My antics in England weren’t quite over yet. I still had to hop over to my final London lovely, the adorable Freya. Freya was another one of my closest girlfriends in Koh Tao, and it’s crazy to think my old partner-in-crime is now a flat owner with a big girl job!
I mean, not that crazy. Look at this girl!
Freya’s uber-charming flat is waterfront in Putney, and for our first night reunited we had a wild one — if you consider wild to be snuggled up on the couch with Pizza Express and Netflix and a major catch up session to be wild, that is. The next day, we set off towards Chelsea, an area of London that was totally new to me. I melted when I heard Freya recount the frustrations of trying to come up with something special and new to show a third time visitor to London — this girl knows how to do hospitality well.
We kicked off our day with an indulgent champagne brunch at Bluebird Cafe, which was posh enough that I felt intimidated taking photos. It was like something out of a movie, and Freya assured me that it is a hotspot for the British version of The OC’s cast.
Next, we strolled up King’s Road, stopping to pop into shops and markets along the way. I picked up some London-inspired birthday gifts for my little sister, and some mini-cupcakes for myself — obviously.
Our next big stop was Hyde Park, and the weather couldn’t have been more cooperative. It seemed that all of London was out enjoying this sunny Saturday with us, and we didn’t mind the company one bit.
I mean really, what could be more British than Pimm’s Cup in one of the Royal Parks? (I guess it could have been raining. That would have been more British.)
At one point, we even managed to nab coveted lake-front reclining chairs, and our sips got a little slower.
Though we’d originally planned to stay downtown for the evening, we were shocked to find we were sweaty and exhausted from walking around in the heat — keep in mind it had been raining and freezing for the prior six days of my trip. So we made our way back to Putney to clean up and have a wander around Freya’s hood.
Where do two BFFs who met in Koh Tao eat dinner in London? At a Thai restaurant, of course!
While the service was mediocre bordering on bad, the architecture, the views, the food and the company were top notch, and we had a lovely meal. We washed it down with drinks at the trendy Toy Shop bar, which had some of the most creative cocktails I had the entire trip. It also, entertainingly, had the same sign I fell in love with over at Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town.
As it was with all the girls, my time with Freya was far too short and before I knew I was wiping away tears at the train station and heading back into Central London for one final friend meet up. This time, my date was Kate — one of my hiking buddies along the Inca Trail, my fellow Halloween reveler in Cusco, and one of my favorite people I met on my Latin American travels. Appropriately for two world travel enthusiasts, we got to meet at Stanford’s, London’s dreamy travel bookstore.
Kate and I were joined by her sweet younger sister Tess, who led us to Southbank with the promise of an affordable lunch with a view. She delivered! I adored my tacos from the Wahaca food truck, though they did commit the unpardonable sin of running out of guacamole. Still, you can’t beat 6GBP for a beautiful lunch along the river with friends.
I loved Southbank — it reminded me of DUMBO back in Brooklyn, and had a great festive vibe on a good weather Sunday. We rounded out our tour of the area with 2-for-1 pitchers of mango mojitos at Las Iguanas — delicious! After one final toast to travel, the people you meet and the mojitos you drink along the way, we promised to do it again someday, somewhere exotic.
And with that, I was off to Malta. Thank you once again to all the special people who make London London for me. Till next time, UK!
PS: A quick apology to the London-based readers who reached out to me about doing a meetup that I never made happen. Honestly, I was a bit deflated that my last attempt to put together a reader meetup in Thailand was such a flop and I haven’t felt brave enough to try again until you all started suggesting it! I should have tried to organize it much earlier and I promise that now that I know there is interest, I will try again next time I’m in the UK! Love you guys big time. xo, Alex
You know, one of the best things about traveling the globe so much is getting to stay in touch with the friends you make along the way and catching up with them in their home turf! I love having local tour guides – they take you to all the best spots!
Absolutely. People always ask me where I find all these friends to stay with around the world — I’m like, it’s easy, just go travel for a month and you’ll have places to stay for life! Ha 🙂
It sounds like you were lucky to have some pretty stellar guides – all these places sound so cool! You were also lucky with the not quite British weather, ha. I haven’t seen summertime London in ages, but now I really want to!
Ha, don’t worry — it rained for six days straight before this! 🙂
Bookstore + Travel store = dying and going to heaven! I’ll have to add Stanford’s to my London travel list! Thanks for the tip and looks like you have great weather for London! 🙂
Stanford’s is a dream! I visited/wrote about it last time I was in London too — love it.
I think I’m starting to develop a bit of a crush on London after these blog posts you’ve been writing. From the speakeasies to the parks to the brunches – I kind of just want to be there right now!
August wouldn’t be a bad time to go 🙂
Love the spelling – Wahaca –
The Brits have a great sense of humor and have finally discovered food which seemed to have alluded them for the longest time.
Your posts have shown that visiting England should not be about Big Ben and Tower Bridge but about the wonderful islanders living there.
Thank you Rick, that’s an awesome compliment and exactly what I hoped to show with these posts — er, I think 🙂 I am always shocked when others complain about the food in London — I always eat extremely well there!
I’m glad that you enjoyed the UK. Maybe your visit should include my city Birmingham. It has more miles of canal than Venice. Safe travels.
I am definitely hoping to explore more of England next time I pass through. Will definitely add Birmingham to the list of possibilities!
Looks like fun! I really like the sound of Chelsea & can’t wait til Ben and I go back to visit his family so I can explore more!
That’s the best part about dating someone from a different country — going home with them and having a local tour guide! 🙂
I love travel related stores/restaurants/etc.! That bookstore looks just delightful! One of my favorite bars in Chicago is called the Map Room and its (obviously) decorated with maps and travel decor and has about a million beers on tap. If you’re ever in Chicago – you should check it out – and don’t worry, they have cocktails too :).
Um, that sounds AWESOME! I need to get to Chicago soon to visit my Illinois family — you just gave me a reason to bump it up on my list 🙂
I think nights like that – food, movies and tons of good conversations – are some of the best. When I visited two of my best friends in Qatar, we spent hours each morning talking over a pot of coffee. I was in Qatar but could have been anywhere in the world… and I couldn’t have been happier about it.
Yup, that’s how I feel too. Except, we were eating Pizza Express, which as far as I know is a VERY EXOTIC specialty of the United Kingdom 🙂
It looks like you had a great time! I can’t believe you made me hungry for Thai food at 6:30 AM, but you did 🙂 I am definitely going to be checking that restaurant out in about 6 weeks time!
I could be hungry for Thai food at any time of day. Enjoy!
Wow, I almost breezed by the photo of that dude on the high wheel bike. “no time for photos ladies there’s important big wheel stuff to do”
It’s always so short and sweet meeting up with international friends. Looks like you squeezed more in than most could. Stanford’s -Making a Mental Note- I would have spent too much time with those globes.
Ha, love that photo caption 🙂
For a place so famously grey, you’ve assembled quite the colorful entry! Esp love the bright red against lavender at the top. Thanks for even more great London rec’s. I obviously have a lot more exploring to do…
I went a little wild with the rare opportunity to photograph a sunny day in London, what can I say 🙂
Mannn, I’m sure you could even show a Brit how to do London. I just love your fabulous UK adventures!
It would have been great to meet you. Life can make us feel a bit unsure sometimes can’t it. Maybe you’ll get the opportunity to meet up with Chloe on Koh Tao before she finishes her divemaster training! 🙂 It would be cool for me to see the pair of you together in a photo.
Envy you eating all that Thai food and looking forward to seeing your dive photos. Please do the UV dive – I’d love to see some footage. Take care.
I did the UV dive once long ago — you can find it somewhere in my archives. Maybe I’ll do it once more again!
Wonderful city, but I was gobsmacked at the 6.50-5.50GBP price tags on some of those Tacos!
I guess too many 6 peso tacos has made me soft when it comes to the real world! 😉
Yeah, London prices are no joke. The sad thing is that was one of my cheaper meals!
So glad London has grown on you! I lived there for 10 years and had a complex love-hate relationship with it. The prices and overcrowding are the cons but you can forget them all in fab places like Hyde Park and Stanfords (home to many hours lost browsing maps and travel guides). Maybe we’ll get you out into other parts of the UK next trip?
I’m hoping to make it to Cornwall next time, as one of my lovely lady hosts may be relocating there 🙂 I’ve heard great things!
I really wish I would grow to love London as you did. Last time, we stayed in Chelsea, and while it was adorable and charming and delicious, the frustrations of trying to navigate around London trumped any good experiences we might have had.
I’m sure there’s a steep learning curve. I swear I was lost for the entire first year I lived in NYC. Maybe it’s the same for London?