Recently Travelex set a few of us expat bloggers a challenge – translating $150 of our home currency into a lovely day out in our favourite city. So with £76 in hand (well, loaded onto a handy currency card collected easily the evening before) I decided to create myself a perfect London winter’s day.
You know those ones you see in Hollywood films where the focus is just a little soft and dreamy, the skies are grey but the lamplight shines softly enough you don’t mind? That’s what I was aiming for. It was almost painterly in construction and ridiculously simple in organization.
I intentionally didn’t book anything in advance, simply letting our feet stroll from pillar to post (well, from painting to snack if we’re being honest) and just enjoy a day in one of the best cities in the world.
After a nice little Saturday morning snooze, I rolled out of bed to a picturesque snowfall. (This bit I didn’t actually arrange, the weather gods simply shone down on us – as a rule I utterly loathe the cold white stuff, but it is beautiful and had melted by the time I returned home later that night. See, perfect day!)
I hate to be a grinch, but *URGH* Snow. #winterishere #lovelondon but #takemebacktothedesert #snow #Winter #frost #grinchy #BBCTravel #LoveTheWorld #BBCBritain #traveldudes #traveltv #LiveTravelChannel #TravelAwesome #guardiantravelsnaps #huffpostgram #maybeldner #prettycitylondon #timeoutlondon #thisislondon #londonpop #toplondonphoto #londonforyou #LondonLive #shutup_london #visitlondon #lovegreatbritain #chocolatebox
A photo posted by Emma (@londonkiwiemma) on
Having not properly explored my first London home borough of Southwark in an age, we decided that heading thataways for a wrapped up wander would be fun, but first, brunch. Cause Kiwi and all that. My traitorous stomach took my friend and I to Blixen on the edge of Spitalfields Market. Warm, welcoming and with some of the best potato rosti we have found in Londres, it never misses a brunch beat. Whipping out the Mastercard based currency card, we paid without a problem. Easy peasy.
After a rustle through a few of the market stalls (and trying my best not to fall in love with a dress) feeling the need for a little cultural enlightenment, we hopped on a double decker bus (still a thrill after all these years) which took us past the glorious Gherkin, around the impressive Monument, and over the Thames past the Tower Bridge. We hopped off on the south side of London Bridge and made our way to the Tate Modern.
Wandering those halls, it took me back to the first few months that I lived in London. In between job and flat hunting, I would wander through a museum at least twice a week. The Tate Modern was my first London museum and in that first moment standing in front of a room filled with Degas (The Little Dancer), Picasso and Dali originals I had to pinch myself. I really wasn’t in New Zealand anymore.
As ever though, the modern art contained had us scratching our heads (and giggling quietly at the bloke saying to his wife “but HOW is this art!?”) Honestly, often we don’t know either. As a classical art lover, the immense installations by Abraham Cruzvillegas (above: several ‘Empty Lot’ beds, which consists of triangular wooden planters of earth dug up from different areas of London, from Peckham Rye to Buckingham Palace to the Olympic Park in Stratford) and Magdalena Abakanowicz (below: an “‘invented anatomy’ of forms reflecting her interest in biological systems, organic matter and regeneration”).
Once our artistic cups runneth over, we went on a nostalgic wander along the Thames pathway running back to London Bridge. Passing Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, the beauty of Southwark Catherdral and another glimpse of Tower Bridge, we tossed a coin whether to visit Maltby Markets (top tip: Borough Market on a Saturday lunchtime is awful) or to play Google Roulette.
On the millenium bridge (aka the wobbly bridge) we confounded a few tourists by staring intently and photographing at our feet. We weren’t doing the usual blogger shoefie instagrams, but were gandering at Ben Wilson’s miniscule chewing gum artworks. Within a few minutes we had about 30 people staring at pavement blobs they had just stepped on.
Our work done for the day, we played Google roulette (as per the coin instruction) and mooched our way to the very cool Gentleman Baristas under the train archways. The coffee is goooooooooooood.
On our mission around the neighbourhood we discovered some funky artwork…
…and the Crossbones Graveyard, a post-medieval disused burial ground. That’s what I adore about my adopted city – the ability to turn a corner and discover yet another chapter of history. The graveyard gates in Redcross Way are permanently decorated by a
changing array of messages, ribbons, flowers and other tokens; a short
memorial vigil ceremony is held at the gates on the 23rd of each month
in the early evening.
With the winter chill making my tummy rumble and my friend miss her warm couch, I called my better half and enticed him out (it took literally ‘hey, fancy a pint and a roast dinner?’) Settling back into the Gentleman Baristas – a repeat visit in a couple of hours isn’t weird, right? – I found a cozy corner and read a few chapters of my book.
Recieving the “I’m heeeeeere” message, I packed up my Kindle and made the 5 minute walk to The Royal Oak. It’s a little neighbourhood pub and makes one of the best roast dinners I’ve had in a very long time. We walked into an array of recently scraped clean plates, a crowd with satisfied looks on their faces and the cheery ‘Hiya!’ of the barmaid.
Just look at the size of those Yorkshire Puddings. They were as big as my face and crowned perfect roast potatoes. It was home made glory on a plate.
Note the instagram-husband body language of ‘when can I actually eat my dinner?’
That done and our bellies at full scoffing point, we eventually made our way home to cozy Pyjamas warming gently on the radiators and an episode or two of Green Wing. See, London winter perfection. Thank you Travelex for getting me back into my city. I needed that reminder of how fab our home is after leaving our recent sunshine holiday days.
(In case you were wondering, the day totalled approximately £35 per person – £15 for brunch, £0 Tate Modern entry, £6 on coffees, £0 confusing tourists, £15 for a hot Roast dinner + half a cider. We certainly could have done more Touristy stuff around London, or I could have gotten rid of my partner in crime, but really what is London without someone to laugh at art with? Using the currency card was super easy, and with the ability to store up to 10 different currencies, it is going to be a mainstay in my travel wallet!)
What are your favourite ways to spend a winter day in your city?