get a cheap thrill out of Quiet Street, Cheap Street and Gay Street.
There abounds a number of streets to suit your mood. And, if you are from Quezon City, Manila, you will relate to some of the street names in Bath. Your Matahimik (Quiet) Street is there.
8. Do laundry. Learn to use the special liquid detergent and sachets that burst.
If you stay at a self-catering apartment, you should enjoy using the washer. And the nifty “hi-tech” laundry liquid and gel detergents.
I marvel at these things because we do not have them here.
9. Drink milk and eat yogurt.
Dairy is sooo good in London and dirt-cheap. They taste different from what’s commercially sold in Manila. The yogurt particular. What we have here are sugar-laden, watery goo, and expensive to boot.
10. Order cider beer at a pub.
Strongbow is the most common in pubs, but there are different brands and flavours in the supermarkets. Bulmer’s is also a favourite!
11. Meet strangers in a pub.
They’re good company and will come in handy when a drunk and violent man (in our case he was Irish) bothers you outside.
12. Find William Thacker’s book shop and house along Portobello Road.
The book shop is now a shoe store. And the house’s blue door is now black.
13. Sample free chocolates and other food stuff at the Harrod’s food section.
14. Be touristy.
Big Ben, The Mall, St. Paul’s Cathedral, London Eye, Westminster’s Abbey. Visit everything.
15. Say I will cross the London bridge when I get there.
I crossed the London Bridge when I got there!
16. Speak in a faux British accent.
Because sometimes it seems they understand you better that way. Do cockney if you can.
17. Fight reverse racism. Do not let them bully you because you look oriental.
Unfortunately, we had a couple of run-ins with UK residents of non-Caucasian races who, because they feel discriminated against, perhaps do not realise they practice the same to other minorities. Be gracious to them, but do not be bullied too.
18. Eat dinuguan (pork blood stew) and Johnny’s fried chicken (the Fried of Marikina).
Our friend is the daughter of the owner of Johnny’s and we stayed at her sister’s who knew the recipe. If you stay overseas for a long time you will miss local food sometimes. So if you have friends from home who can cook, you are blessed.
19. Do grocery. At ASDA and Sainsbury’s.
The best way to do as the locals do is to shop for groceries. ASDA and Sainsbury’s have the best prices for yogurt, milk, fresh fruit juices, beer, and everything else.
20. Eat fish and chips.
They use haddock and I do not know how they do it, but the batter is crisp and not steeped in oil, while the fish is perfectly, just-rightly cooked!
21. Have apple crumble with toffee!
This marvelous dessert is a surprise. The tartness of the apple mixed with the cinnamon and sweetness of the toffee and vanilla ice cream is to die for. If you’re from the east, order it at The Goose Pub beside the Walthamstow tube station.
22. Speaking of the Goose Pub, I read that it’s one of the best pubs in London. It was one of our default pubs being very near to where we were staying. The East is not a popular hangout for tourists because they pretty much stay in Central London. The food there is great!
23. Have coffee at Ricco’s at Walthamstow High Street.
24. Pretend you’re the Queen.
Or just take stolen photographs of her portraits inside the Windsor castle.
25. Hang out with Charles Dickens and say hi to Samuel Johnson’s cat.
In Fleet Street, go to the Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub where Dickens and Johnson used to hang out. Follow the alley and it will bring you to Johnson’s House. You may enter for a fee, but the yard is a very nice place to sit and read a book. Johnson’s cat’s Hodge’s statue will accompany you.
26. Take a ride at the clipper.
27. Take a joy ride on a double decker.
28. Take photos in each tube station you visit. Each is designed differently.
29. Shop. Or window shop. There are plenty of markets, vintage or otherwise, and plenty of stationery and literary character merchandise to kill me in London. I wish I were rich.
30. Top up your oyster and SIM cards.
For one, It’s more sosyal than magpaload. Secondly, it’s nice to use the topup machines in the tube for the simple reason that we don’t have it at home.
31. Attend a service at Westminster Abbey to get in for free.
32. Buy Ahmad English Breakfast loose-leaf tea.
Ahmad happens to be one of the brands that to my tastebuds offer the best English Breakfast blend.
33. Try black pudding. Or have a full English breakfast.
34. Say I’m sorry. A lot. For having to ask them to repeat their heavily accented sentences.
35. Read tabloids in the tube. Or while waiting for the tour bus.
36. Eat at Nando’s Peri-peri chicken.
37. Eat at Hache restaurant in Camden Town
38. Sample free food at Camden Market
39. Try the frozen hot chocolate at chinchinlabs in Camden Town
40. Have brunch at the cafeteria of the V&A museum.
41. Take a ride on the Eurostar bound for Paris.
42. Exchange currencies at the post office.
They have better rates.
43. While at the post office, mail some postcards.
When you see all the lovely postcards being sold in London/Europe, you would want to buy them all. Give them their reason to be and send them to your friends.
1. Rent a Barclay bike.
London is an ideal city for biking, with lots of bicycles for rent that you can take from one station and drop off on the next. It really is a sin to go to biking countries (Japan, UK, Europe, Singapore) and not to know how to bike. I have to correct this.
2. Attempt to stalk actors at the BAFTA.
When I was there, all of Hollywood and British acting royalty were converging at the Royal Shakespeare opera house for the BAFTA. And…because it was my first day back from Europe and a Sunday meant I had no pounds to commute with, it was freezing outside, and all the other lame excuses in the book, I did not go and regret it so to this very day!
Do not be like me!
3. Get a library card.
I spent two weeks in London and never got around to applying for one, even if every single day we had to pass by the library on the way to the tube station. Can someone kick me?
4. Visit abbey road.
Or attempt to. There are two Abbey Roads. The one in the map and the studio’s near St. John’s Wood. It’s the latter. We never got there.