I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with London. Like a lot of people living outside of the capital (and particularly in the North), London feels like a big drain sucking the life out of the rest of the country. It can feel like everything revolves around London – it is the centre of Government, the home of sport, the base for the monarchy, the capital of finance. It can feel like living and working in London is the only opportunity after leaving Uni, but the cost of living is so astronomical that this is not even an option. Having said that, I have visited London several times and I have (mostly) enjoyed being a tourist in the capital.
Jim and I spent one day in London prior to getting the early Eurostar to Brussels. We started off the day by visiting St Pauls, followed by an energy boosting stop in the excellent Bea’s of Bloomsbury tea room and cake shop. The prices were eye watering and we totally did not fit in – we were a pair of scruffs off the overnight bus sat in between two tables of business brunches, with men in open-necked shirts typing on ipads. It was hard to care when eating a huge slice of delicious nutella cheesecake and sipping a raspberry iced tea (which was without doubt the best iced tea I have ever tasted!)
We stayed in a Travelodge near to Liverpool Street Station, which is an area of London that I have not been to before. There is no other word for it – it was just cool. We headed out for dinner in the evening, and there was a real energy and buzz about the streets. It felt like walking around New York. It was a really warm evening and people were spilling out with their drinks onto the pavements outside the pubs.
We were absolutely spoiled for choice with food options. We could have eaten any type of cuisine we could think of. We settled on The Breakfast Club, which is a restaurant down quite an innocuous side street. It had a really retro interior, with PE style benches, large wooden tables, fairy lights and Jenga. It was dark, it was loud, it was relaxed, the menu was reasonably priced (£9-12 for mains) and the food was good. I was in my element.
After dinner, we then went for a walk around, heading down any street that looked interesting, and ended up walking through Spitalfields Market. This is what a market should be. All of the pitches were empty, waiting to be filled the next morning. But instead of shutting up shop for the night, it was filled with cafes, bars and restaurants making the most of the space throughout the whole day.
I still have mixed feelings about London on this visit, and a separate blog on this will follow. However, I can’t deny that London has really energetic vibe, is uber-fashionable and sets trends, not only for the rest of the UK, but for the rest of the world.