London has always been a city I’ve loved from afar. Ever since Grams took me when I was twelve, the small pieces of memories I held onto kept me dreaming.
Therefore so much of our trip was spent running around, seeing as much as we could see. For our first international trip together, I think we did pretty good. That being said, we learned a lot and made plenty of mental notes on how we’re going to plan our next trip more efficiently.
Our first leg of our trip was spent in Wales, which you can read here.
We got into London from Cardiff and checked into our hotel on the north side of Kensington Gardens. It was too dark to do much exploring so we settled for going out to get dinner.
Dinner // Vegetarian and Vegan Friendly: Queensway was only a few blocks over and is a bustling street with two Underground stations, shops, restaurants, and a quiet mall on the north end of the street. We ate at Tuk Tuk Thai Noodle Bar for something quick and warm.
Our first full day in London, we set out early to try and cover a decent bit of ground. We had a loose idea of what we wanted to see and where we wanted to go, but for the most part we just wanted to wander and experience the streets of London.
Breakfast // Vegetarian and Vegan Possible: We popped into a coffee shop on Queensway that offered normal breakfast items – heavy on the eggs. I grabbed toast, jam, and coffee with soy milk.
We strolled through Kensington Gardens and ate our breakfast on a bench in sight of the Kensington Palace. Around us in the cold morning air parents and their children strolled by, joggers moved from the paved walkway to twisting dirt running trails, and other tourists took it all in with their cameras in hand. I wasn’t aware just how large Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park are until an hour later when we were still walking along the park. Our first destination: Buckingham Palace. We caught the tail end of a parade, which we’re still not completely sure what it had been for.
From there, we headed north into SoHo. This area was the sort of place I imagined when thinking of London: gorgeous London homes and business down winding streets and alleys. I’ll always have an affair with London homes and wishes of one day finding a rowhouse of my own.
Lunch // Vegeterian and Vegan Diverse: We stopped for lunch at Wild Food Cafe, a raw and wholefood veggie cafe. This place topped my list of the best food we had our entire trip.
After lunch, we continued north to the British Museum. I hadn’t previously looked into their special exhibitions, so I was thrilled to learn upon entering that they were showing Sunken Cities: Egypt’s Lost Worlds. I had watched documentaries and read articles about the rediscovery of these two cities, Thonis-Heracleion and Canopus, where Greek and Egyptian trading occurred. I had followed divers’ progress and news reports, living vicariously off their exploration. Photos weren’t allowed in the featured exhibit, so we just took our time and enjoyed it. Videos of divers finding statues and relics were displayed next to the statues and relics themselves. It was completely surreal.
Dinner // Vegetarian and Vegan Possible: We went to Chotto Matte for dinner, a restaurant serving Japanese-Peruvian influenced dishes. The food was good, but our choices were limited to tapas.
After dinner we walked down Oxford Street which was lined with stores block after block. This street boasts over 300 shops. We ventured in and out of stores all the way to the edge of Hyde Park before going back to our hotel.
Knowing we had limited time before catching our train to Southampton, we focused our morning and afternoon in one area. I had my time at the British Museum, so it was Matt’s turn for a museum pick – Tate Modern.
Breakfast // Vegetarian and Vegan Friendly: We went to Borough Market and got fresh juices from a Wheatgrass-based juice bar. I also got coconut pancakes from a Thai cart called Khanom Krok.
We then walked along the River Thames, past Shakespeare’s Globe, and onto Tate Modern.
After Tate Modern, we caught our train and spent Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon at Chilworth Manor for my friend’s wedding. You can read the details here.
We got back into London with enough daylight to explore a different area of the city. Originally, we were planning using this Sunday to visit Stonehenge. We kept trying to plan it, figure out how to make everything work, when I threw up my hands and said enough. This whole trip had consisted of us running all over the place, so I wanted our last day and a half to be calmer. We agreed to skip Stonehenge, save it for our next trip, and spend the time back in London. For our final few days, Matt wanted to be in Shoreditch.
This neighborhood was one of the coolest places we’ve been, with beautiful graffiti lettering and artwork on most buildings. We headed first to BOXPARK to get something to eat.
Lunch // Vegtarian and Vegan Diverse: We ate at CookDaily, a vegan restaurant serving mostly rice and noodle bowls.
With a few tourist destinations on our list to still see and daylight left to use, we headed south to experience the London Eye and see Big Ben.
Dinner // Vegeterian and Vegan Diverse: We went back to Wild Food Cafe for dinner at my insistence.
Our second full day in London, this was our last day to see whatever was left that was had listed as musts. This mostly included Brick Lane.
Breakfast // Vegetarian and Vegan Friendly: We went to Cereal Killer Cafe, a cereal bar offering all sorts of cereals, milk, and unique combinations. I had “did i tell you i was vegan?” and Matt had “don’t have a cinnaman.” We found Crosstown Donuts first, but they do not offer any vegan options (their dough contains eggs and dairy).
We walked down Brick Lane, admiring the boutiques and business along the way. We arrived a bit too early, so many places had yet to open their doors let alone turn on their lights. We decided to catch the Overground and go back south for one final tourist spot that I wanted to revisit.
Lunch // Vegetarian and Vegan Friendly: The weather had turned chilly, so we warmed up with Pho at the aptly named restaurant, Pho.
After lunch, the Tower of London awaited us. The last time I walked it’s grounds was when I was twelve and my grandmother led me around. With a fuzzy memory to guide me, Matt and I explored what we could and noted the juxtaposition of the modern city creeping in on all sides.
We caught the Overground back to Shoreditch to see a few more stores we were interested in. As darkness and the cold it brought with it descended around us, we grabbed dinner before bringing our last night in London to an end.
Dinner // Vegetarian and Vegan Diverse: We ended up at Redemption, an alcohol-free and plant-based restaurant. The food was delicious and I think it was a wonderful final meal in London.
Our vacation over, we left early Tuesday morning to catch the Underground back to the airport.
We loved London.
Before we were even out of the country we were planning what we’d do when we get the chance to come back.
So thank you, London, for sharing your culture, history, and food with us.
However, some much needed rest – some down time in Seattle during December – is something I’m very much looking forward to.