Last year (or was it the year before? Time seems to fly by these days!), one of my best friends moved to London with her boyfriend, and after months of planning and last-minute cancellations (mostly on my part…. ahem….) I finally made it up for the day to see her last week.
I want to start by just letting you all know that I’m one of those annoying people who gets lost on the tube (the ones who stare vacantly at the maps, and wander in everybody’s way), so the fact that we had such an ace day was entirely down to her great planning. We started off at Monmouth Coffee, which made me incredibly happy; I’m a big coffee drinker, and I’ve heard loads of good things about this place from other bloggers and magazines, and I’m happy to report that they’re all true. Great coffee, incredible cakes, really lovely interior and super-quick service – if you’re near any of the shops, definitely try them out.
From there, we wandered across the road and spent a good hour meandering through Borough Market; I’m a hopeless cook and honestly can’t imagine a situation in my life where I’d need truffle oil, but I was absolutely blown away by the scale of choice and incredible quality of produce on offer. Brightly coloured fruits and vegetables glistened like perfect jewels; ruby red tomatoes jostled for space with the pinkest radishes, the table groaned under the weight of some seriously impressive pumpkins and there were mushrooms for sale that I’d never even heard of. There were traders that stocked every type of oil you could ever need; oils for cooking, for dipping and for impressing dinner guests, all displayed neatly alongside some of the most mouth-watering chutneys, jams and pickles that I’ve ever set eyes on, and there were others proffering exquisite artisan cheeses, loaves of bread that were golden and glinting in the morning sunlight and prosciutto shaved so finely it was almost translucent. We feasted on bread soaked in oils and vinegars, lingered by the aged cheddar and sipped on first flush Darjeeling, gazed in amazement at the most delicate patisserie products and inhaled the heady scent of curries and exotic street foods.
After a week of rain, the weather couldn’t have been better; sunny but not too hot, ideal for walking which is exactly what we did. Along Southbank, past galleries and theatres, stopping to marvel at the street performers and gaze at the installation for the Festival of Love, and flick through first edition Penguin novels at the book market. (It was pretty much this point that made me start to wish I’d worn sandals and not Converse; my feet were like two hot, throbbing hot water bottles.)
We stopped for some lunch, then carried along over the bridge and round to the Victoria Embankment Park, where I saw some of the biggest plants and most beast-like pigeons of my life. They were both literally huge; leaves that were the size of trees, flowers on Wonka-esque wavy stalks and birds the size of dogs (OK, maybe I’m exaggerating a little bit there, but they were BIG). Down the road, Somerset House had an exhibition on which featured the work of some of the best tattooists in the world – but produced on anything other than skin. There were lots of paintings, mixed-media works and photography, all based around the theme of time – I know absolutely nothing about art or hidden meanings, but there were some really incredible pieces in there, including one that we were convinced was a photograph but actually turned out to be an oil painting. It’s only a small exhibition, but it’s completely free and definitely worth seeing. We spent a bit (OK, a lot) of time in the amazing Rizzoli bookshop where I deliberated over some amazing children’s books and happily spotted some Stacie Swift greetings cards, then had the best hot chocolate of my life at The Fleet Street Press before getting the coach home again. Still thinking about that drink four days later. Yum.
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