Saturday, February 7, 2015

A Long Weekend in London, Part 2

winter walk in Kensington Gardens

Winter walk in Kensington Gardens

Swan in Kensington Gardens

Kensington Gardens

A squirrel eating a cracker in Kensington Gardens

Kensington Palace gates

If you read the post entitled A Long Weekend in London, Part 1, then this one won't seem quite so out of leftville as if you haven't, but I'll fill in the blanks for you nonetheless.

A couple of weekends ago, the husband and I decided to head up to London for a long weekend, as not only do three of my best friends live up there, but it was also our wedding anniversary. If you're interested in what I got up to in the first two days, then please do head over and read the first installment, which went up last Tuesday, but today's post is to round off proceedings with a quick run-down of our final day and night.

Monday was our anniversary itself, so we got up bright and early, wanting to make the most of the day. After several cocktails and a fairly late night the evening before, we would have been forgiven for feeling a little bit hungover, but somehow, we had both managed to avoid that fate, and were raring to get out and about as soon as we could. The weather was still bitterly cold, so we wrapped up warm and headed out in the direction of Patisserie Valerie for a spot of breakfast. I had already looked it up on Citymapper and established that there was a branch fairly nearby, and after a quick stroll in the sunshine, we found ourselves outside.

Breakfast, at the weekends or on holiday, is my absolute favourite meal of the day, and I eagerly went ahead and ordered my favourite - Eggs Royale, to be washed down with a pot of English Breakfast tea. The husband plumped for the Full English, and as we waited for the food to arrive, we chatted about our plans for the rest of the day. 

The food arrived quickly, and certainly didn't disappoint. Mine was served on brioche instead of the usual English muffin, and suffice to say, I'm an absolute convert! All Eggs Royale should be served like this from now on, and I'll be very disappointed if it isn't. We ate quickly, enjoying every bite, and treated ourselves to a slice of lemon cheesecake to share. Granted, it wasn't quite lunchtime, but if you've ever visited Patisserie Valerie yourselves then you'll know how impossible it is to resist. That, coupled with the fact that it was a special occasion, somehow made it an acceptable choice, and a delicious one, at that.

Once we were suitably fed and watered, we paid the bill and headed outside, meandering through Queensway in the direction of Kensington Gardens. It was a beautiful day for a stroll, and as we were heading towards Kensington anyway, it would have been rude not to go via the park. There were ducks, geese and other birds all over the grass, and given the proximity to some royal digs, the obligatory swan sunning itself on the lake. Rather than cutting straight across the gardens, we decided to have a little bit of a nose at Kensington Palace itself, though we didn't go in, content to observe from the outside. The squirrels were remarkably tame, and we were surprised to see how close they would edge to the people around them, in hope of a few crumbs. We even saw one that was so unafraid, it was taking pieces of cracker from a woman's hand and casually perching to eat them nearby. Incredible!

After we were done with the gardens, we went for a long walk, via Knightsbridge, until we arrived at the Science Museum. We spent a couple of hours wandering round inside, as though I had been before some years ago, my husband never had. One of the things I really love about London is the sheer number of cultural and educational activities you have right on your doorstep, but better than that, the fact that many of them are absolutely free to partake in.

By the time we left the museum, it must have been nearly four, and conscious that we had a special meal booked for early that evening and that we'd need to get ready, we decided to take the tube back to Bayswater. Before returning to the hotel, we stopped off for a drink or two in a pub along the way, and were astonished to find that drinks were half the price than anywhere else we'd been! I wish I had taken note of the name, as although it was a little bit tired looking, it's places like this that can make expensive weekends away that little bit more doable. I'm going to try to find out, and if I do, I'll be sure to share it with you.

A couple of games of pool later, we were still in the pub, and it soon became apparent that we wouldn't have time to go back and change before our meal. Instead, we decided to make the most of the situation and have another drink, before getting the tube to Piccadilly and making our way to the restaurant. We were lucky enough to be going to Gaucho, an upmarket Argentinian steak house, after a work colleague had very kindly donated me a £50 voucher he had been given, and as soon as we arrived, we wished we had found the time to go back to the hotel and spruce ourselves up a bit. Usually, we'd never go out for a meal without making the effort, so we felt a bit silly to have made such a faux pas on this occasion!

While we were studying the menu, a waitress appeared with a board bearing several cuts of raw meat, and proceeded to explain each one to us in a bid to help us in making our selection. In the end, we both opted for rare sirloin steaks, with sides of roasted field mushrooms and baked sweet potatoes.
The steaks on their own were around the £25 mark each, with side dishes charged at £5 each and drinks costing around a tenner, so it certainly isn't a cheap option, but given that we had our voucher in hand, we were fairly relaxed in treating ourselves.

The steaks were superb - there's no other word for them. I'm not the hugest fan of red meat, and it's very rare that I select it when given the choice, but having tried steak Gaucho style, I'm absolutely a convert. Yes, they're expensive, but you definitely get what you pay for. The restaurant itself looks impeccable, and the service was outstanding - I've never had better.

We were keen to enjoy the evening after our meal, but were conscious that we had a long coach journey home the next morning. I'm not sure whether I mentioned this before, but while travelling by bus takes a fair while longer than train, it's also a great deal cheaper. I doubt this is news to the majority of you, but for anyone wondering, you're looking at £30 return versus £95 on the train. Given the choice, I'd go for the train every time, as it gets you there in 3hrs 40 rather than the five and a half on the coach, but when you're paying for two it does tend to bump the cost of a weekend away up much further than I'd like. So, on this occasion, we went for the cheaper option.

As we were nearby, we made our way to Soho, which is only a short walk from Piccadilly on foot. Our luck was in, as we managed to find a couple of bars - including Gem - which had half price cocktails on offer, so we sipped our way through a couple each before admitting defeat and getting the last tube back to the hotel.

All in all, we had a fantastic weekend, and definitely squeezed the most out of it we could. A long weekend in London is never enough though, and I'm certain we will be back for more, very soon indeed.

You might have noticed that I haven't included any evening photos here, which is largely down to the fact that I didn't want to carry my good camera around at night, so I'll be popping up a few of my Instagram and phone photos over the weekend of anything you haven't seen yet.

What are your favourite things to do in London?


1 comment:

  1. That squirrel picture is fab! I went to Gaucho (City - by Bank of England) a few years back and yes, it wasn't cheap, but oh my god the steak was melt in the mouth! We both said afterwards we didn't really need the sides, the steak was quite enough on it's own! I loved the interior too, kind of dark with cow hide seats, but somehow very sleek and classy too.


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