London espresso: Kensington

Part of a series highlighting one area of London.

Kensington is part of the Royal Burough of Kensington & Chelsea. Despite being absurdly affluent, this district of West London actually offers a bit of something for everyone. If travelling in a group, I recommend starting at South Kensington Station (30 minutes from Liverpool Street by tube) and then everyone can fan out to their areas of interest accordingly.

Kensington is notably home to “Albertopolis,” an area centred on Exhibition Road and named after Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria.  Here you can find cultural sites including the Natural History Museum, the Royal College of Art, the Royal Geographical Society, the Science Museum, and the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Whilst you’re out and about in this area, in addition to the museums and shops, be sure to take note of the architecture. The average house price in Kensington & Chelsea is about 40 times greater than average annual earnings, at a cool £1.4m. How many Chelsea Tractors (Land Rovers) can you spot parked on the street?!

Day Planner
Distance: for a sense of scale, the walk from Diana Memorial Playground (top left corner of the map below) to Sloane Square (bottom right corner) is a little over two miles.
Stops: Sloane Square, Harrods, V&A, Natural History Museum, Science Museum, Albert Memorial, Kensington Palace.

k1.PNG

Read More

London espresso: the Southbank

Part of a series highlighting one area of London.

The South Bank. This itinerary is designed to take the better part of a day, and is best for fair weather. Ideally, aim to go between Wednesday and Saturday, as this is when Borough Market runs its full trade. A limited market is in operation on Mondays and Tuesdays.

Day Planner
Distance: The route itself is 3.2 miles (5.1km) and would take about an hour to walk. However, this does not consider the time you’re going to want to spend at museums, on the London Eye, or at Borough Market!
Stops: Imperial War Museum, The London Eye, Southbank Centre, OXO shops, Bankside, Tate Modern, St Paul’s Cathedral, Borough Market, Shakespeare’s Globe.

Screenshot 2017-04-25 at 8.07.16 PM

If you’re starting in the east end, make your way to Bank Station and catch the Waterloo & City Line. This is an often-forgotten-about line as it only goes between two stops: Waterloo and Bank (which is in the City)! The journey takes only five minutes.

Read More

Museum Exhibits, London 2017

Here are just some of the museum exhibits I’m keen to see this year, listed in chronological order of exhibit closing date. What are your cultural must-sees of 2017?

screenshot-2017-02-26-at-5-59-56-pm
Revolution: Russian Art 1917 – 1932 
Royal Academy, 11 February through 17 April

I saw this and recommend it unreservedly. I’ll write a review soon!

  • One hundred years on from the Russian Revolution, this powerful exhibition explores one of the most momentous periods in modern world history through the lens of its groundbreaking art. Taking inspiration from a remarkable exhibition shown in Russia just before Stalin’s clampdown, the RA marks the historic centenary by focusing on the 15-year period between 1917 and 1932 when possibilities initially seemed limitless and Russian art flourished across every medium.

Read More

Lunchtime in London

You’ll see cafe and restaurant chains all over the city, but how do you choose where to grab a quick bite to eat?

The UK lunch market is worth £16 billion to the economy. “Which lunch market? Greenwich, Spitalfields, Borough?” I hear you ask. Actually, I’m taking about the sector of the food industry. And as fewer and fewer people in Britain bring homemade lunches to work, the lunch market is growing by about 3% each year.

According to the BBC, we are more likely to dash to the nearest takeaway to grab something quick and then bring it back to their desk. On average, we spend £670 a year on takeaway lunches, with those of us in London spending at least £830 each year.

I first noticed this when I tried to explain chains like Pret a Manger, Itsu, and Vital Ingredient to my family back in the United States. Now, I will be the first to admit that cities like New York, Chicago, Austin and my hometown of Seattle have plenty of great takeaway lunch options. However, I’m unaware of any widespread chains that aren’t blatantly in the “fast food” category. While Americans have plenty of burger and chicken places, I wouldn’t consider Pret to be like MacDonalds (despite the latter being the parent company).

Londoners especially have mercurial food tastes: we move seamlessly between cuisines and formats. So what do I recommend for lunch when you’re in the Big Smoke? If I’m in need of something cheap and cheerful, usually head for one of the following chains.

article-2720629-135aa82f000005dc-591_634x425

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best for Soups and Sandwiches – Pret
Pret offers Sandwiches, baguettes, desserts, fruit cups, crisps and bakery items, as well as sushi, salads, soups, and cakes. They also have hot and cold drinks, including smoothies. There really is something for everyone at Pret. The company emphasises the use of natural ingredients and advertises all sandwiches are made on the day of purchase.
Budget £5 for a sandwich or salad with a can of fizzy drink or bottled water.

Runner up – EAT.
EAT offers a really good rotation of weekly hot food, like chicken pot pie and macaroni and cheese. They also have sandwiches that you can toast – toasties!
Budget £5 for a sandwich or salad with a can of fizzy drink or bottled water.

Read More

Fine Dining in Europe

This is not an exhaustive list, but rather my curated list of restaurants I’ve been to, and those I’d love to visit.

Key
Michelin Stars  ★
Been ✔

United Kingdom

South

The Fat Duck, London  ★★★

Midsummer House, Cambridge  ★★
✔  September 2016

Marcus, London  ★★

Kitchen Table, London  ★
✔  February 2016

Alimentum, Cambridge  ★

North

L’Enclume, Cartmel  ★★
✔  December 2014

Gilpin, Windermere  ★

Forest Side, Grasmere  ★

Read More

South East England: Spotlight on Cathedrals

Here is a brief look at some Cathedrals that I think are worth a visit to in South East England. I’ve chosen St Paul’s, Westminster Abbey, Southwark, Canterbury, Ely, Salisbury, and Winchester. A map showing all of these Cathedrals is at the bottom of the post.

4213aa12d3a5e9b31810013434c442ce

St Paul’s Cathedral
Location: it is in central London, towards the east end
Distance from nearest other Cathedrals on this list: Southwark Cathedral is a 20 minute walk away, and Westminster Cathedral is 20 minutes away by tube.
Price of admission: £18
Fun facts: The original church dates back to AD 604 but the present church was built in the late 17th century, designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren. This was done as part of the major rebuilding programme in the City after the Great Fire of London 1666. There are some amazing photos of St Paul’s surviving the Blitz of WWII.

Read More

Prauge in Autumn

One of the best parts of living in the UK is that I’m only a short flight away from some incredibly beautiful European destinations. This weekend, I finally made it to Eastern Europe, and visited one of my dearest friends in a city easy for both of us to get to: Prague.

I left our flat around 4:50am for the train, and was at the airport for 5:20am. By 5:35am I had cleared security at Stansted – getting the Ryanair FastTrack security pass is such a great value for only £5! I had plenty of time prior to my 6:45am departure, so I wandered around the shops and started mentally planning my day ahead…

By 11am local time, I was in Prague and so hungry for breakfast. We met up at The Farm in Letna, an adorable little brunch spot with amazing Pumpkin Pancakes and French Toast. The flat white coffees were just the perk I needed for a cold, drizzly day.

Read More