41 hours and 52 minutes in London

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London big ben

I love London. I don’t really feel home there, but I really enjoy being a tourist in this huge, pleasant, pretty city full of energy and nice people. I try to go there as often as I get the chance, but it’s always kind of last minute and of course, too short. I mean, how am I supposed to do all the things that I want to do, and see all the things that I want to see, when a weekend is only two days?

London Shakespeare

This time, I went with my boyfriend for a pretty improvised trip, with an extra-challenge: we had decided to only do things we had never done before in the English capital, even if that meant staying away from our favourite places. It’s a great way of discovering new areas and finally testing all the recommendations made by our friends!

Entertainment

The Book Of Mormon London

A few days before leaving, I confessed to my boyfriend that I had never seen a live musical. Yes, I know! Unforgivable. Intending to fix this immense gap in my culture, I immediately grabbed my laptop and started searching for tickets for a weekend show.

We didn’t hesitate very long when it came to pick the show we’d see: The Book Of Mormon, which we both had our eyes on for a while, was playing at the Prince Of Wales Theater! And there were two tickets available for Friday evening. Affordable. As you can guess, they went straight in my pocket!

The show was one of the highlights of the weekend, if not the best moment: it’s a real masterpiece. If you enjoy Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s humour (they have also created South Park, BASEketball, Team America and Orgazmo, to give you an idea), expect two hours and a half of non-stop laughing, tears of joy, and possibly slightly peeing yourself. The writing is smart and funny, depicting mormonism in all its absurdity, and daring to laugh with racism, illness, religion and colonialism. The actors were brilliant, the songs were hilarious and energic, the production was on point and just the right amount of flamboyant.

Totally worth every penny – and if you don’t want to take my word for it, maybe all the awards that the show has won since its debut will convince you better. Don’t miss it!

Count between 30£ and 200£ per ticket (depending on the day, the hour and your placement).

London big benLondon eye

On Saturday, as we were too late to book a bowling game at All Star Lanes (improvisation doesn’t really work well with highly-demanded activities and places), we opted for a regressive evening at Namco Funscape, a legendary arcade located near Big Ben and the London Eye, along the banks of the Thames. Mario Kart, Dance Dance Revolution, Time Crisis, Speed Of Light and even pool tables and BUMPER CARS (!!!)… all the classics, gathered in one place, waiting for your pounds to get them started. Now I’m far from being a gamer, but you can’t beat the arcade atmosphere and within a few minutes, I was completely into it!

This costs between 10-20£ per person, depending on how long you’ll be there (+ drinks, about 4,50£ for a beer – yep, it’s expensive, it’s London!)

namco funscape london

Photo Yelp

Food

Five Guys London

Five Guys was one of the places where I really, really, REALLY wanted to go: after missing out completely when I was in New-York a few years back, I had promised myself to never make the same mistake again. And when London got its first Five Guys in the summer of 2013, I swore my next meal on the English territory would be one of their burgers. And it took almost 3 years, but I kept my promise! Honestly? No regrets. I’ve never had such a delicious fast food experience: between the use of fresh ingredients, the (almost-)infinity of combinations you can get for your burger, the incredible taste (seriously, this was better than lots of hipster burger places I’ve been to back home), the delicious and crispy fries… I have only nice things to say about this very tasty – yet greasy – experience. I could say it reconciled me with fast-food, but the truth is I’m a sucker for junk food anyway. That being said, I can truly appreciate being fed properly instead of the usual cardboard fries and plastic burgers.

A menu should cost you a bit more than 10£.

Inamo London

On Friday, after laughing our asses off at The Book Of Mormon, we had a serious case of munchies. And one of the advantages of the London life, is that even after 10.30PM, you can still go have dinner! We went to Inamo, an asian restaurant that was recommended to me by a colleague. The specialty of the house is that you can stuff yourself with sushi, edamame and other gourmandises sitting at an interactive table, which you can activate to play Pong while you’re waiting for your first course, or watch the chef prepare your dessert. Pretty gimmicky, sure, but also quite fun. And everything we ordered was absolutely delicious, with a special mention for the incredible cocktails. We spent about 40£ each, including drinks.

Lantana Cafe London

Another day, another discovery, this time thanks to Foursquare, aka my best ally on each city trip I’ve made for the past 5 years: the Lantana Cafe, where we went after the waitress of the Breakfast Club told us we’d “get a table in about 1 hour and 40 minutes” (it’s probably like the 3d time this happens and I’ve never managed to arrive early enough to avoid the queue, but there is no food good enough to make me get up at sunrise, no matter the hype).

The Lantana Cafe is a cute Australian coffee bar in the Fitzrovia district. They serve a truly amazing cappuccino and lots of delicious foods of all kind for a good brunch/lunch. I chose the “Full Lantana”, with poached eggs and sausage, but they also have some healthier options on the menu for those who, unlike me, manage to control the impulse of having a good old English breakfast.

Count between 15-20£ per person – it’s not cheap but it’s generously served and truly delicious.

London Da Mario

Last foodie milestone of the weekend: Da Mario, aka Lady Di’s favourite pizza place, or at least that’s what we read on the doorsteps as we were exiting the restaurant. Once again, we can thank Foursquare for sending us there: we were feeling like Italian and this one had a good score on the app. We could walk there from our hotel, as it was located just on the other side of Hyde Park. We arrived there very serendipitously, and I’m very happy we did! Da Mario is very low key: like every typical italian restaurant, the yellow walls are decorated with old family pictures, artefacts and maps of Italy. After a wait of about 30 minutes at the bar, our waiter finally walked us to our table with the full menu, and there began the hardest part: picking! I came in craving pizza, but when I saw they had homemade fresh pasta, I couldn’t resist ordering the veal tortellini.

It was one of the best pasta I have EVER had (and I’ve had a lot!), the service was impeccable and all that for a very correct price – about 30£ per person, drinks included.

London Da Mario

Accommodation

Grande Royale London Hyde Park hotel

We stayed at the Grand Royale London Hyde Park, a beautiful hotel located in an old building just a block away (literally) from the Queensway tube station (Central Line). The bedroom was pretty basic but very clean and well-equipped (of course I forgot to take a picture, so typical), although it’s the common spaces that made us so happy with our choice of accommodation. Sipping cocktails sitting on one of the Chesterfields, looking at the paintings hanging on the wooden walls… it doesn’t get more cliché than this, and I absolutely loved it. We booked our stay via booking.com, which cost us about 150€ per night for a double room – which is very ok for a hotel this central, of this standing, in London.

Grande Royale London Hyde Park hotelGrande Royale London Hyde Park hotelGrande Royale London Hyde Park hotel Grande Royale London Hyde Park hotel

And a few last thoughts…

  • we thought we’d use Uber all the time, but as it turns out, the Underground remains the fastest and most efficient way to travel in central London. If you’re going for a weekend, the Oyster card (prepaid card for public transport) is your best friend!
  • having gone there half-improvised and with no real plans whatsoever, I can tell you one thing: don’t follow my example. It’s very frustrating to find out about something last minute, only to realise it’s full/too late. Sure, there’s a lot you can do without having to plan, but if you’re hoping to go somewhere and you know you’re not the only one, do yourself a favour: call and make a reservation.
  • we managed to spend the whole weekend cashless – except at Namco, obviously! Turns out, paying with MasterCard everywhere costs less fees than getting cash at an ATM. Always check with your bank before you make such a decision, but if you want to avoid getting scammed at the currency exchange office, this is a pretty good alternative.
  • when Eurostar asks you to check-in maximum a half-hour before your train leaves, they mean it. This message is brought to you by a girl who had to abandon her breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien in St Pancras when she heard the last call for passengers of the Eurostar to Lille-Europe/Brussels. Not a very glorious moment.
  • this blogpost isn’t sponsored by anyone or anything, I’ve paid for every meal, activity and hotel night – yes, bloggers who pay for their vacation and report to their readers still exist ;)