Europe Travel

Stopover in London

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.

Thistle Outside

I later learned that Thistle was actually a chain, with locations all over the city. I loved the location of mine Β – 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.

London West End

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).

Thistle Bed

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.

Thistle Breakfast

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.

Chinatown

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!

Paul Young Outside

Inside the shop was a huge display of truffles, as well as bars and hot chocolate.

Truffles

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.

Paul Young treats

I bought a few extra to take home (the shop assured me of a two week shelf life).

Paul A. Young Brownie

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.

Yauatcha

When I arrived, I was a little confused – simply because there were so many delicious pastries in the window!

Yautcha 2

Yauatcha treats

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.

dimsum

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.

W Hotel

J and I shared some drinks and dessert, and then I headed home.

drinks at W

The next Β 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!

Tube

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!

London Scenes

Big Ben

westminster abbey

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.

Barrafina in

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.

barrafina2

Barrafina dish

barrafina1

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.

eurostar

Thank you for reading along my little trip to London – next time, I’ll be showing you some of my stay in Paris!

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  • Travel&Lust
    March 10, 2014 at 9:09 am

    Glad you enjoyed London. There is so much to do and see. When staying in London, the Shoreditch district on the East End of London is very good for commuting and the place is full of sights!

    • Katherine
      March 10, 2014 at 9:07 pm

      Thank you! I’ll have to add that next time!

  • laura
    March 10, 2014 at 9:17 am

    Ahhh London – I love that city. And I also have a die hard love for all things Pret… bwahaha. We may be there in September so thanks for the recs!

    • Katherine
      March 10, 2014 at 9:07 pm

      Pret forever! Smoked salmon is my favorite πŸ™‚

  • Tabitha
    March 10, 2014 at 10:41 am

    How fab is The Blue Bar? I used to see Bryan Ferry there all the time and The Berkeley still goes down as comfiest pillows in a hotel ever in my book!

    • Katherine
      March 10, 2014 at 9:05 pm

      I’ve never been to the Blue Bar! Do I need to add it on my list? I almost never go to hotel bars in London/Paris especially if not on biz travel. The only one I’d been to in London was the one at the MO? I think that serves food and now this time the W!

  • Revanche
    March 10, 2014 at 11:10 am

    What a great stopover! I’ve been trying to arrange a day’s stay in London at either end of our other travel later this year. I have a great fish and chips place on my list from the last time I was there but love these other possibilities.

    • Katherine
      March 10, 2014 at 9:00 pm

      Do Barrafina! And fish and chips should never be skipped πŸ™‚

  • alison*elle
    March 10, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    You packed quite a bit into your stopover – even with all the meetings! All that food looks DELICIOUS… though I am slightly appalled at how small that breakfast is. It looks positively tiny or perhaps that plate is gigantic? Can’t wait to see Paris next πŸ™‚

    xo, alison*elle

    • Katherine
      March 10, 2014 at 8:59 pm

      Thanks Alison! Yes that breakfast was teeny tiny! I would not recommend it (unless free with room, lol).

  • a
    March 11, 2014 at 10:27 am

    Wow, such wonderful restaurants! Thanks for sharing. Eurostar Business isn’t worth it, you’re right. It’s more spacious than economy and the people are generally less rowdy, but is it worth the price? Last time I was in the Eurostar, the cabin was quite old. Their premium economy sounds promising. I’m so impressed you were able to work, socialize, and explore that much of London in 40 hours!

    Have fun in Paris!

    • Katherine
      March 11, 2014 at 10:22 pm

      Thank you a! Premium Economy is worth it if you can get it for a deal, especially during busy periods as you’re guaranteed a certain amount of space – especially useful if you have luggage!

  • Mel
    March 12, 2014 at 2:23 am

    Dear Katherine, looks like lot of nice time in London and now in Paris!!!

    For your next stay in London, check out my favorite hotel: http://www.guoman.com/en/hotels/united_kingdom/london/the_cumberland/rooms_and_suites/index.html

    Extra plus: AMAZING breakfast! I only (over-)eat breakfast when I am in Hotels! At home I tend to have ”french” style breakfast: coffee & croissant only… πŸ™‚

    It is a very convenient place to stay, very modern, and has very spacious rooms.

    Can’t wait for your post from my beloved Paris!

    Warm regards,
    Mel

    • Katherine
      March 12, 2014 at 3:17 pm

      That’s a wonderful looking hotel and looks like it might even fall into my corporate suggested rate πŸ™‚ Thank you!

  • bisbee
    March 12, 2014 at 4:38 am

    I am going to Paris and London in May – first time visit to Europe! Any recommendations for what to do and where to eat would be appreciated – we have 4 days in Paris and 2 in London. I have Rick Steves’ books, hotels booked, some plans, but you and your readers seem to have so much experience, I’d love some help!

    Thanks so much in advance…can’t wait!

    • Katherine
      March 12, 2014 at 3:18 pm

      Hi bisbee, I love Rick Steves! I think most of my suggestions will be covered on entries either already published or coming up πŸ™‚

  • a
    March 12, 2014 at 10:34 am

    Oh Katherine, I wish I’m in Paris! I look forward to your Paris updates!

    I also stayed at the Radisson Seven Dials in London, close to the theaters, pubs, and Chinatown. Also close to supermarkets and cafes. It was like a 4-star business, yet trendy hotel, but not too crazy expensive for London standards. I liked staying there better than the Four Seasons.

    I also found the cabs in central London to not be too expensive, central being the operative word. Under 10 pounds for a 5-10 minute ride. Sometimes the Tube might take double or triple amount of time. Just depends on your preference.

  • a
    March 12, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Cafe Royal Hotel in London is also a place I’d like to try. When I was there last time, it was still being renovated. It was the hub for cafe society. Oscar Wilde as well as other artists and celebrities used to hang out there.

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