Friday, September 28, 2012

England - London (otherwise known as, the city of amazing food and over-excitement)

I was rather pleased to read some of the comments on my last post, which suggested that I put aside my efforts at containing excitement and let my enthusiasm for London bubble over. 

Readers, it may be bubbling.

Just off Trafalgar Square

I love England. I have never lived there outside of infancy, and appreciate that visiting somewhere, even if for extended intervals, is not the same as living and working there. Nonetheless - I love it. I love London particularly. Our approach to Gatwick Airport on Sunday afternoon, over oh-so-green fields, saw me leaning over Mr Bite to peer out the window in glee.

Moving through passport control on my British passport, and then onto a train to London Bridge, saw me smile even more widely, despite the cold and rainy weather. We timed our visit to coincide with England's wettest autumn in 30 years, and some parts of the country received 6 months worth of rainfall in 24 hours. A wet 12'C was certainly a shock after the sunshine of Spain and Portugal, but it wasn't enough to dampen our enthusiasm.

Canary Wharf by day

Our London accommodation, another apartment (the smallest to date, given London being London!), was at Canary Wharf. We picked the location primarily because the apartment was there, but it proved to be a wonderful place to stay. 

After sleeping in a loft in Madrid, we got to sleep in a magical trundle bed in London

The high rise office buildings were offset by the wharfs and docks, there were great transport connections, and underneath the tube and Docklands Light Rail stations was a sprawling shopping complex with just about everything you could possibly need or want.

Looking out from Canary Wharf at night

Including, to my complete and utter joy, a whole heap of food.

Itsu snacks...note the chocolate coated edamame beans!

There were cafes and restaurants and supermarkets galore, including lots and lots of coffee shops, where I could place my order in English and know what I was ordering; multiple frozen yoghurt shops; multiple vegetarian-friendly cafes and restaurants; and multiple Asian-inspired shops, including Itsu, with its wonderful range of snack foods and a great vegetarian-friendly main menu.

More Itsu snacks...

There was also a Marks and Spencer's food hall, which is possibly my first English food love. They have the most wonderful salads and wraps and fruit and I could eat them almost endlessly without getting bored.

Sorry about the photo quality...edamame bean salad with chilli and coriander dressing

Figs (Turkish rather than British, I must admit...), plums, apples...

To top everything off, there was a Waitrose supermarket of Amazingness.

I hyperventilated in Waitrose.

So many new-to-me products!

And plain, tart frozen yoghurt that one could take home!

And lookee the wasabi chocolate!

When I found their vegan and raw food aisle, I nearly lost all capacity to speak.

Raw vegan chocolate truffles!
And raw vegan chocolate bites!
And vegan flax crackers of wonderful flavours!

Mr Bite decided, sensibly, to leave me at the shops whilst I toured and giggled inwardly and took photos and bought so much food (details will have to come in a separate post). He went to our apartment to read up on results from the Western Australian Football League grand final, which his (and thus my) team won for the second year in a row. All in all, therefore, it was a great afternoon for us both :-)

We ate at home that first night, drawing on some of the food purchased earlier in the afternoon - a Waitrose cheese and onion pastie for Mr Bite, a Marks and Spencer's 'nutty grain and vegetable salad' for me (quinoa with lentils and almonds and vegetables, plus a soy and ginger dressing), and asparagus and carrot for us both.


The next day, I managed to shift my focus away from food and onto the city as a whole. It is, of course, a wonderful city.

We spent some time in the City area of London, which includes Chancery Lane and the Inns of Court. These are featured in the 16th century books of C. J. Sansom, which I read and loved over the last year. It was rather fun walking the streets he refers to, and history drips from every corner.

We also went up Monument, on the edge of the City, which was built to commemorate the Great Fire of London in 1666. It has 311 spiral steps to the top, and good views from the top.

Good views were also to be found from the new Emirates Air Line cable car, which crosses the River Thames.

Cable cars as seen from below...

This is actually the third cable car we have done on this trip (!), but we were very glad we did it. It beat the Madrid and Porto ones in length and views and even in price, as if you have a London Oyster (travel) card it costs only slightly more than a standard ride on the tube.

...and in the air.

London also saw us visit the Wellcome Trust Collection, a small, free museum of medical history and curiosities, and the Churchill War Rooms, part of the London Imperial War Museum. I am not usually very enthused by war museums, but would wholeheartedly recommend the Churchill one. The War Rooms were the headquarters for WWII operations and are located underneath the government and prime ministerial buildings in Westminster. They are set up as they were then and provided a great insight into WWII.

As Mr Bite had never been (I don't know how), we did an additional, brief museum stop at the Science Museum. It is far too big to see in brief, but entertained us for an hour and whetted Mr B's interest for a proper visit in the future. To our amusement, a heat imaging camera also provided confirmation that my hands are dead with regard to circulation. They radiated no heat whatsoever.

Note the person with blue hands...

Our final day in London was spent as a day trip to Rye, in East Sussex, to see my grandparents. It is an incredibly quaint town, and one that is so quintessentially English it sometimes doesn't feel real.

We are now in York and I see my posts becoming more and more belated as our last week of holiday and honeymoon stretches ahead of us. I plan to spend the next week soaking up every minute of this country, and hopefully not too much of its rain!

Do you have a country or city that you love above all else?


  1. You're going to collapse when you get to America and Whole Foods, my dear. Lovely to hear/read your joy! :)

    1. You know, funnily enough, when I was in the US in 2008 I liked but didn't love Whole Foods. I'm still not sure why. I may get more excited now (changing tastes and all that), but perhaps I'm just UK biased. I do like the Kensington one but still prefer M&S for some reason :P

  2. Hi Kari,
    I've been following your adventures, but not commenting - busy as over here - I'm so glad you're having a good time. The scenery looks amazing!
    xx Liz N

  3. I adore London - thanks for taking me back virtually.

  4. Great to see your views of london - I lived there 6 months and never saw half of what I would have liked but I am amazed how little of your sightseeing overlaps with mine. It all looks like places I would love to visit, if only I went back through london (though one part of london I can't stand is heathrow airport so am less likely to stopover there)

    I did of course go to waitrose and m&s when I lived in the UK but they were not everyday treats - though I particularly miss m&s here - but I relish the local fruit and veg available in Melbourne compared to the UK. Your photos of the food aisles look fascinating - British food has always delighted me because it is quite clear what is vegetarian - though I wasn't sure that the same applied to vegan food - I suspect this might be a more recent change

    1. I think if / when I live in England, M&S and Waitrose will become occasional stops too! Fortunately, the current exchange rate means they aren't any more expensive than regular food in Australia, but they are rather luxury compared to regular supermarkets. They do seem to be much, much more vegan friendly than when I was last year, although as I wasn't vegan last time I haven't been sure how much is new and how much is me noticing. I don't remember seeing vegan dishes in cafes though and now there are some. It's been rather wonderful in that regard!

  5. That's a great post, Kari. I love London too but it's so long since I was last there. It has everything going for it except weather! Love the look of all those things you can buy from that supermarket. What a great find for you xx

    1. The weather is a little challenging, but it does make the sunny days that much more special!

  6. oh my goodness i've always wanted to go to london! i always wished i had one of their cute little accents too. :) that food there, yea, just another reason i MUST go there. i'd come back broke, fat, and with a very poorly imitation of their cute

    1. Bahaha...well, if nothing else, there are plenty of Londoners with accents not exactly English, so you'd probably fit in with an American twang too :P

  7. I LOVE that you are so excited! AND why wouldn't you be - chocolate edamame?! YES please. Wow all those raw vegan treats look amazing. I think I would like those beetroot crackers!

    I've never been to London - Viper used to live there, and couldn't get over the GREY weather - he needs sunshine to thrive (as do I) BUT it looks like a great (super interesting!) place to visit. Love OLD places, all that history.

    My feet/hands would be BLUE on that camera too - I have the WORST circulation ;)

    1. I didn't know Viper lived in London - how fun. The history really is amazing (and yes, the food!!). If you thrive on sun, then Australia is definitely a better spot though :) Despite my poor circulation I don't much like the heat, so I kind of survive.

  8. How wonderful that you are having such an amazing time! It is really great to *LOVE* the places you spend so much money getting to, and that you have looked forward to so much! Grocery stores in other countries are my favourite part of travelling!

    1. Me too Theresa - they are so much fun to explore :) Definitely worth the travel!

  9. It looks like you are having such a fantastic time! I've never been to the UK and would really love to travel there one day. It must be so much fun finding different food in the stores, I could spend hours doing that!

  10. we were in London last year and I absolutely LOVED it! I was amazed at how much good food, shopping and cute neighborhoods there were everywhere we went!

    1. It is such an amazing city, isn't it? The shopping and neighbourhoods are definitely up there with the food as highlights!

  11. Oh so beautiful! The food packages with the half naked people are a little stange... I think I would have to really like their product to buy those. But otherwise, that grocery store looks wonderful.. my man would never leave me alone in a place like that as I would spend FAR too much money!

    1. You know, I was so excited by the contents of those food packages that I completely missed seeing the half naked people :P I think it says something for Mr B's desire *not* to spend an hour in the supermarket that he left me there!

  12. I just love Paris, it really is a perfect city for me I think. But I'm pretty sure if I had longer there Buenos Aires would give it a run for its money. However we only spent 3 days there with a very sick friend in tow so didn't really experience it as we should have. I'm so glad London lived up to your expectations.

    1. I have never been to Buenos Aires so you have me intrigued - I shall have to visit. I also need to re-visit Paris as I have only been for 3 days at age 14!

  13. To my amazement the driver was at the terminal - waiting patiently nearly 3 hours later! The driver was not only professional, but friendly and understanding. It was a relief after being in a most unpleasant line to get into the country. Taxi Heathrow Airport

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