- Friday, 26 February 2016

A Foodie's Whistlestop Tour Of London - Chapter One

- part one of two; Wednesday 27th January -
- part two here -


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London. Londres. Londonia (not so sure about that one). The Wee Apple. The Smoke. The city that never sleeps. Whatever you want to call it, there is no denying that London has an unidentifiable shine, a sort of magnetic gleam that attracts anyone and everyone from all walks of life, all united in being equally teeny tiny in this enormous, lively and constantly alert metropolis.

This includes me. Although I didn't actually reach my "I've been to London" milestone until comparatively quite late on in life (16? 17?), I have since well and truly fallen in love with the city. I've been through it a couple of times, enough that I'm now on pretty familiar terms with the journey from Kings Cross to Stansted Airport (I'm also on familiar terms with the cold and drafty floor of said airport... most uncomfortable attempt at sleep of my entire life), but I've never actually visited London for any considerable amount of time.


My first trip to London with Dad and co. was for one night in the summer - a trip which happened to span what later transpired to be the two hottest days of the entire year. Now, London is known for being humid and choc-a-block at the best of times, so this did end up being perhaps less comfortable than it should have been. This time, however, I was dipping my toes in the Londinian waters in chilly January whilst sporting a not entirely substantial coat (although I did have a thermal vest to see me through - I'm permanently freezing).


Even still, when planning my trip I found that I knew of a surprisingly respectable number of places, streets and general Londonisms. Although a lot of this has probably come from reading books on books on books set in London (it seems to be a popular setting choice for authors), I believe that it can be attributed largely to my lifelong obsession with Monopoly [read: obsession with winning Monopoly so dramatically to the point that I have all the £500s and actually have to lend money to the bank (strategy: go straight for a hotel on Mayfair and you're all set)]. I found myself recognising the names of streets I was walking along by what Monopoly colour they are, which at times made me feel decidedly odd and as if I had jumped into the board, and in a way, the whole thing didn't exactly feel real. But it was, and I have the photos to prove it.


Speaking of which: I took 277. And that's 277 that I deemed decent enough to keep, having already deleted those deemed unworthy. I was in London for approximately 20 hours, about seven of which were spent sleeping, meaning that I took an average of over 21 photos an hour, which is one photo every 2.8 minutes for the entire time I was there. Which, looking back on it, doesn't seem particularly unreasonable. I explored the city over a gloriously sunny two days, all of which I wanted to remember, so all of which I documented in pixel form. Snap-happy doesn't even begin to cover it.


Nevertheless, I have managed to cull the selection to a meagre 128 (every single one of which I individually edited so pls do look at them), the first half of which I shall present to you momentarily.


Before that, though, some basic deets of my trip, so you don't think I'm some weirdo who likes to give myself ridiculously tight schedules and then see how much I can cram in to a very limited time. I was in London for the awards party of the Bloggers' Lounge Awards of 2015 (and I won!? in case I haven't mentioned that little gem enough), but I had a uni seminar on the morning of the awards party and a lecture in the afternoon of the following day. Talk about dedicated, huh. So I booked my train tickets, then the day finally came and I duly zoomed home from my seminar, grabbed my bag and hurtled to the train station for my journey to begin.


As I have a tendency to spectacularly mess up travel arrangements (to put it mildly), and this was not exactly the world's most time-abundant trip, I decided to defy my natural state and be the most organised I have ever been, writing out my itinerary in minute detail. (I have to say, uni may have rubbished certain aspects of la vie but it has definitely made me a) a morning person (honestly, nobody is more surprised by this than me) and b) more organised. Gone are the days of taking the wrong homework in the wrong folder to the wrong class on the wrong site of school.. Oh, the perils of being airheaded and clueless at a school split across two campuses. ANYWAY.)


Without further ado, the rest shall be told with the help of some visual aids. Interspersed with the odd out-of-focus shot, as a tribute to wee me's obsession with bokeh. PHOTO TIME!!!


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The first order of business after my (slightly delayed) arrival at Kings Cross was to get myself an Oyster card like a true London native and make my way on the Victoria line tube to Green Park Station, from where I walked along Piccadilly (!!! one of the yellows). It was at this point, walking along the famed Piccadilly on a sunny London day with people buzzing around me, going about their daily business and all of us integral to making up the hustle and bustle of London life, that I phoned Mum to tell her that yes, I loved London, and instantly felt so completely like I belonged there.


If I wasn't already convinced by then that this was going to be a truly magnificent trip, I was very much more convinced once I had walked all the way along to Park Lane (a dark blue, how swishy) and arrived at my hotel - the London Hilton on Park Lane. Not only was the hotel resplendent in its glory as soon as I stepped through the revolving doors (still enormous fun, even if I am nearing the end of teenagerhood), but on checking in my trip managed to become (somehow) even better. The reason? I was the indescribably lucky recipient of an executive upgrade!!! Maybe it was influenced by the fact that my room was booked using HHonors points (ie... it was free), or maybe it was that my blatant display of awe at my new surroundings was so amusing that it was extended by a swankaroony room, but whatever the reason, I was more than delighted to accept.


"Park view or city view?" Oooooh, decisions, decisions. On asking what was recommended, I opted for a city view, and boy am I glad I did. I reached my 18th floor room via the extremely amazing and fab lifts, and THE VIEW. I went a bit wild documenting it on my snapchat story (imogenfindlay if you're interested/care in the slightest) but honestly, not even the most perfect photos can do that view justice. There was a whole wall of window with a squishy and lovely window seat the whole way along, and it was just amazing. The Shard. The London Eye. LONDON.



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There was nobody to take any photos of me Londoning, so selfies were really my only option..



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Even more fantastically, my upgrade also granted me access to the executive lounge and all its various perks. And then, because obviously I wasn't having enough of a dreamy time already, I was duly informed that afternoon tea was available in the lounge for another hour or so. Naturally, after fawning over my room and its view for a bit, I skipped off to the lounge to see what was on offer. I'll let the photos do the talking.


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I don't have a particularly sweet tooth and generally can quite happily say no to muffins and cupcakes as I'm just not a huge fan, but these... I felt like I ought to try them because they were so pretty and oh golly gosh, were they good. What I usually don't like about cupcakes is that they tend to be pretty dry, but these were filled with JOY (in the form of blueberry and raspberry gloop). I also tried a smoked salmon crostini with caviar as a garnish, no less, but found that my expensive tastes don't quite reach to caviar just yet. Probably good news for my bank balance, after all. Following this scoffing of a tad more than a modest amount, I was on my way again.




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(There were twinkly lights in trees all over the place, which only a good old unfocused photo can illustrate properly.)


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My plan had been to visit Victoria's Secret on Bond Street as their delivery costs are so astronomical, but I very quickly changed my mind. For me, there is little point in spending your time shopping when you're exploring and adventuring in a new place, particularly in shops that also exist elsewhere, as it just seems like a terrible waste of time - surely you want to actually see the place you're visiting? So VS was struck from the list, and I took joy instead from walking along Bond Street (a green!! always try to get the full set of greens.. which I did, visiting Bond Street, Regent Street AND Oxford Street) to Liberty.



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(via Berkeley Square; no nightingales here, sadly.)


I only spent a very short while in Liberty, as it's an absolute maze (as well as being absolutely aMAZEing), so I thought it best to leave before I could find myself lost in the Liberty labyrinth. The stuff in there though, is definitely deserving of at least a full day's browsing. Probably more. Maybe a month.



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Oddly exciting seeing stuff from Aduna and The Detox Kitchen for real, since I've followed them on Instagram for yonks.. no idea why this made it seem strange, it just kind of.. did.
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The next port of call was the legendary Carnaby Street, which I was lucky enough to witness at just the right time for it to be all lit up and exciting and beautiful. Even when the rain had decided to say hello, it just made everything shinier. How do you do that, London? How do you manage to rock rain?

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I really think this looks as if Balamory (/Tobermory) suddenly became really grown up and had a swishy makeover.. just me? Okay.

My wander along Carnaby Street was actually to take me on my way to my first pit-stop - this time, at Pure - Made for You. I had planned to get the 'celebrity skin salad' (salmon, avocado, lots more yummy things) but that was when I hadn't counted on an unforeseen and pretty indulgent afternoon tea.. I opted instead for their 'a'mezze-ing little side' of beetroot, mozzarella, sundried tomatoes and etceteras, which I munched on in my hotel room whilst getting ready for my partaaayyyyy.


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(Sidenote: aren't their napkins great? "Mess - made by you" - I lurve.)

By this point it was pretty much the time I had set myself to return to the hotel, if I wanted enough time to make myself look vaguely presentable for the awards party.

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But not without snapping the shop I have been for ages, and still remain, humongously keen to visit but did not have time. It's okay, there's one in Glasgow. I'll take a day trip. Whole Foods, I'm coming for you.

By this point the sun had set, so I returned to the hotel, was pinged up to the 18th floor, and found myself instantly completely blown away by the view. Just look.

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Wow. ISN'T THAT JUST AMAZING???¿¿

If you couldn't already tell, by this point I was very much enamoured with high-life London and its swishy swankiness. I want to 'do' London, and I want to do it properly - i.e. I basically want to live in this amazingly snazzy hotel in what is unquestionably one of the most desirable areas of the city. All I need now is a way to fund it, and you know what they say - where there's a will, there's a way. I'll make a way.

After snacking on some of my little pot of yum from Pure and dolling myself up in all my finery, I duly headed out to make my way along to Grace Bar on Great Windmill Street, just less than a minute from Piccadilly Circus... a yellow! How thrilling.

I arrived at the awards party, handed over my coat and bag into the cloakroom in return for a ticket that I would lose by the end of the event (a problem rectified by my hilarious jokes and general lack of suspicious aura or criminal intent/ability), and proceeded to have a brilliant time.

Surprisingly enough for a room full of bloggers, there were not a lot of cameras to be seen. Nevertheless, I documented the food. I couldn't not...

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And then, all of a sudden, the event took a turn for the entirely unrealistic, and I won the award for 2015 Food Blogger of the Year (!!!!!).

So after a truly marvellous event, I went to get the bus back to my hotel, only to find that there was a diversion resulting in many many buses, but all going in the wrong direction. Instead, I wandered along Piccadilly with a bunch of people who had also been waiting at the bus stop before realising that no bus was coming, all of us united in optimism at every stop we passed, and then disappointment when it turned out that yep, this one is also out of action. Once we had eventually happened upon a bus, I found to my dismay that my Oyster card had run out of juice, but hallelujah! The fates smiled on me (the fates taking the form of a kind bus driver), and I had a free hurly along the road.

I got to my room, was amazed by the brilliance of the rainforest shower and the ritzy shampoo/conditioner/etc. miniatures, responded to a million and one messages from my famalam (never a more accurate example than this of how frequently we as a family communicate - the news had spread like wildfire), and sunk into the luxurious, plushy pillows ready for a well-deserved night's sleep.

After another session of photographing the view, of course - and this time, the absolute best of the trip.

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And so ended day one of my London adventure - stay tuned for day two in the very near future!

*All photos in this post are mine. If you wish to use any, please ask my permission and credit me.*

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