Last week Lil’ L celebrated his 12th birthday, and we decided to mark the occasion with a special overnight trip to London. Even though I grew up in Essex – just half an hour’s train journey from the Big Smoke and worked there for a year after college – I’ve never actually been ‘sight seeing’ in London. So I was just as excited as Lil’ L about the impending trip.
Travelling by train can be expensive in the UK. Bath is only 1 hour 20 minutes from Paddington, yet it would have cost us £139.65 off peak and a wopping £460 to travel there and back at peak time. Luckily, I managed to trade in my Tesco vouchers for a Family & Friends Railcard (which entitled us to discounted fares) and £80 worth of train ticket vouchers, so we effectively got the journey for free. Bargain!
Since we’d saved so much on the travel, this gave me justification for having a little splurge on the accommodation. Through Booking.com I managed to secure a last minute deal for The Grand at Trafalgar Square.
Lil’ L couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw the hotel. It sure lived up to its name! The lobby and bar area were incredibly opulent. Our room (419) was lovely and spacious (it even had a kitchenette complete with microwave and fridge!) The only negative for me, was that it was pretty noisy at night. I find this with a lot of hotel rooms. I’m not sure whether it was the heating or air conditioning but, note to self, be sure to bring ear plugs next time.
The hotel couldn’t have been more central. We were literally a few steps away from Nelson’s Column, and a few minutes walk from Buckingham Palace, Regent’s Park, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the London Eye.
After dropping off our bags we went for a lovely late afternoon stroll through Regent’s Park. It was so warm and sunny for late October. Along the way we saw lots of these friendly grey squirrels. The squirrels in Bath run a mile from people, so these tame ones were a real novelty.
Dusk is such a lovely time to stroll round London.
At dinner time, we headed to Chinatown. (Again, this was just a short walk from the hotel). I have always wanted to visit Chinatown and can’t believe it’s taken me this long to get around to it. It was like stepping into a whole other world. Row upon row of Chinese red lanterns adorned the sky; dragons adorned the streets; and street upon street of restaurants.
We chose a Chinese restaurant that was offering a vegetarian set menu which, as far as we could see, looked vegan. We were presented with a huge array of delicious foods which included tofu satay, crispy seaweed, salted broccoli, sweet ‘n’ sour ‘pork’ (aka seitan), stir fried cashews & bamboo, vegetable fried rice, and much more besides. It was so delicious! Easily one of the best Chinese meals I’ve ever had.
The next day, we continued our wanderings round the city. We first headed to Neal’s Yard (again just a short walk from the hotel). I was excited to spot the Wild Food Café but sadly it was closed (it didn’t open until midday).
We did find Lola’s Cupcakes though, and bought a vegan brownie and chocolate cupcake to share :o)
Much to Lil’ L’s delight, we stumbled across Element skate shop just round the corner from Neal’s Yard. He’s really into skating at the moment and had been watching lots of YouTube tutorials in anticipation of getting his first skateboard for his birthday.
With his birthday money, he treated himself to a tool, a couple of Element tshirts and a hoodie.
After Neal’s Yard, we wandered along to the Southbank and took in the amazing views of iconic London structures. We didn’t quite make it to The Shard. Never mind. Next time!
Before heading back to Bath, we stopped at a Mexican street food truck, which happened to be parked right next to a skate park on the Southbank.
The food truck made us some delicious vegan burritos filled with flavourful veggies, rice, salsa and guacamole. I adore street food and, in my experience, if you ask they will always rustle you up something vegan, even if it’s not on their menu.
We were only in London for 24 hours, but what an incredible visit! It was certainly a great way to mark the birthday of our boy. Can’t believe he’s turned 12 already. They sure do grow up fast!
I’d asked my Twitter friends if they could recommend places that served great vegan food. Unfortunately we didn’t make it to the following places on this trip, but they’re definitely on ‘the list’ for the future:
Ms Cupcake (Brixton)
Black Cat Cafe (Hackney)
Kin Cafe (Foley St, Fitzrovia)
Tibits (Heddon St, off Regent St)