Palace of Westminster
What do you do if you have 48 hours to spare in London? There's literally so much to do and see there that one can barely fit it all into a week, much less 2 days. London is best explored on foot. It's like cracking open a Kinder egg. You never know what'll surprise you just around the corner. A house that Mozart once lived in. The ornate designs of a building. A row of terraced houses in varying pastel cotton candy hues. It's a city where historical buildings intermingle with modern architecture, sometimes rather disharmoniously and at other times, the stark contrast may amaze you.
For me, the sight of the magnificent Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster just as I get out of Waterloo station never fail to leave me a little awestruck. A stroll along South Bank is perhaps one of my favorite things to do when I have a few hours to myself in London.
The café on the top floor of the Tate Modern has a sweeping view of St Paul's Cathedral. It's a great spot to rest your weary legs, enjoy a hot cup of coffee while gazing at the spectacular view right in front of you.
Shakespeare's Globe theatre is only a hop and a skip away and if you're a foodie, the Borough market which has been in existence for nearly a thousand years is a popular choice. I wanted to push on to get another close up view of the Tower Bridge but St Paul's Cathedral beckoned instead. I managed to dash in just in time for their 10:15am Choral Mattins.
Outfit: Zara coat, Uniqlo sweater, Frame Denim Le Garcons jeans (on sale here and here), Charlotte Olympia Kitty flats and Hermes Garden Party TPM bag.
After the morning service, I had a sudden desire to explore East London, a part of the city that I rarely visit. How shall I put it? While West London (Chelsea, Kensington, Knightsbridge etc) is like the obedient child - all spiffy, polished and proper who minds her Ps and Qs, East End London is a rebel. One who's an individual and cares little about conventions. It's unashamedly gritty but there are pockets of the area that are fashion forward, edgy and yes, even pretty.
The charming terraced houses on Fournier St and Princelet St, a short walk from Spitalfields Market with their colorful shutters have a certain rustic Provençal charm to them.
National Portrait Gallery
The National Portrait Gallery is served by 3 tube stations (Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square and Charing Cross) that are an easy walk away. I remember being held spellbound by the paintings at National Portrait Gallery on my very first visit there more than 18 years ago. For someone who simply can't draw even if a person puts a knife to my throat, I find it amazing how the artists could paint such luminous skin just the way the light would fall on the face.
Hunger pangs reminded me that no matter how beautiful art is, my stomach rules. I went in search for a bowl of ramen over at Soho before heading to Amba Hotel Marble Arch where I'd be spending the night.
Amba Hotel Marble Arch
I woke up at the crack of dawn the next morning. I can tell you that it was no mean feat for I've been a night owl all my life. The stupendous view of floating baubles above Oxford Street with the gradient pink sunrise in the background was totally worth the agony of having to forcibly peel my eyelids back.
I'm sure a few passersby bagged an eyeful of this crazy unkempt hotel guest with her arms stretched as far out of the window as possible to get a shot of this view. #crazyphotographer. Be sure to ask for a room with a view if you plan to stay at Amba Hotel Marble Arch.
I asked for room service as I preferred not to scare fellow guests while clad in my PJs and face devoid of any make up. It was a nice change, scarfing down a large breakfast while peering out the window and watching the world go by. There was never a dull moment on Oxford Street as hundreds pounded the street even in the wee hours of the morning and dozens of double decker buses roared past. The windows and walls are so well insulated and soundproofed that I couldn't hear a squeak.
I tend to travel light as I don't normally check in till late. That means I would be walking for miles with a bag over my shoulder. My overnight bag for the past few years has been my trusty Louis Vuitton Speedy Bandouliere 35cm.
I'm not big on make up but I do love Laneige BB cream cushion (I wear #21 Natural Beige), Laura Mercier brow powder (U.S here), Bobbi Brown blusher (U.S here), Laura Mercier concealer (U.S here), Bioderma Créaline (which I'd tipped some into a small travel bottle), Shu Uemura lash curler, MAC eye shadow (which is all broken up. Argh. It's mostly used as a highlighter), Lancome Hynôse Drama mascara (U.S here), Lancome eyeliner, NARS eye primer and Moroccanoil. I've also picked up quite a lot of REN skincare and Apivita samples over the years which are great for short trips. They take up little space in my bag and I toss them in a bin when they're finished.
My room came equipped with a Nespresso machine and several capsules as well as an electric kettle if I wanted to make myself a cup of tea or hot chocolate. I did a little jig around the room the minute I clapped my eyes on that coffee machine. I simply can't function in the morning without a good cup of coffee and no, instant coffee powder doesn't cut it. There was a mini bar tucked away in the cupboard with complimentary water, soft drinks and snacks.
I hit the shower (LOVE their monsoon shower) and got ready to check out. Thankfully, Marble Arch tube station is just 2 minutes away as my legs were a little stiff after walking for miles the day before.
Saatchi Gallery and King's Road
These photos of Chanel Mademoiselle Privé exhibition at the Saatchi Gallery were taken a few weeks prior to this trip but I thought I'd sneak them in. I love Duke of York Square, the area surrounding the Saatchi Gallery with its water jets sprouting from the ground, the Saturdays market and King's Road. Shopping along King's Road is always a pleasant affair. The pace is never frantic as few tourists ever venture this way.
Natural History Museum
I did a little detour to the Natural History Museum to take a peek at the skating rink and carousel. They were gearing up for the Christmas countdown. The garden was transformed into a mini winter wonderland which at a glance, looked like something out of a fairy tale book.
While the Natural History Museum may be Lil L's favorite museum, mine's the V&A which is a minute away. I've been to both multiple times but there's still so much to see.
Farm Girl, Notting Hill
South Kensington tube station is conveniently located opposite Natural History Museum. The circle line took me all the way to Notting Hill Gate and from there, it was a 10 minute walk to Farm Girl café. I've been dying to check out the new and much hyped Farm Girl cafe, hidden inside a little alleyway off the busy Portobello Road. Yes, the coffee there costs far more than anywhere else I'd been to. It's one of a handful of cafés that will actually use almond milk in their hot beverages. Lately, I have developed an allergy to milk. A spoonful of milk will reduce me into a quivering wreck with severe abdominal pain that'll last for several days.
There were quite a few gluten free options (whew!) and a new revelation. Frying Burford brown eggs in coconut oil. Absolutely D-I-V-I-N-E. I decided to try matcha latte with almond milk with much trepidation. I'm not much of a tea drinker but caved in when they agreed to do a little latte art in the shape of Bronté, the owner's French Bulldog. Spirulina with matcha takes a little getting used to.
My 48 hour jaunt to London was short and sweet. Sadly, it was time to head home on the hour long journey back to Winchester.
I was a guest of Amba Hotel Marble Arch. Do check out their website for more information.