London: Libations

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London is a wonderful place to just wander and stumble into any bar you come across. Pubs seem to just spill out on the sidewalk, and it’s really easy to fine a good time just walking down the street. Many of my favorite nights (and more than a few Friday afternoons, when my team took a ‘London lunch’) were spent in bars I completely just happened upon.

One I can speak highly of (but is in one of the most touristy areas imaginable – Soho/Theater District) is The Coach and Horse. My friends and I wandered in after a show, and found an energetic crowd singing the hits accompanied by a piano. Hearing my American accent, the bartender asked where I was from. “New York” I admitted (being the easiest answer at the time – I’d never pretend to be a life-long New Yorker). “OI WE HAVE A NEW YORKER” he yelled at the pianist. A minute later, a packed bar in London was belting “New York, New York.” It’s one of my favorite London memories.

My favorite bars/clubs in London are mostly in two areas: Chelsea, and Camden Town. These two areas are a bit touristy, depending on where you go, but also have pockets of hidden gems!

Chelsea: Chelsea is one of the wealthiest areas of London, and the nightlife here has that feel to it. In New York language, I would say it’s most parallel to going out in Meatpacking. Girls in dresses and heels, guys in slacks and button downs, even a suit jacket if the weather’s cool enough.

Most of the nightlife in Chelsea is off of one street: King’s Road. Conveniently also on the same street: a Pizza Express. My friend Cena and I would get dinner and share a bottle of wine at Pizza Express, carb-load before going out at two popular spots on King’s Road: Raffles and 151 Club.

Camden Town: Camden Town is a bit more casual. Relative to New York, I would equate it to an East Village feel. Jeans and a fun top with booties is more the trend for girls; guys would be comfortable in jeans and a t shirt.

There are multiple bar crawls you can buy a wrist band to – usually these are HUGE groups that wander some of the highlights of Camden together (and maybe get a free drink at some of the bars). I did one when I studied abroad, with some friends that were visiting, and it ended up being a cool way to see Camden’s highlights, but it was a bit touristy.

My favorites in Camden:

Proud Camden: this is an old horse hospital, that has been converted into a bar space (with the stalls made into VIP rooms). There are 5 bars spread out throughout Proud, which means shorter lines

Koko: this is an old theater (think balconies and ornate ceiling and curtains) that has been converted into a five story club. The orchestra is a dance pit, and the live music here is pretty good! If you’re not into dancing, the mezzanine and balcony also have their own bar spaces

An important end of the night staple in London: Kabab. Either on a sandwich, or in a platter – it’s always amazing and delicious… The London equivalent to Dollar Slice Pizza!

Important to note: The Tube doesn’t run 24/7, so have a plan to get home (either cab or Uber/Gett is my suggestion if you’re just visiting, although the busses run 24 hours).

London: My Favorite Walks and Wanders

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Primrose Hill on a Fall Day

I’m feeling a bit nostalgic for London lately – five years ago I was just beginning my two months of working abroad during college. Ever since, it’s been one of my favorite cities in the entire world.

I have a few different posts that I want to write about London, but the first will focus on my favorite areas to walk and wander in the city. My favorite thing to do in just about any new city is just walk around and take in the scenery. It’s free, it brings you to beautiful parks and landmarks, and leads to great people watching.

Note: London has a great public transportation system, but it’s also lovely to walk around. It’s full of winding streets and mews, which are stunning, but can be a bit confusing. My favorite mobile map is on an app called Ulmon London – highly recommend you download as you wander through this stunning city!

Camden Town: Just GREAT for many different reasons. The area is very “funky” (it’s even more hipster than Brooklyn), and has a huge market selling lots of food and handmade goods. On Saturdays it’s bustling — so much fun to shop there for ANYTHING from jewelry to photography, etc. Head all the way down to the old horse stalls for the REALLY good stuff. The food is also divine — my favorites: mini pancakes that you eat on a stick with nutella and whipped cream, and some AMAZING paella. There’s also a “cereal bar” nearby that has vintage cereal – all of those themed boxes from back in the 90’s, during the hayday of Saturday morning cartoons.

Regent’s Park: My favorite park in the city — has lots of really nice gardens and places where people play cricket and soccer. It’s also very close to the London Zoo! Two ways to get here – from the south at the Euston tube stop, OR… my favorite view of the city is at the top of Primrose Hill, which is reasonably close to Camden Town tube stop. My perfect Saturday morning: wander through Camden Town, down to Primrose Hill, through the Park to the Rose Gardens.

Southbank: THE BEST place to hang out after work on a sunny day – lovely dinner spots to people watch and just a nice place to stroll. Some of the oldest pubs are along the South bank, and there’s a really good one that starts with an H (helpful, I know) where I had some great Fish & Chips. East of Trafalgar: There are a few tourist attractions — The Globe Theatre (rebuilt since Shakespeare’s time, but still cool), the Tate Modern, The Eye, St. Paul’s (from across the river), Millennium Bridge, London Bridge, The Strand, Tower Bridge. There’s even a TINY little beach to hang out on if it’s REALLY nice. Plus, once it gets dark enough, about half a mile east of the Waterloo tube station there are trees that have white Christmas lights up year round. West of Trafalgar: Westminster & Big Ben (from across the River), Vauxhall, Battersea.

South Kensington: My favorite tubestop if I didn’t know what I felt like doing. This tube stop also has a Hummingbird Cupcakes and Ben’s Cookies (both of which are TO DIE FOR) and a little ice cream shop. There’s a Chinese place where you can get a main dish, an egg roll, and some fried rice for like £5. Plus, about a mile up the road (past the museums) is the Albert Memorial, which I found a nice place to sit and eat my dinner. Right next to the Albert Memorial is Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.

Sloane Square: Chelsea was my favorite neighborhood when I was working abroad – beautiful white houses and well-groomed gardens…(and Harrod’s!) so I just liked to get off the tube at Sloane Square and look at all the old-money, well-dressed people. It’s also extremely close to King’s Road, which has shops, restaurants, and clubs. One of the more popular clubs is called Raffles – but my favorite club there was called 134 (or something like that… it was the street address of the club). When I was abroad, my friend Cena and I would get dinner and a few bottles of wine for CHEAP at a Pizza Express across the street, walk for a while, then go to that club.

Covent Garden: Great on the weekends, boring on week days. On the weekends there are street performers, and crowds… you can grab some Ben’s Cookies (another location) and hang out there all day. There’s a great wine bar nearby called 10 Cases, and a great restaurant called Belgo Centraal.

Hampstead Heath: Just a nice little neighborhood, with provincial-style cottages. Sasha Barron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter live up here, and so do a couple other celebs, so the people watching is fun. The Heath itself is beautiful. I really liked to head up here just to play with all the puppies, but some of it is wild (read: tall grass) so you may not want to wear anything super short. One of the best views of the city is here, at the top of Parliament Hill — North of the tennis courts.