In early January 2019, I was blessed with three days in England to visit family. On one of those days, I hopped on a train and went to London with my niece, Pippa. London is one of my favorite places in the world and I really didn’t think that I would have the opportunity to visit it on this brief trip. I was thrilled when Pippa asked me to join her for a day trip.
We left mid-morning and arrived in London around lunch time. The first stop was Covent Garden, a covered mall filled with unique shops and restaurants. Although it is very famous, I had not previously visited Covent Garden on my trips to London. We poked around in the shops; a wide variety of both high-end and quirky specialty stores. We spent quite a bit of time in Miller Harris, a fragrance shop. I wasn’t taken by any of the scents, but I loved that they had a collection named after the novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald. The bibliophile in me, nearly opened my wallet! It was a bonus that Covent Garden was still decorated for Christmas. As we were walking around, we heard an amazing voice and discovered an opera singer busking. It added an element of magic to start our day in London.
We were feeling parched, but it seemed in poor taste to start drinking alcohol before lunch, so we stopped for tea at the St. Martin in the Fields: Cafe in the Crypt.
Many times, I have passed by the Cafe in the Crypt and had wanted to try it. My husband has even attended a corporate party in the crypt! Just as the name implies, it is a cafe that is located in a crypt. I love the cheeky signs that they have advertising the cafe.
It’s more of a cafeteria than a cafe and they serve full-on lunch items. We kept it simple with pots of English breakfast tea. Our visit was around 1ish in the afternoon and the place was absolutely jammed, we were lucky to find a table. I would definitely visit again, but likely during off-peak hours. We just don’t have these types of places in California, so it was a little odd enjoying tea over the graves. It made me wonder how I would feel if my resting place was turned into a cafe. I think it would make me happy to know that life was carrying on above me and that I ended up in a place were people were eating cake!
A quick walk through Trafalgar Square and some snaps. It was chilly outside, so we didn’t linger.
Under Pippa’s recommendation, we went to Franco Manca for lunch. Franco Manca makes great, inexpensive pizzas. I tried Green Cola. I ordered it not knowing what to expect. It wasn’t green in color and it tasted very similar to Coke, yet it was hyper-effervescent. Every time I took a sip, it would bubble-up so much, that the paper straw would rise and the soda threatened to cascade over the side of the bottle.
We had already decided that this would be a day of food and drink indulgence, so our next stop was Chinatown for some yummy bubble tea at Cuppa Cha. This was my first experience having bubble tea served warm, but it was the perfect cold day treat. Cuppa Cha is a cheerful shop with a fake-grass, indoor/outdoor theme. It brought color to a grey, London day!
A quick walk through Piccadilly Circus as we head towards our next drink…
The BelowZero Ice Bar!
This was my first experience at an Ice Bar, something that I’ve long wanted to try. The ice bar area is small and they allow a limited number of people to enter in 45 minutes time blocks. It seems that they book-up in advance, but we were very lucky to arrive (without buying tickets in advance,) just as a session was starting. Our session only had about ten people and I imagine that it easy holds triple that amount.
For 13.50 pounds each, we were given entry to the Ice Bar, including our first drink. Before entering the cold, we were outfitted with thick, quilted capes that had a hood lined with faux-fur and warm mittens. This outfit is necessary. We were still very cold and didn’t even last the 45 minutes. We even met a woman that was wearing heels and she was suffering. This is not the place to be fashionable, just dress for comfort!
We entered the Ice Bar to see a display of sculptures featuring icons of London, called London Land. I read on the BelowZero Ice Bar website, that this theme will go on until May 2019 and then will be changed for something new. They even had a taxi made of ice, that you could climb in and watch a video window showing views of London! Half the fun of the experience was taking pictures with all of the sculptures.
We were able to pick our included drink from an extensive cocktail menu, something for everyone’s tastes and they were served in a thick glass made of ice! This was fun, but slippery- you must wear your gloves when picking up the glasses. As you can imagine, they were also very cold to drink from! The cocktails were okay, but from pre-made mixes and not very high quality. We had the option to open a tab and order more, but one was enough. We were left with the impression that it is a fun experience, but more of a gimmick, than a great bar. To be fair, BelowZero Ice Bar, also has a restaurant/bar, that is separate from the Ice Bar Experience and the drinks might be amazing.
Amazing drinks were had at Aqua Kyoto. Not only were they delicious, but they were absolutely gorgeous. Aqua Kyoto is a stunning Japanese restaurant, with an elegant bar. I was shamefully under-dressed in my jeans and clunky boots, but I owned it and enjoyed the experience. The next time I’m in London with my husband, I need to bring him here for a date-night. Loved it!
A perfect day in London is not complete without theater tickets. I was very excited to see Sam Shepard’s True West at the Vaudeville Theatre. But on the walk to the theatre, I had a momentary blip of envy, as I felt the excitement of ticket holders entering to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.
I can best explain it like this, it was like everyone entering to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, was about to go on a brand-new ride at Disneyland ( or more apt-Universal Studios) and we were headed for an NPR event! This is not to diminish the amazing experience that I had watching True West, as it was fabulous, just to say that there was a very different energy outside of each theater.
But then again, we had John Snow!
After the show, we enjoyed a glass of wine at a wine bar next to the theatre, before heading to Paddington Station to catch the last train home. I’d be remiss, if I did not add that we had a very late-night dinner at the grossest McDonald’s ( and that’s saying a lot!) at the train station. My husband was appalled and has not let me live it down. He keeps calling me “A Dirty Stop-Out.” How British!