If I could go to London every month or so, I would. The shopping, the food, the sights,… I just can’t get enough. Unfortunately a monthly visit is not a possibility, so any chance to hop on that Eurostar is one I’ll gladly take!
My sister feels (kind of) the same way (she’s more a NYC girl, I think, but that’s even less of a possibility!) so we took a 3 day trip in October.
We shopped, a lot, so I’ll be blogging about my hauls the next few weeks. Today I just want to share some general, non beauty related, information about our trip and some past trips to beautiful London.
Choosing a hotel in London ( or any major city) is all about location, location, location. London has so many great neighbourhoods and whether you want to go shopping, see the sights or just be there just make sure you’re located near a (2 is even better) Tube station that can get you to your destination of choice in about 20 minutes and you’re good.
The London Tube is very easy to use, you’ll be swiping (and topping up…) that Oyster Card like a pro in no time. Speaking of which, many many years ago you could get tickets to go on the Tube for the duration of your stay, this system is no longer available and was replaced by the Oyster Card which, in my experience, is much more expensive. That, plus my motto that cities should be discovered on foot, has made me rely less on the Tube than before. You can top up your Oyster card using the machines at the stations, with cash or card. Don’t throw away your Oyster card when you get back home! You’ll need when you go back to London, because you will, right?
This was my seventh visit to London, and I’ve stayed in hotels in several areas, off the top of my head, here are some hotels that I’ve enjoyed: New Linden Hotel (Bayswater), Mornington Hotel (Hyde Park), The Tower Hotel (amazing views of Tower Bridge!). About the Tower Hotel: if you’re a first time visitor and want to visit the Tower Of London, Tower Bridge, Borough Market, etc, this is a really great place. However, if you’re a repeat visitor and are more interested in some casual shopping and hanging around, the location isn’t ideal. We spent quite a bit of time on the Tube when we stayed here.
Thistle Euston Hotel is located near Euston station (Tube: Northern Line and Victoria Line), that would be a 5 minute walk. King’s Cross/St Pancras is also within walking distance, it’s about 20 minutes away on foot. We chose this location because that way we could already avoid taking the Tube upon arrival and departure (yes, we have been traumatized by the price of taking the Tube the last times we were in London), we were close to Euston station and within walking distance of Oxford Street (25 minutes: nice walk to start the day, but after all the walking and shopping: back to the hotel on the Tube!). We had also never stayed in this area and it’s always fun to change things up.
It’s a very modern hotel and we had a comfortable, spacious room with two (very good) beds. Breakfast was lovely, a huge variety of food (English breakfast!) to get you ready to take on London.
As I said, we have both been to London several times before, we’ve done the major tourist things and were here to shop, walk around and just soak up the London vibes. We did make an exception for the Tower of London, more about that later.
So what did we do?
We arrived on Thursday morning and were lucky enough to be able to get into our room immediately, always a plus! The weather was beautiful (a little windy maybe), so our walk to Marble Arch was lovely and a great way to get in the London mood.
Superdrug and Boots were our first stops, we went into Primark for the very first time but quickly emerged again, this is not our kind of shopping… One of my favourite places to shop was next: Selfridges. I love this place, it has everything. Their beauty department is amazing and they have a Charlotte Tilbury counter! We had lunch here, at The Brass Rail. It’s self-service and offers sandwiches (hot and cold), particularly with amazing beef (pastrami, anyone?).
During our Selfridges shop and eat moment it had started pouring down rain, so we quickly sought refuge in a different shop, it’s Oxford Street, what are you gonna do?!
That shop was French Connection. One of the non beauty items on my shopping list was a leather (or leather look) jacket. I’ve wanted one for a long time but didn’t want to splurge on a real investment piece just yet. I actually saw a nice, and reasonably priced, one on Topshop’s website so I figured I’d have a look there. But we were at French Connection now, hiding from the rain, so why not check out what they have to offer? I have to say, when it comes to clothes, I’m an easy shopper, I know what I’m looking for and quickly browse the store, I can not browse clothes endlessly . So when I saw this biker jacket I was done already. I’ve worn it a few times already and absolutely love it!
We spent the rest of our first day on Oxford Street, Regent Street and ended it at Waterstones (on the hunt for Pretty Honest by Sali Hughes, but I failed here) and Fortnum and Mason. As much as I love beauty, bags, shoes,… Fortnum and Mason is my number one London store. It’s just so quintessentially British, it’s the best! I got some tea and biscuits here, because I just had to, I couldn’t help myself. This is also the place where we usually pick up some chutney and horseradish sauce for Mum and this time was no different.
Fortnum and Mason is also the place where we had afternoon tea for the first time, on my Pre Wedding Trip with my sister and sister-in-law, back in 2011. That was a lovely experience: live piano music and a nice afternoon tea.
We’ve also had afternoon tea on our 2013 trip, this time at The Ritz. This was a very different experience, but nice as well.
Fortnum and Mason is a classic and understated chic place. Everyone looked classy and stylish, without trying too hard. The dress code is “We kindly request that guests dress smartly.”
The Ritz however is more fancy, the setting (Palm Court) is stunning ( a little kitsch for me, but I can appreciate that … for short amounts of time). Their dress code says “… A formal dress code is upheld in The Palm Court …. In these areas gentlemen are required to wear a jacket and tie whilst jeans are not permitted….”. So we dressed up, we went all out: lovely dresses (and a suit for our uberstylish male companion) and shoes (I got out my Louboutins, that says a lot). So the setting and atmosphere is great, you could even request songs to be played on the piano (we requested Defying Gravity and Turning Tables, we got Defying Gravity and Skyfall, it was beautiful). I did think the food could have been better, it was a bit of a letdown, to be honest.
Back to 2014 now! We had dinner near our hotel, at Brizzi’s, a lovely Italian restaurant. By the way, if you’re looking for an amazing Italian restaurant in London: Locanda Locatelli (one Michelin star) is the place to be. I’ve had the pleasure of dining there twice now and it’s just such a beautiful experience. The food is delicious, sure, but I especially love that you get the Michelin star experience at a reasonable price. Our last time here we all had drinks (cocktails and some wine) and 3 amazing courses for about £90,00 per person. I would be willing to pay more for what you get at this place, they really go out of their way to make your night special and memorable. Great food, great staff and great atmosphere!
But as I sad, back to 2014… On Friday we went to Harrods, it’s just one of those London places you have to go to. Their beauty department is not very impressive, especially compared to other London stores, but their Food Hall is heaven. I got myself a Dum Dum Doughnut for the road.
And heaven is exactly what they called their new shoe department “Shoe Heaven“. It lives up to its name, if you’re into shoes, this is where you want to be. The Manolo Blahnik section is stunning and the Christian Louboutin section is bigger than the actual Louboutin store at Motcomb Street (not far from Harrods actually). Lovely browsing here, but no shopping for us! Maybe next time?
Harrods isn’t the only reason we went to Knightsbridge. I really like this area of London, it’s very fancy and posh, it just shows that London has so much to offer. Notting Hill, Mayfair, Camden,…: all so very different but all awesome in their own way.
There’s a Space NK not far from Harrods and a Topshop. And trust me, shopping at this Topshop is waaaaay more enjoyable than at the Oxford Circus one.
I actually got a bag at this, very tranquil, Topshop because I had brought along a crossbody bag (good for shopping and citytripping!) that was too small (not so good!). I also didn’t have a bigger (yet not too big), more practical, alternative at home (to avoid this issue on future trips) and I saw that my sister’s Marc by Marc Jacobs bag (classic Q Mini Natasha: love it) was so much better suited for this kind of trip. So I bought this bag and I used it for the rest of the trip: best impulse bag purchase ever.
Next up: Covent Garden. We had lunch at Shake Shack and were very impressed with the burgers, the fries were okay (hey, we’re Belgian…).
Covent Garden has become one of the places I always want to go back to. It’s so nice to just walk around there, but the last few years it has become a bit of a beauty destination. Chanel, Dior and Burberry have tiny, cute shops here (pop up?) and Bobbi Brown and Clinique are making their way to Covent Garden too.
We strolled around, made our way to Leicester Square and were quite amazed by the M&M store, it’s huge!
This brought us back to Piccadilly Circus and we decided to wander around Carnaby Street. We got nostalgic at the Doc Martens store but didn’t buy anything. One of our first trips to London (with Mum) was back when Doc Martens were a huge hype. The flagship store was at Covent Garden at the time and the Carnaby Street store brought back memories of which pairs we had owned.
Back to the hotel for some much-needed rest and after that we had dinner at the Massala Hut, because London and Indian food… Well, that combo just makes sense. The food was really nice, just what we were looking for. The Garlic Naan Bread was delightful!
Our third and last day we wanted to go to the Tower of London, not to visit the Tower itself (but please do, it’s great if you’re into history!) but to see the poppies. The official name of this installation is “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” and it marks the 100 year anniversary of WWI.
The 888.246 poppies represent British military fatalities during the war. The installation of the ceramic poppies grew gradually and they will all be removed after November 11th. They were sold and the profits will go to charities.
Both the planting and the removing are done by volunteers and are real community projects. Anyone going to London in the next few days… I strongly encourage you to have a look, it’s a beautiful project.
Borough Market is just a short walk away from the Tower and a real must if you love food, which I just happen to do. It’s open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
If you’re in London on a Sunday, the Sunday (Up)Market, near Brick Lane, is a nice alternative that offers way more than just food.
Because of a certain Charlotte Tilbury product being sold out on Thursday we went back to Selfridges after our visit to Borough Market and also had lunch at The Brass Rail again.
And after that, the Eurostar was waiting to take us back home…
The next few weeks I will tell you all about the beauty products I bought, here’s a sneak preview:
Thank you for reading this post, it’s longer than I expected it to be, but London just has so much to offer and it has a special place in my wanderlust heart.
I can’t wait to go back.