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Friends and family have recently been asking us if we miss London, the city we lived for three years before starting our travels. While we wouldn’t trade life on the road right now for anything, the questions did get us dreaming about what our perfect day in London used to look like….
English novelist Samuel Johnson said, “Those who tire of London, tire of life,” – a timeless statement as true now as ever before. For those who live in ‘the Big Smoke’, loving London goes far beyond the ‘hotel and theatre London’, double-decker buses, afternoon tea, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace, although these are a classic and essential part of London life.
Our favorite morning in London would start very early…at 6am in fact. We begin out on Regents Canal watching the sunrise on an early morning kayaking tour run by Thames River Adventures, which start by paddling past the celebrity residences of Primrose Hill, through the undisturbed canal waters which cut through the London Zoo as the animals wake up before ending up in the post-punk mecca of Camden Town. (For late-risers, Thames River Adventures also offers lunch time and sunset tours.)
We would finish up around 7:30am, and although it would still be a bit early, there is always something happening in Camden, where the tour ends. People watching here is priceless round the clock, but at this time of the morning, club kids are making their way home and the few ‘suits’ who live in Camden are marching to their City offices. Not us! We just love to grab a coffee and stroll through the mix of punk, bohemian shops and cheap markets without the masses, and then head over to join the dog-walkers and joggers on Primrose Hill, one of the best views over London (where some celeb-spotting is possible during the day).
At this point, we figure we would be starving, and so we would head over to the Breakfast Club near Angel tube station in the Islington area. There are a few Breakfast Club cafes around London, but this one is by far the most popular, so expect to queue. While we wait, we’d check out the nearby indie and antique shops as their doors just squeak open in the morning. The energy at this time is still fresh and friendly, before it gets crowded in the afternoon.
After our bellies are good and stuffed with British (The Full Monty, or a Cheddar & Marmite Toast) or American-style breakfasts (pancakes, french toast, eggs and hash browns), there is no question where we would walk it all off. From Angel station, we’d hop on the 73 bus which comes from central London and heads east to Stoke Newington Church Street. We’d be on our way to Abney Park. This part of East London is home to the struggling artists, future creative genius types who are as drawn to Abney Park as we are… Not actually a park, this is actually a cemetery, and a mystical, almost magical Victorian cemetery at that. The tombstones are fascinating and the spot is perfect for a long walk or total relaxation – and the best part is that tourists have yet to find this treasure, even though it was featured in Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black video.
Now that we’ve relaxed, and Dani has taken another hundred pictures of the place, we would head down to the heart of East London – Shoreditch. We love to walk up and down Brick Lane and Shoreditch High Street and peek into all the trendy shops and bars that pop up here. If we’re feeling peckish, as the English say, we could grab a quick bite at the all-vegan Rootmaster restaurant, set in a converted double decker bus near the Old Truman Brewery. The OTB is no longer a brewery, but a trendy urban market where up and coming designers sell clothes, there are antiques and quirky gifts, plus various spots to eat. There are no chains here, and while money has started to flow in Shoreditch, this whole area is still (arguably) an authentic artists enclave…for now.
We also never miss the chance to stroll through Spitalfields Market, one of our absolute favorites in the city. Here there are some of the most amazing collections of everything you ever wanted for sale. New belt? The coolest belts are here. So retro you only listen to cassette tapes? You’ll snap up your favorite bands on tape here and records, too. On certain days, Spitalfields has huge collections of records, in fact, plus great clothes, even greater purses and bags, and merchandise both bargain and up-scale that you had no idea you even wanted. If we haven’t been sucked in to one of the many restaurants located in Spitalfields, the next place we’ll head to, without a doubt, is Brick Lane.
Brick Lane has historically been London’s Indian and Bangladeshi enclave, and as a result is an excellent spot for some of the best Indian food outside of India. This street is right on the tourist path, actually, but we don’t care. The street is lined with dozens of great Indian restaurants, and each wants to get you inside. We typically barter for at least one free bottle of wine and hopefully at least a free appetizer before stepping through the door of any of the restaurants. You can’t beat free booze, and no matter where you end up, the meals will always satisfy, and usually for under ₤20 for two people.
After we’ve had enough wine to loosen up the dancing legs, Dani would probably want to go dancing. Being in east London we would head over to the Electricity Showrooms or the Hoxton Pony for dancing, 93 Feet East for clubbing, quirky Callooh Callay or the Bedroom Bar for a relaxing but intoxicating end to the night.
Because we are right in Shoreditch, we could jump right on to the new East London Line and head to Canary Wharf. We really love the maritime feel of this side of London, how connected to the water the area is.
Have you been to London? What are your favorite things to do in London? Share your tips and favorite places in the comments…