A week ago today (wow how time flies), I tootled off to London with my mum, brother and grandma ready for a hectic weekend celebrating my 21st birthday. It certainly was hectic; upon arriving at the ridiculously humid Victoria Coach Station (seriously, it was like stepping off a plane and as a Northerner, I aren’t used to that heat!), we never stopped and it certainly took its toll on me as I’ve done nothing but feel shattered since I came home. Unfortunately I didn’t get to see ALL the sights I mentioned in my pre London post such as Camden Town, Southbank, Tower Bridge, and the whole of Hyde Park (because lets face it, you’d need more like a week for that) but of what I did see, I can say I officially fell in love.
I learnt some valuable tourist lessons whilst braving the crowds through the city centre and realised just how different it is to the every day life I’m used to. 1) Nobody drives in a calm, reasonable manner. 2) You cannot risk crossing the road without the green man as the cars won’t stop and you will get run over. 3) You need to be a millionaire to eat there, get taxis, and pay for macaroons in Ladurée (£70 for a large box, what?!). 4) No matter how big you think your camera lens is, someone else will come along and take your place (mainly the Chinese tourists, I idolise their photography passion!). 5) Oxford Street is lethal to your bank balance. 6) You can’t talk in a friendly manner to strangers like you do back home, as they will just respond with a blunt facial expression. 7) London west end musicals are the best kind of musicals. 8) Walking the entire route of London: Oxford Street to Regent Street, to Carnaby, to Piccadilly Circus, to Trafalgar Square, to Covent Garden, to Westminster and then Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace the next day is never a good idea (think of aching, sore feet and back complete with exhaustion and times it by ten, that’s how I felt). 9) Not everything always goes to plan, especially in some stingy, weird, desolate club (my birthday night out was a disaster). 10) The entertainers painted like statues scattered around the centre will float in mid air and the trick will baffle you for the rest of your stay.
Despite how busy it was, I can honestly say I thoroughly enjoyed myself and I’m glad I chose to go over for my 21st as it was a great way to spend time and was different from the usual surroundings I’m stuck with. Everything is so pretty and picture worthy over there, I love how quirky the buildings are and the smaller, individual parts that capture your attention. I love how as you look around, everyone and everything is different, which is why this post contains an extremely heavy picture load (I will apologise now before I crack on).
When we arrived at our hotel (the Corus Hotel Hyde Park, I would seriously recommend it, especially the quad rooms for families), we were greeted by gorgeous, classy decor, a huge fluffy dressing gown each, and a box of chocolates which was truly appreciated after a long and draining 4 hour journey on the coach. I’m so happy we discovered this hotel and managed to get a good deal after our ridiculously stressful ordeal of finding a decent hotel with reasonable prices in London. We all had an extremely pleasant, relaxing stay (the beds were beyond comfy!) and I think the comfort definitely added to the contentment of our weekend (trust me, I was so worried that we’d end up somewhere we hated!).
Once we’d unpacked, settled in, and indulged in a well needed cuppa, we headed off to the cutest Italian restaurant just around the corner from where we were staying. The food was insanely good, I had to scrap my diet for the weekend (we went back and ate there on Saturday evening too) because once I start on the Italian food, I can’t stop. I’m a sucker for pizza, pasta, bread, and chicken dishes and although my jelly belly doesn’t like them, I certainly do. Anyway, it was nice to treat myself after so long.
Now for the biggy and admittedly, my most favourite part. After our meal, we made a beeline for the dainty Victoria Palace Theatre for the almighty Billy Elliot The Musical. All I can say is, wow. That show made me feel every emotion possible from start to finish. I was pretty shocked by how talented such young people can be. Every single member of the cast did a fantastic job of telling the story in the form of music and dance and the humour twist they put on it worked superbly (I laughed pretty much the whole way through, as well as holding back a few tears). I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t know to what extent it’d reach. I can honestly say it ticked all the boxes, it was amazingly performed and I had a whale of a time!
Afterwards, we got back to the hotel around 11pm. Of course, we were ready for a long snooze, but everyone had to stay up till midnight to wish (or sing rather) a happy birthday to me. I took centre stage for 20 minutes or so and opened all my cards and gifts of which were all lovely and thoughtful (a birthday present and birthday haul post will be live soon!). It was a nice start to my birthday, I felt appreciated and loved (and old) and couldn’t wait to get started on the day ahead.
As you can most likely see, Saturday was when the craziness started. To begin with, we woke up bright and early and took a stroll back down Paddington to see if there was anywhere we could eat. With it being a Saturday, nearly every cafe was chock-a and it took us a good 5-10 minutes (and a near fall in the middle of the road by yours truly) to reach a small shop that not only sold International Deli Foods, but also served up cheap but cheerful full English breakfasts. Once again, I treated myself; this time to a big birthday breakfast (but I didn’t feel as guilty with the amount of calories we must have burnt that day), and even the kind owner of the shop gave me a free piece of cake as it was my birthday (I think my breakfast moment was the only moment I didn’t get on camera).
When we’d been fed and watered, our fun packed day began. As soon as we stepped on to Oxford Street to start our few hours shopping before we headed for the famous sights, I knew what kind of day it would be. I think I blew most of my birthday money on the first few shops (seriously, it was bad idea bringing me shopping, especially to the shops we don’t have here in Leeds!). As I proudly wore my 21 badge, I got a few quick glances, some stronger stares, and even a seductively spoken “happy birthday” from a rather attractive, tanned skinned foreign man in the Lacoste shop (I felt pretty privileged at that moment in time). Once the shopping was done, we stopped and soaked up the landmarks of London. This gave me the perfect opportunity to capture the atmosphere, and maybe too much of an opportunity to go overboard, especially when all shapes and sizes of a nudist nature club came cycling down Trafalgar Square stark naked (I didn’t include pictures of that because saggy bums isn’t a sight I’d like to see on my blog *insert laughing emoji here*).
The background setting near the most recognisable sights was one of my most admired scenes. Although the wind picked up once we hit the River Thames, it was so therapeutic and soothing to just unwind and favour the simple pleasures of the small details you could pick out, even from a distance. Big Ben (or Elizabeth Tower it’s now known by) was even more fetching in person. Hearing the dong once the clock struck every half hour felt like I was on ITV News (no joke). Our last and most pointless journey was the walk to try and find Buckingham Palace (seriously, why is nothing sign posted in such a huge city?!). We got sent/took the wrong way a dozen times and in the end, after vigorous sighs of tired breaths, we gave it up as a bad job and went back to the hotel (which was the correct decision to make as on our way back, we found out it was miles away!)
Me and my mum did not have the slightest bit of energy to get ready to go out but we did anyway, to just then be sat with around 10 other people in a dull club watching Tom (Parker, the person we’d gone to see) watch the England game with his friends and partner, when he was supposed to be performing and DJ’ing. It was a waste of time and money, and to be honest I wished we’d have stayed back at the hotel with my grandma and brother, cozying up in the luxurious beds with Custard Creams, nodding off whilst England lose. That kind of bliss would have been more suited to me! Not the greatest end to my birthday, but nice to see his face again, even if we didn’t actually see it (if that makes sense).
Finally, the next morning we continued with our early routine. Went for breakfast, got asked by the same man whether I had a nice birthday (bless!) and then went back to the hotel to finish off packing our stuff up ready for checkout at 12. Before checkout time, we thought we’d wander off to Hyde Park (well what we thought was Hyde Park) as it was dead opposite our hotel. Only, that turned out to be Kensington Gardens and the main area of Hyde Park was nowhere near. We tried to walk a little to find the location but our legs were borderline dead so we headed back. I was gutted I’d not seen the park but I was also very tired from the delightful weekend activities I was entirely grateful for. Plus, on the way back I came across a number of artists displaying their unique work which was lovely and uplifting. As we couldn’t find Buckingham Palace on Saturday, we took a cab down as soon as we’d left the hotel and spent a good hour there before we had to leave for our coach. The weather was awful, completely different from what it was like 2 days before, but that didn’t stop me from admiring the beauty that was her majesty’s accommodation. The structure was stunning, as were the golden gates, the statues and the blossomed gardens aside from the building itself. The place being surrounded by British flags made me feel quite patriotic, but I did think the queen should have allowed us in for a classic cup of tea after all the hard work it took to get there! We finished off with another 4 1/2 hour coach home. I was right about the sleeping, I cat napped for most of the journey and felt pretty rough but it was worth it for sure!
Have you ever been to London? Or even better, do you lucky folk live there/visit regularly? Everything seems to happen in the capital and I guess that’s a good thing and a bad thing, but what I do know is that it’s a somewhat spectacular place.
I hope I didn’t bore you too much with my rambling! Keep an eye out for a follow up birthday post concentrating on my gifts and what I spent my money on. Have a lovely weekend!