A few weeks ago, I ended up in London for a quick stopover, to attend some meetings for work. In between my job duties I had a little bit of time to walk around, explore some familiar and new places, and eat! Here’s a summary of the brief free time I spent, in one of my favorite cities.
London is a city with many fantastic hotels, and had it been for my personal travel, I probably would have opted to stay at either Brown’s or The Connaught, (or The Berkeley, even though I don’t find the location ideal, I have a soft spot for it since it was where we got engaged!). Alas, my corporate travel budget guidelines didn’t seem to agree with me (by a long shot), so instead I found myself smack dab in the West End, at a little hotel called the Thistle Piccadilly.
I later learned that Thistle was actually a chain, with locations all over the city. I loved the location of mine – it was really right in the middle of the West End, and there were posters for Stomp! and The Book of Mormon all over the place. It was fun to see people walking to go to their shows.
The hotel and room itself were fine and serviceable. I was given what I think was actually one of the worst in the place – a very small room with no view, and even that was spacious enough for one (and probably two, if you’re used to European hotel sizes).
I was quite disappointed with the breakfast- I ordered room service once morning and it was lackluster. I love big breakfast spreads, especially in Europe, so was let down. I ended up going next door to Pret my next morning.
However, if you are looking for a clean, no frills but well located hotel and the Thistle is available at a good price, I could definitely recommend it.
My first evening in London, I took a walk around the immediate neighborhood. I stepped outside the hotel, took a left, and about a minute of walking later, I was in Chinatown! I always have liked London Chinatown but honestly more for just a walk rather than to eat – living in the Bay Area, I’ve been spoiled for inexpensive options for Chinese food.
About a five minute walk from Chinatown later, I was at one of my new favorite stops in London – Paul A. Young Fine chocolates. I came to London with a mission to find some new great chocolate shops, and this definitely was my favorite find!
Inside the shop was a huge display of truffles, as well as bars and hot chocolate.
I picked up a few chocolates to try, but what I fell in love with were the brownies. Whoa. The best brownies I have ever had, and if you are in London, I would definitely recommend a stop! There are several locations in the city.
I bought a few extra to take home (the shop assured me of a two week shelf life).
After one of my pit stops at Paul A. Young, I ended up walking a little bit further – to meet my dinner date for the night, the wonderful J – who you may know as Wanderlustgal. J suggested that we meet at Yauatcha for dinner, a new restaurant for me.
When I arrived, I was a little confused – simply because there were so many delicious pastries in the window!
However, once we stepped inside, we were in a full blown restaurant, with two floors of seating. I had Googled Yauatcha on the way to the restaurant, and read that it specialized in “high end dim-sum”. And that was exactly what it was – delicate dim sum with delicious flavors and beautiful presentation.
I loved it our meal. I can imagine Yauatcha satisfying almost all palates and it was a very fun experience. However, if you’re used to “regular” dim sum prices, I’d prepare yourself – Yauatcha trended about 2-3X higher.
Afterwards, J suggested that we walk down to the W for drinks. I had never been to the W in London – I generally find W’s to be either fun with great food, or slightly beat up and looking like the property was in the middle of a week long rave. The London location luckily was the former, and the bar was great.
J and I shared some drinks and dessert, and then I headed home.
The next day, I had several meetings all over, so hopped on the Tube. I am a public transportation lover (and a very reluctant car driver), so anytime I’m in a city with good public transport – I appreciate it!
Whenever I could walk from meeting to meeting, I did. London is so beautiful, with so many wonderful sights just hiding around the corner. I think anyone who experiences this city only from a passing car is missing out!
That evening, after a long day of meetings and exploring London at the same time, I had dinner with one of our friends at a local tapas restaurant, Barrafina. Barrafina was only another five minute walk from my hotel, and it was delicious! The only negative part of the experience? No reservations…but you can order food to snack on, while you wait.
After about an hour (standing by the way, so ladies in heels beware), we were seated and proceeded to have some wonderful tapas! Some of my favorite dishes of the night, below.
The next morning, I packed up my bags and that was the end of my stopover in London – in total, something like 40 hours. I cabbed it over to the Eurostar (my advice: if the difference in less than 15 pounds, spring for premium economy but business generally isn’t worth it), and started the journey to Paris.
Thank you for reading along my little trip to London – next time, I’ll be showing you some of my stay in Paris!