London - 15 Years On

London Bridge

London 15 Years On…

and why I still enjoying being a tourist.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

This weekend I am in London. 15 years since landing in UK, I still enjoy occasional weekend visit as a tourist. Still, 15 years later, there are new places to discover. Especially great eateries and water holes. Excuse my language. London has always been a love hate relationship for me. It is big, it is busy and it is loud. Certainly not an ideal scenario for me. I prefer smaller, quieter and easier to navigate towns. Nevertheless, I do enjoy coming here. Especially, when I get a surprise upgrade, to a Penthouse suite with a view over Shard!

This time I stayed in Fraser Residences in London. They are a serviced apartment with full on concierge service. I have not stayed here before, but true to London crazy prices, I am always keen on a deal. Good old AirBnB doesn’t work here, not for me anyway. What normally is a service to get a fantastic, unique living experience, in London turns to diabolical quest to even beat hotels in what they charge for. Believe me, I have even come across hotel, offering a single room with no windows – all that for bare £200 per night (!).

View from Penthouse - The Shard

View from Penthouse - The Shard

For the amount of money that I have to spend, I might as well invest in a little bit of luxury. And it is possible, just spend enough time online. Stick to Booking.com and you will definitely find something good, for the budget that is available to you. With Fraser Residence, I originally booked a Deluxe One Bedroom apartment, but in my notes, I asked if I would be able to get a balcony. When I arrived, it was even better than a balcony– I got the Penthouse with a whole round roof terrace! This is what I call making customer feel special.

Fabulous apartment, decorated to a very high standard, modern, tasteful with a beautiful view and a great location. I was really pleased. And I am not saying this because I have to. Clearly my blog has not reached a stage yet, where I am offered FOC stays, in best hotels round the world. I am saying it, from a tourist point of view – I would recommend booking this place. Best par of course was a roof top terrace, but English weather had a different plan for me. Unfortunately, I was not to enjoy afternoons of chilling on the patio, with a glass of prosecco. Rain -1, Mal – 0. Night view was still beautiful – The Shard in all its glory! So, if you ever want to check this place out, I include a link just here.

I don’t come often to London. Maybe that’s why each time, I do like to feel a little bit like a tourist. Taking selfies in front of red double decker bus, catching tube to all most known attractions from Buckingham Palace to Westminster, then enjoying bit more hipster areas of Shoreditch and Camden. Not so hipster anymore, to be honest overflowing with tourists, like any other part of London, at any time of the year. Rain or no rain. For example, in order to eat 7th best street food falafel at Borough Market, it takes a lot of patience and commitment. 30 mins queuing and I can finally try the famous bite. Was it worth the £9? Probably not, certainly you get a better falafel at any street corner of Tel Aviv, but you are in London after all. Places like Borough Market are catered mainly to tourists, a lot of great options for tasty food, but just somehow not worth the price tag.

London has so many more great places to eat, that are in fact very wallet friendly. I found over the few years, that I have been coming here, that a lot of restaurants and bars, are better priced up, that those local to me in Derby or Nottingham! The competition is big in London, and if you don’t have the best rating, the best food, the best service and the best prices, people will just go elsewhere.

Few of the recommendations from this visit. Busaba Bloomsbury in Fitzrovia is really lovely and affordable Thai chain restaurant. It definitely doesn’t feel like a chain though. Décor is really nice, very inviting and modern, with really lovely, attentive staff. I have been here few times now and will be coming back in future. I love Thai food and this one is delicious.

Another highly recommended venue is The Ned. 8 restaurants, sharing same location, within a former banking hall. Outside and inside, the building is impressive. Decorated beautifully, with a high end feeling to it. This time, I felt like transferring myself to an original New York Deli – Zobler’s has just that atmosphere. Grabbing tea and a bagel, I felt almost like being in New York. Whether you are after an Italian, French, British or American cuisine, there is something here for everyone. Make sure to book in advance, as this place gets very popular.

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Final recommendation for this time, is Darwin Brasserie at the Sky Garden. Whether you are travelling solo, or with a companion. This is a place to be. Sky Garden is London’s highest garden, with 360 degrees views across the city, open desk and observation spots. There are also couple of restaurants and bars inside. Darwin’s is a great spot for breakfast (again make sure you book, there is not chance for you securing at table without prior reservation). Even if you are only after a nice alcoholic beverage, you still have to book a spot at the bar. Please also note, they have quite tight dress code. Still, this a place to be and post your selfie on Instagram.

Borough Market

Borough Market

I could recommend so many more places, but who am I to tell you where and what to eat. I have to say Google Maps, is where I go to for good recommendations, wherever I travel nowadays. I like the opportunity to filter restaurants, see the reviews, see the photos and also the distance. Very important when you are really hungry and have no time to waste right?

There is nothing better than a plate of good food after day full of sightseeing and walking. I was lucky enough to be in London on Queens Birthday. Very special day. I made it to Buckingham palace, just in time for end of the big parade, and Queen Elizabeth’s appearance at the Buckingham Palace balcony, together with the whole Royal family. Ok, they were pretty far in the distance, but I could certainly see Queen waving at the crowds, I saw the Royal kids being cheerful and Kate Middleton’s big hat. Maybe this was one in a lifetime opportunity to see The Royals, and I am feeling pretty special for it.

Very busy day, thousands of people, all wanting to get a piece of a real British Monarchy. And I suppose this is what this country and city is all about. Make sure you treat yourself to a trip to London. Make sure to see the usual attractions Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Big Ben (by the way it is still going through the renovations, so if you are planning trip soon, don’t get disappointed), Trafalgar Square, Hyde Park, Regents Park (especially in spring – when rose garden is in full bloom). Make your way to Camden Market and Shoreditch, Borough Market only if you’re not afraid of crowds and treat yourself to some shopping at Oxford Street.

All that is well, but while you’re enjoying yourself, please spare a moment to think about the city. Look around you, as it is not just glitz and glory. In fact, the city is stretched to its limits. And it shows. Rubbish everywhere, since the city workers cannot get it all cleaned quickly enough. Tube is so crowded, you are actually lucky to made it onboard. Homelessness is one of the biggest issues, and highest number I have seen anywhere in the world. People are just oblivious to it, as it become part of the background picture. I have even seen people urinating on the street, and they were not the homeless, they were your usual, stag do style tourists!

And for those reasons, I could not really consider ever moving here. I feel for the locals. You can never get a peaceful moment when living in the City. But maybe that is the part of the charm itself? One or the other, I treat this place with respect. I still spread a big smile around me.

Give me an apartment like the one I stayed in, and it might just change my mind. Although, somehow, I cannot see, how I would be ever able to buy, a 2 bedrooms property for circa £10 million, right in the heart of London. For now, I will stick to my annual trip. So, who knows, maybe I will get to explore it all again in few months. And as for you, please share your thoughts on London with me – what stole your heart and what not so much.