This week I am back in London, my beautiful hometown. Having been away for almost all of the past 10 months and living away for university for almost three years now, I have begun to seriously realise I shouldn’t take this amazing city for granted even though I’ve lived there (well, 30 minutes away) all my life! This summer, my aim is to really explore London properly, so that when I tell people I’m from London, I really feel like a Londoner. Since I have almost everything I need in terms of shopping closer to home, I really don’t think I went into London enough when I was at school – it was only £2 for a WHOLE DAY of London-based travelling before I was 16 and I really don’t know why I didn’t make the most of it. I hope to work here this summer so I can really get to know more of the ins and outs of the centre.
Today, my Mum and I went for Soho. The leafy parks and squares contrast beautifully with the stunning and colourful architecture in this vibrant neighbourhood full of foodie options, so many packed into the tight Soho streets that make it almost impossible to choose. Theatregoers would do well to grab a bite in one of the restaurants or cafés here before heading to the theatres nearby at Piccadilly Circus (or even Soho’s own quaint theatre, a perfect venue for a smaller and more intimate show). It’s the perfect area to start for a wander in the sun before heading on to Oxford Street, Covent Garden, St James’s or anywhere that takes your fancy. Here’s a small itinerary for the day:
A short walk North from Piccadilly tube station and you’ll reach Soho’s Golden Square. The pretty buildings around the open centre create a calm and relaxed atmosphere and it looks lovely in the morning sun. Stop here for a pastry and a cake!
Nestled in Golden Square, Nordic Bakery offers an abundant choice of Scandinavian delicacies perfect for breakfast or a mid-morning snack. Maybe try the Oven Pancake (same batter but a thicker, more cakey result, lovely with honey or jam), the cinnamon roll, the rye bread or the other savoury snacks. The décor is simple but the food is divine.
The Photographer’s Gallery
A 5-minute walk away is The Photographer’s Gallery, in fact London’s largest venue dedicated exclusively to photography, dedicated to the promotion of photography as an art-form, finding new and also established photographers to display their work and also organising talks and events. The gallery is currently displaying the shortlisted series’ for the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize, showcasing the work of international photographers. My personal favourite was a project by French photographer Sophie Calle, presenting a series relating to the death of her parents and cat to create a narrative on memory and relationships.
On a third floor was an exhibition of British photography by Roger Mayne, documenting the lives of children and teenagers across London, Sheffield, Nottingham, Leeds and Yorkshire. This was an impactful series, with the black and white photographs capturing well the lives of those living in these areas in the 50s and 60s, giving a powerful insight on a snapshot of Britain’s past. Downstairs is a print gallery and shop where you can buy prints, books and postcards as a souvenir of the visit. This gallery is free to enter before midday everyday, so it is absolutely worth a look.
It was lucky I had already decided on a place for lunch as it would have been very hard to choose! Poké is a Hawaiian specialty consisting of fresh sushi-style fish, vegetables, rice, fruit and dressing. I see it as a kind of deconstructed sushi as it uses many of the same flavours to create a rainbow bowl of lunchtime goodness. You can create your own or try one of the classic bowls: salmon with lemon dressing, edamame, mango, sushi rice, crispy toppings and spring onions, or tuna with sesame dressing, pineapple, wakame seaweed, sushi rice, crispy toppings and spring onions. They were both so fresh and delicious and the perfect choice for a lunch on the go – so perfect that the queue was right out the door!
Carnaby Street / Liberty of London
It’s nice to take a short wander down Carnaby Street whilst in the area for the street decorations and feeling of peace from the Oxford and Regent Street crowds. At the end of the street you reach the large Liberty of London department store – an interesting one to visit even if it’s over budget!
If you’re in the mood for some proper shopping, head back to Piccadilly or towards Oxford Circus along the bustling Regent Street. Huge versions of famous chain stores such as Apple or Anthropologie line this street for a large-scale shopping experience that is slightly less busy than the nearby Oxford Street.
St James’s Square
In search of a calm contrast after Regent Street, head down to St James’s Square for a tranquil green oasis. I think this is one of the most beautiful squares in London, and the blossom of spring just makes it look even better. I’d love to have my lunch on the grass here if I worked nearby, it’s so lovely how many calm places there are in the middle of the city.
St James’s Park
A little further ahead and you’ll reach St James’s Park, another calm haven for lunch or a relaxing break. It’s big enough for a substantial wander around, across the bridge over the lake or round the edge of the park across the paths and lawns. The flowers are so beautiful and well-kept – again, it’s another great place to visit just as we head into spring!
When you feel ready to head back into the crowds again, where better than Westminster Bridge to cross towards Waterloo. If you can see past all the people (it’s times like these I’m thankful I’m so tall!) you have great views across the Thames towards the London Eye or the other way towards Westminster.
This was just a short trip but as I mentioned, it’s so easy to continue on from here to virtually anywhere in central London on foot or on the tube. You could pop across to Trafalgar Square and visit The National Gallery, head on into Covent Garden or wander down along South Bank – the options are endless and that’s what I love about London! I can’t wait to continue this series and fall even more in love with my hometown ❤
As always, suggestions and your thoughts are welcome!