London Calling

Perhaps you’ve noticed, but things have been a bit more quiet than normal around here lately. Final exams have passed, and the photos are coming in fast and furious, but the number of forthcoming posts haven’t reflected that in the least. Truth be told, it’s because no one was home at BitterSweet head quarters. Maybe I failed to mention the fact that I was slipping away to London for a week? A quick jaunt across the pond, I hardly had time to get my feet beneath me before it was time to hop a plane back home again, but the brief break was entirely necessary. A few days to indulge a sense of adventure, explore a new corner of the world, and actually think about something other than food 24/7. It’s a truly refreshing change of pace! Thus, it may not have been a foodie’s dream getaway, but I still have plenty of photos and stories to share…

We arrived early on a red eye flight into London, and promptly fell asleep upon forcing open the tiny rental apartment door. That shoebox was a joke of a room- “Sleeps up to five”? More like, you can technically cram five bodies in there, but if you want them to move about and breathe, you really shouldn’t. We kept a running tally of who got hurt the most, either by tripping over the odd step into the kitchen or by banging their head on the slanted bathroom ceiling. After all that fun, we simply tramped about on the streets until it got dark.

Big Ben was the first sight on the following morning. Iconic, but still incredible in person. It’s those fine details that get me.

St. James’s Park has really gone to the birds. There were at least dozen different species that I could easily identify, and no doubt at least a dozen more. This guy here was particularly fearless- I was afraid he might snatch my lens cap and try to gobble it up.

Onward march, to the changing of the guards at Buckingham palace.

Although far from native English cuisine, this was not the only incidence of seeing huge vats of paella being tended on the streets. Can anyone lend some insight on that? Is it just a popular dish there, or am I missing a larger trend?

There weren’t many opportunities to dine at dedicated vegan restaurants, so it should go without saying that this meal at Itadaki Zen was hands-down my favorite of the trip. We ordered a full compliment of little dishes, but most didn’t photograph well due to the dim light. Whatever you order, you will not be disappointed. All of the flavors were so clean, light, and invigorating. I wish I could have returned once or twice more at least.

Harrod’s, a museum of all things consumable, whether they be actually edible or other consumer goods. The prices are astronomical, but it’s a must-visit, especially for the food hall. More beautiful displays of perfect produce can be found no where else. And yes, those are white strawberries, otherwise known as pineberries. I was dying to try them, but at £12.50 (about $19.59) for each of those tiny punnets, I’ll just have to keep wondering for now..

The Tower of London. You’ve just gotta see it, end of story. We also went through great pains to witness the ceremony of the keys, but photography was not permitted. Since they all carried guns, I was inclined to comply.

Your standard British pub; fun atmosphere, nice people. I will readily admit, however, that I’m a complete lightweight and this cider was not mine, but my sister’s. I was the party pooper who ordered water.

A brief day trip out of the city brought us to stonehenge, which was an incredible sight that I will never forget, but it was shockingly, blisteringly cold out. The wind didn’t help one bit, and it suddenly felt like winter! Try to go in the warmer parts of the summer, or wear a much heavier jacket than you think you could possibly need or want.

It takes 30 minutes to ride through one full revolution of the London eye, but not one second was dull. The views are of course stunning, and there’s something to be said for riding in a giant glass bubble, high above the city. I don’t care how tourist-y this is, I insist that everyone do it at least once.

So many other wonderful activities went unphotographed, but these are some of the highlights. London is such a grand city with a rich history- I only wish I could have explored a bit deeper. That means I’ll just have to come back soon, I suppose.

39 thoughts on “London Calling

  1. I wish you had said before!!! I live in London! I could have shown you some cool places (including one of the farmers’ markets, as I work for London Farmers Market part time).

    Actually, I don’t think I was in the UK while you were there as I was on the European continent for much of the month and only just came back this week.

    BUT next time you come to the UK, do give me a shout so I can give you at least some recommendations. :-)

    1. About the paella… no, that’s no uncommon in London. It’s just a very international city and even for born-and-bred Londoners any kind of international cuisine is quite normal to eat. You will get your British pub food, but you’ll get just about anything else too – and food markets certainly serve international cuisine. (Most of the farmers’ markets that are part of London Farmers’ Markets sell produce, but the one or two that we do have that sell cooked food include paella, various types of curry, Italian dishes, etc. Same applies for all the other food markets I know – Borough Market, Real Food Markets, Broadway Market, Brick Lane with its fabulous ‘International Food Court’, etc.)

    2. By the way, I am always the party popper too. On my last visit to a pub I ordered juice… but I always have the excuse that I’m cycling (I strictly go by “No drinking, no cycling”).

    3. Aw, now I feel terrible for just quietly slipping away! I’ve learned my lesson- Next trip, I’ll give plenty of warning in advance. It would have been so rad to meet up with you and check out the real food scene. I didn’t even get to visit one farmer’s market, so I’m pretty bummed about that especially. However, I was rather fond of the Marks and Spencer shops if only for their bright, inviting facade… Wish we could replace some of the crappy food marts over here with a few of those.

      Anyway, I’m sure this won’t be my last visit!

  2. I could say “you should have gone to Ireland too!” but we moved to Italy so I hope I can see you around here anytime soon :)

    Loved your pics of London and you have to go back to experience more food. Ms Cupcakes is a must there I’d say!

  3. I visited England for 10 days in April as a Happy Birthday to me present. I had checked out the forecast before going and remembered a previous trip many, many years ago and took flannel lined jeans and long underwear. That and a windbreaker jacket and Stonehenge was still cold but unbearably so.

    Did you make it to SAF restaurant? I wanted to go but never made it.

    After a few days recovering from my trip I wanted to go back. I am planning another trip for next year. Maybe the train to Paris and spend a day there or north to Scotland. So many interesting destinations to choose from.

  4. As another of your loyal London readers (though usually of the lurking rather than commenting variety), I am also frustrated by the lack of notice on this trip. London is increasingly a great place for vegan eating and drinking – maybe next visit you will actually get a chance to properly explore!

  5. Beautiful photos, Hannah! I especially love the close up of the tower of Big Ben, and the one from above in the Eye. I am more than a little jealous of your adventure! I do have to point something out to you, though – because I absolutely *don’t* “love those huge furry hats.” They are bearskin. :( I know there has been a movement for several years now to replace them with something that doesn’t kill bears and orphan cubs, but to my knowledge, that hasn’t happened yet. If I am wrong, and this change did happen, I would love for someone to let me know! Anyway, nothing but love to you, but thought you should know, in case you didn’t. :(

    1. I can’t believe I didn’t even consider the materials of the hat- I just thought they were wonderfully silly looking. I’ll remove that comment because I certainly didn’t mean anything by it.

  6. About the furry hats, as far as I have heard, they are still bearskin. PETA is trying to get that changed, but in the meantime, no I don’t love those hats! They represent pain and suffering for bears. Sorry, Hannah, but I completely disagree with you on this one.

    1. I had no idea! I didn’t even stop to think about it. Sorry about the comment, it was just a passing thought about how silly they looked, not taking into consideration what they were made of.

  7. When you come back you must try 222 on North End Road ( A short walk (10-15 mins) from the Natural History Museum, some of the finest dining I’ve ever had, and all entirely vegan!

    As for the paella, I think it’s just something that’s easy to make in a vat. You get it a lot at music festivals.

    1. It kills me to think that I was so close, yet so far from 222… I had heard of it, but didn’t realize it was right under my nose. Next time I’ll just have to ditch the picky omnivores. ;)

  8. Yep just casually slipping away to London – we all do that now and then ;)
    My friend these are GORGEOUS photos and you make me yearn to go there – thanks for sharing such a wonderful experience!

    Choc Chip Uru

  9. It’s always so interesting to see what visitors make of our bustling, busy and amazing capital city. Your wonderful pictures have made me fall in love with London all over again, Hannah. :)

  10. Would be interesting to hear more about the vegan places you visited. Oh, and so curious about those pineberries too!

  11. The tour guide I had at the Tower of London was pretty much the greatest person in the history of all time. Was yours equally hilarious and awesome? So proud of you for giving yourself the gift of a break away from daily life and all its stresses, no matter if they’re wonderful stresses! But oh how I envy having *anything* “across the pond” :P xo

  12. Thanks for the tip about the Vegan restaurant, I live in the UK and it’s always good to know of somewhere new for me to try when I visit London. Another is which is totally Vegan and also do a lot of Raw Food too.
    Lovely photos too, you must have had some good weather – yes, we do have sunshine in England :-), it’s a beautiful day today too, yay!

  13. Aren’t the birds at Saint James Park a hoot (no pun intended)?! I haven’t been to London since becoming vegan (I was vegetarian at the time), so I’m dying to go back and try some of the vegan restaurants there. It looks like you had a wonderful time- great photos!

  14. I agree, London is one hell of a city. Lived there for a year (lucky me *grin*)
    You must have had a great time :) and you captured it really magnificently. I especially love the photo of Big Ben and the Tower!
    Interesting, that your sister choose an Irish cidre *lol* but it is definitely better than Strongbow’s :)
    Plus, being an archaeolgist, I’m very happy you went to see Stonehenge :)) Have you seen West Kennet Long Barrow, too?

  15. I had no idea you were on a trip! And to London of all places…how fun! Sounds like you had a great time and got SOME good eating in. I would imagine it’s a pretty difficult place to dine as a vegetarian, let alone vegan!

  16. There are some good veggie / vegan places to go to in London. If you come over again, I’m sure we could all compile a good list for you! Camden is a must go – street markets and food, a good vegan burger place called the ha ha veggie bar, and InSpiral Cafe (vegan icecream) overlooks the canal and is a nice place to sit and relax. Drummond St (near Euston station) is good if you’re after south indian food – lots of vegetarian and vegan options and very cheap too. Borough Market would have been a good stop and very interesting for photos, and Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden has some good dedicated veggie places too. The bear hats make me sad but I agree with you that if you don’t know what they’re made of they do look silly. Sounds like you had a good trip all in all!

    1. I didn’t know the InSpiral. will check it out when back in London :) Thanks for the tip!
      Is it an all raw café?

      1. You’re welcome. I always like passing on the names of good places to eat. I don’t think it’s completely raw, though there are lots of raw options to choose from. I think they put films and bands on some evenings too, so it’s a good place to go day or night.

    2. Didn’t know InSpiral Café either. I just looked at there website, which makes me way too hungry. Probably a good thing that it’s not in my immediate neighbourhood, or I would go broke! Will have to check it out soon.

  17. Please do let us all know when you are headed to London next time! I’d be happy to give you some cookies from our bakery! It’s lovely to see one’s city through the lens of a visitor – it reminds you that you live in a place worth visiting. Thanks for the reminder to slow down and really *see* the place where I live!

    1. Well, if I ever needed a reason to come back, this would be it! I’m so sorry I missed the opportunity to see you and the shop this time around, but I’ll make sure to drop in someday- and as soon as possible!

  18. Those are lovely pictures! Big Ben, Piccadilly Circus, Buckingham Palace– London is loaded with some of the most spectacular sights in the world.

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