I’ve been in London for about 24 hours now, and there is a lot to reflect on. Throughout the day, I’ve found myself subconsciously comparing the city to Paris [the fact that I keep accidentally saying ‘merci’ and ‘pardon’ to strangers and people in stores doesn’t help. Whoops!]
But those are thoughts for another day. Today our plan was to take it easy, and just kind of get a feel for the city and eat some good food. Nothing big or touristy, mostly the Kensington-Chelsea area, and home by 9.
My friend and I actually woke up around an hour later than planned, in a truly French fashion. After making myself pretty at the speed of light, we rushed out to a nearby café we’d discovered on the Internet, hoping to get breakfast… Only to discover that it’s closed on Sundays and Mondays.
Shrugging, we decided to head on out anyways, since we needed money [forgot to convert our Euros/USD to GBP on arrival–whoops #2] and were willing to hold off on breakfast for the sake of convenience.
All of this seems like a testament to how hopeless we are and was possibly tantamount to how terribly the rest of the day could go, but… It was kind of a perfect day. [And while I absolutely use that word lightly, it actually was.]
We successfully navigated our way to the Victoria & Albert Museum, our first stop as tourists in London. It’s an art and history museum in Kensington, and is highly recommended for a calm day. Plus, it’s completely free, save for some special exhibits, so of course we went!
Anyway, the moment we walked into the museum and caught a glimpse of our first naked statue, I came to the brilliant realization that we still needed English money. We took a bit of a hike through the neighbourhood in search of a bank. Coming from California, I’m not exactly used to having seasons, and the English autumn is even more stunning than France’s. [Sorry, France.]
We even got the first of presumably many silly tourist pictures!
Anyway, after our little trek, we managed to get enough cash for food for the day, then took a gamble and went into a random café my friend had spotted on the way.
The Brompton Café & Bookshop is a quaint, slightly hidden space close to the V&A Museum that serves tea for £2.5 and Christian books. I didn’t realize the latter bit until I did a Google search about 5 seconds ago, but it sure does explain the painted Bible quotes on the wall.
It was good enough for a light breakfast, and within half an hour, we were back on track at the V&A Museum.
There are a ton of museums on our itinerary for this week, but the Victoria and Albert Museum was definitely a strong start! We spent about an hour and a half wandering around, just snapping pictures and checking out the exhibits. There’s a lot to see here, so it might just make it into a separate post sometime in the future!
After we’d perused to our fill, we hopped back out of the museum and headed down to the Chelsea area for lunch. On the way, we briefly walked through part of Hyde Park and glimpsed the Royal Albert Hall.
While walking through London itself during the autumn is amazing, nothing quite beats the view of fall foliage drifting down in a park as grand and green as Hyde.
I was put in charge of the food itinerary, and one of the places on my list was the Phat Phuc Noodle Bar in Chelsea. Of course, we had a few detours along the way.
London always seems to be finding new ways to pull you in and surprise you, and Chelsea was no exception. Take this little ‘village,’ for example. With a bunch of quaint, low shops painted brightly and cluttered together over mossy tiles, it looked more like an adorable beach town than part of London.
[Eventually, and after about a thousand pictures, we did manage to find the noodle bar.]
We had another lovely walk through the Kensington-Chelsea area on our way to the noodle bar, but it was the restaurant itself that took the cake. The duck pho I had was warm and delicious, and the cozy pavilion seating under heat lamps and authentic street food-esque feel only added to the pitch perfect ambiance.
Plus, we also got to try these amazing custard buns, which were the perfect way to finish off the meal.
After Phat Phuc, we got back on our feet, bellies full and happy, and made our way over to Holland Park, our second park of the day. Autumn had also hit this place full force, but there were still plenty of flowers in bloom, making for a lovely afternoon of photography. [And creeping around a super-fun looking park for small children, but there are no photographs of that because that would be shady as shit.]
One of our itinerary items/goals for the day was to visit the Kyoto Gardens. It’s a beautiful Japanese-style garden meant to serve as a peaceful space for those looking for a little bit more tranquility in their lives.
The scenery at the Kyoto Gardens is beautiful, but I’m only slightly ashamed to admit that one of the best parts of the garden was realizing that a family of peacocks lives right there on the grass. They were totally unfazed by the people milling around and snapping pictures, and honestly probably enjoyed it quite a bit.
By the time we exited the garden, it was close to dusk, and we were looking for a place to warm up and maybe get a hot drink. Luckily, there’s a café right in Holland Park for this very purpose, and since tea is quite affordable all over the city, I was able to warm up nicely with a cup of English Breakfast.
[This is not that café.]
We eventually left the gardens and found this cute little place called Primrose Bakery. They have specialty cupcakes, and Sunday’s feature flavours like matcha green tea and apple crumble. We got one of each and shared, and both were delicious.
A bit of a ways away from Primrose, we found the Tower House. This is a historic building in and of itself, but our main motivation for visiting was my friend’s deep, undying love for Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, since he owns the building and lives there. I didn’t take any pictures because the lights came on in the window at some point and I got spooked, but Caroline seemed happy, which was nice.
Notting Hill is a beautiful neighbourhood. I feel like that sentence is going to come up a lot with a bunch of different places all over the city, but with the sun setting over the pastel buildings, it just felt like being pulled into a fairy tale.
Our dinner location was BOOM Burger on Portobello Road. This is a Jamaican fusion burger place, and the plantain fries were a highlight, although the burger was also the best I’ve had since moving to Europe. [I mean, I’m Californian, and nothing quite comes close to the nostalgia In n’ Out brings.]
We wound up getting to dinner so early that we had to force ourselves to eat slowly, and by the time we left the restaurant, it was nighttime at Notting Hill. We made our way back to the hostel, enjoyed a bit of relaxation while I edited the 50 bajillion photos I took today, and are now peaceing out!
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