I could easily list 100 reasons to love London. As a food-obsessed human who adores history and books, flowers and parks – and the ability to walk everywhere, there are few places I would rather spend my time. Several years ago, as we started to pack out after a three year post, I spent hours plotting ways to stay forever (obviously the plots failed miserably, as I am firmly back Stateside). These days, I’m forever plotting ways to return.
My most recent plot? This weekend we celebrated my best friend’s birthday with a mother-daughter girls weekend.
It rocked. It is astonishing how much one can cram into three days with a bit of planning. We composed a few days that wove in stops at historical destinations, like Westminster Abbey and the Churchill War Rooms, took in a bit of art at The National Gallery, shopped on King’s Road for new frocks, browsed for books and ribbons on Marylebone High Street, admired the flowers and paper goods at Liberty of London, hopped on a train to Buckinghamshire to explore Bletchley Park, and ate and drank very, very well. Stops included High Tea at Fortnum and Mason, cocktails at the Dorchester, lunch at The Colbert, and a long wander through Borough Market.
For those of you who might be plotting your own escape to London, I offer 10 of my reasons I love London so:
Carluccio’s – It has become a bit of a tradition that we stagger off of the overnight flight and head directly to Carluccio’s for an almond croissant and a cappuccino. I believe their almond croissant is the best on the planet. My daughter longs for the scrambled eggs with mushrooms on sourdough toast. This cafe has locations all over England (and beyond), with lovely salads and pastas served later in the day.
Liberty of London – As we drove into the city, the carpet of daffodils in Hyde Park indicated spring had arrived. Those were but a hint of the gorgeous flowers dotting corner stands throughout the city. My favorite display has always been the selection just outside the door of the magnificent Tudor Liberty of London Department Store – a brand best known in the States for their floral fabrics.
Borough Market – This is quite possibly my favorite place on the planet. My first stop is always Monmouth coffee, for a perfect cappuccino. Then I set out to visit the dozens stalls of gorgeous food and drink from purveyors around the UK and Europe, camera in hand. Once upon a time, I had a kitchen in London to bring the lovely food home to, but now I just gather inspiration… and nibbles. Is it bad we indulged in salted caramel goat’s milk ice cream for breakfast? Not at all…
Theatre – Matilda As a lifelong Roald Dahl fan, Matilda has been on my “must-see” list for ages, and it didn’t disappoint. Brilliantly staged and choreographed (what a set!), it is a spirited romp with a cast of mesmerizing kids and a spectacular “baddie” in Ms. Agatha Trunchbull. Oh how I wish I could have snapped a few pictures of those darling kids (strictly forbidden, of course 🙂
The Colbert at Sloane Square – We found a new favorite restaurant in London – a French bistro with impeccable service and spectacular food. My daughter sampled the creamy cassoulet, I dove into a crunchy endive salad and a gorgeous cheese plate, and the others had French onion soup. The breadstick-size baguettes with perfectly salted butter set the mood, and a lovely white burgundy at lunchtime is always nice…
Churchill War Rooms – Tucked at the edge of St. James Park is the entrance to The Churchill War Rooms… originally the Cabinet War Rooms – the wartime bunker that sheltered Churchill and his government during the Blitz. It feels as if you are going back in time as you explore the maze of secret meeting rooms, perhaps because when the Japanese surrendered in 1945, the doors to the bunkers were locked with every desk, map, and pin left just as it was to preserve this historic site. The main war rooms were opened to the public in 1984, but in 2005 a brilliantly crafted, multimedia museum dedicated to the life of Winston Churchill was added. I spend hours here nearly every time I visit London, but I always learn something new. I marvel at Churchill’s oratory skills… one of my favorite quotes will always be: “We are all worms, but I do believe I am a glow worm.”
Cheese – It seems the official foodstuff of the 2015 Girls Weekend in London was cheese. I believe at least one of us ordered a cheese plate at nearly every meal… and we stopped to admire the staggering European cheese selections around town… from the cheese room in La Fromangerie off Marylebone High Street to the selections at Borough Market to a stunning cheese plate during cocktails at the Dorchester…
Bletchley Park My daughter suggested we hop on a train from Euston Station to visit the top-secret installation where British codebreakers worked to unlock the German Enigma code during World War II. As I believe The Imitation Game is one of the most perfect movies I’ve ever seen, I couldn’t resist visiting the site featured so prominently in the movie. It’s nice to wander out of the city on the British rail system – Bletchley Park is just 45 minutes outside of London. Set around a lake and mansion in Buckinghamshire, the campus of Bletchley Park has recently been updated to include a multi-media self-guided walking tour… and features displays specific to the Imitation Game, with the pub set still intact, and a model of “Christopher” – the machine that ultimately cracked the code.
The National Gallery – In heart of the city, at Trafalgar Square, sits the magnificent National Gallery. A wander through the grand, stately rooms takes me back in time… I have always been particularly struck by the Paul Delaroche painting The Execution of Lady Jane Grey… Lady Jane was Queen of England for just 9 days until she was driven from the throne and sent to the Tower of London to be executed at the age of 16… rather grim, I know. There are, however, much lovelier paintings about… Turners and still lifes also abound:
Marylebone High Street Shopping – No visit to London would be complete without a bit of shopping, and I always make it a point to pop into three favorite shops… Daunt’s Books, which organizes many of it’s books according to travel destinations (aside from Cookery and Children’s, which happily, have their own sections), VV Rouleaux, a shop devoted entirely to ribbons and fancy trimmings – which I imagine find themselves on fascinators all over town (sadly, I can’t think of anywhere to wear such a hat in DC), and Bridgewater, with it’s whimsical collection of British pottery.
So there you have it… 10 of my reasons to love London. Next time I go back, I’ll likely come up with 10 more…
But I must say, the unwritten reason number 1 was the company. A fantastic mother-daughter weekend with great friends.
But tell me, What are your London favorites, dear readers?