How to spend a relaxing day out in London
London, for all its amazing features, is an extraordinarily busy and stressful city. I’m always running for a bus, careening through the tube tunnels, or frantically trying to find something so I can be on my way. So last week, I decided that I needed to take a step back, breathe, and take a day to appreciate this city for what it is. I filled in my annual leave sheet with trepidation, and when Sunday night rolled around, I didn’t feel the usual blues, but rather excitement about the day ahead.
Disclaimer: Many people may not actually find this day as relaxing as I did, as it was jam-packed with activities!
I started off with an extra hour and a half’s sleep… oh, the glory! I then gently rolled out of bed and enjoyed a lovely hour at home with fresh orange juice (the day I bought my electric orange squeezer was one of my most genius moments ever), Darjeeling tea, a bowl of fruit and yogurt, and catching up on my reading (I took out a subscription to TIME magazine earlier this year, and I love reading a physical magazine, rather than having everything on a screen). I also put in a load of laundry whilst I had breakfast – my Swiss efficiency doesn’t take a back seat even on my days off!
Then I headed to the Natural History Museum for my favourite exhibition in London: the Wildlife Photographer of the Year. The tube was as crowded as ever, but I refused to get agitated, until I arrived at the museum and saw an enormous queue, with seemingly hundreds of schoolchildren screaming and shouting. But wait. I’d already booked my tickets, hadn’t I? ‘Straight to the front, Madam, you can go right in!’ Saved, yet again, by Swiss planning.
The exhibition was fabulous, and I highly recommend it to anybody (this was my third time visiting). It doesn’t take a photographer to marvel at a shot of bears hugging, nor a marine biologist to be fascinated by orcas in a feeding frenzy. After wandering around, admiring the 100 photos that made up the exhibition, I bought postcards of my favourite ones (unfortunately, not all of them were available), and hopped on a bus to head to lunch, enjoying a plethora of sights on the way, with a royal view from my favourite seat (front and top, of course).
Lunch was at Yosma – a recommendation from a fellow blogger, and unfortunately, I was disappointed by the fare. I love Turkish and Middle Eastern flavours, and these were not bad, but I wasn’t blown away (the Barbary, for me, is still the place to beat). The presentation was colourful, and the open plan setup enjoyable, but it was a little empty, likely due to the fact it was 1pm on a Monday! And so I headed off after some calamari (good, but preferred the VOC version recently), Turkish dumplings (not enough filling), and hummus (give me Yalla Yalla every time).
I had about an hour and a half to kill before my next activity, so I wandered through Marylebone and inevitably got sidetracked into Daunt Books before having a soothing cup of jasmine tea at Bea’s of Bloomsbury (thanks to the wonderful Alexandra for her amazing London cafe guide, which led me there)!
Next up: a Massage at Nova Therapy. I don’t normally like massages, but recent stress and a heavy backpack have left my shoulders tighter than usual, so I thought I’d give it a go. And I’m now officially a convert – it was oh so relaxing and I felt utterly pampered!
The original plan had then been to take a hip hop class at Pineapple Studios – I used to take this class pretty regularly, but various commitments have made me miss it more often than not. Alas, the best laid plans… I felt so gorgeously relaxed after my massage that I just couldn’t face the idea of squeezing into a sweaty studio, so instead, I wandered slowly towards dinner, popping into various shops on the way (controlling myself in the John Lewis kitchen section was the most difficult thing I’d done all day).
And then, it was time for dinner at Hawksmoor with some friends. Indulgent? Absolutely. Worth it? Without a doubt. As I was still a little full from lunch, I opted for a smaller cut of meat, the fillet tail, which was beautifully tender and superbly cooked. The sides, as always, were stellar: the mac and cheese and beef dripping fries are probably my favourite. And the mash. And the creamed spinach. Also, they do BYOB for a £5 corkage fee on a Monday – winner! We gossiped for a while, ate to our hearts’ content, and then I hopped on the bus home, utterly happy and fulfilled.
So, after a day full of fun, I have to say, my little ‘adventure’ was a great success. It’s so easy to travel abroad from London, that sometimes you forget what’s right on your doorstep. Interestingly, most of my day off was spent on my own, and this was a very refreshing feeling. I often feel like I need to spend most of my free time with friends, as people are notoriously hard to pin down, but I discovered something on Monday… I’m actually pretty good company. Especially when I’m not running for the tube!
Have you ever taken a day (or more) to just explore this glorious city? What did you get up to?