Having already lived in Tokyo and Singapore, my next extended adventure abroad back in September 2004, saw me embark on the great pilgrimage from the sunny shores of Australia to the, well…less sunny shores of Blighty.
People often ask me why I left such a beautiful weather fortunate country for a weather-challenged country. But I have to tell you, London is without a doubt one of the most amazing vibrant cities that I have ever visited, and 13 years on still call my home. Oh, and it just so happens, I love a good rainy day, and as it turns out there is no shortage of them here?
There are a few things that I was quick to learn when I got here like:
- The sun has better places to be in winter and it’s completely dark from about 3.30pm.
- The minute there is a sniff of sunshine, Londoners appear in various states of undress.
- Even if it’s cold out and the sun is shining; the street with a pint in hand is the place to be.
- What’s SPF? Brits still like to lather up in oil to work on their tans at any given opportunity and being lobster red is acceptable if it gets you one step closer to a godly bronzed glow.
- Black snot after travelling on the tube is apparently “normal”, and it’s not the onset of the plague.
In all serious then, I think what brought me to the British Isles was an inherent interest in my ancestry. Like all other Australian’s, my family descended from England and Ireland. I can’t describe it but the moment I stepped off that plane, I knew I had found my way home.
London provided me with the perfect base to explore Europe and the Northern Hampshire. At the time I moved here, the Pound was almost three times the Aussie Dollar! This was a city was bursting with atmosphere from every street corner and the attraction was immediate.
I may now be considered a local by some, and as such, I feel an important sense of duty to pass on some tips from one traveller to the next. London is a place where the unexpected should be expected, so why not think outside the box when planning your next trip here?! Think beyond the customary pint at the pub and consider our exceptional wine. Si and I happen to adore our wines and have travelled the world sampling some of the best drops in the Barossa Valley, Franschhoek, Stennlenbosh, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Champagne and Napa. Here in the U.K, there are some fabulous wines being produced, especially in the sparkling wine space with French winemakers buying up British vines as they now produce more consistent crops due to climate change. Be sure to check out Chapel Down Winery in Kent. They have spectacular grounds and do a smashing red and sparkling! And if you can’t carve out the time in your schedule for a visit, you’re in luck as they are well stoked in most supermarkets and wine retailers like Majestic.
Diversify your British pallet further afield than Saveloy and chips and pop into José on Bermondsey Street. It is the most fabulous tapas and is way better than Brindisa in nearby Borough Market if you ask me. From the comfort of the small and cosy restaurant, peep from your stool out of the windows into the bustling street beyond. The menu changes daily, dictated by what looks good at the market. Stop by for a spot of pincho and you won’t be disappointed.
As an alternative to afternoon tea at The Ritz, why don’t you check out vibrant East London and have a curry on Brick Lane? There are also a number of Jack the Ripper foot tours on offer in the area. If you are into history or gore, then the real-life horror story of Jack the Ripper is really good fun.
Skip predictable Harrod’s and check out the eccentric Tudor revival architecture of the department store Liberty, on Great Marlborough Street in the West End. The Grade II listed building was constructed in 1924 from the timbers of two ships: HMS Impregnable (formerly HMS Howe) and HMS Hindustan, and is now home to exquisite luxury goods.
Fancy yourself a foodie? Why not consider visiting Borough Market’s little sister, Maltby Street Market, tucked just beyond chic Bermondsey Street? Gourmet food, bars and fresh produce line a narrow, quirky street that also houses splendid furniture and homewares underneath the railway arches.
Planning to be in town for Wimbledon over summer but don’t fancy camping out overnight for a chance to secure the sought-after ground passes to watch the matches on Henman Hill a.k.a “Murray Mound”? Get smart, grab some strawberries and take your own Pimms and head to the London Rivera just by Tower Bridge to watch the matches on the big outdoor screen.
Hope these ideas get you started. Check out The Nudge before planning your next trip here. They always have fun recommendations on new openings, pop up’s, and quirky things to do in the Capital. Or drop me a line @jetsetwithjas on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. I’d love to hear from you and would be more than happy to send you some additional suggestions for your next trip.
Until next time, safe travels.
*This is not an endorsed post