My glorious week in London began in beautiful West Hampstead, home of my dear friend Leila. Determined to try and outsmart jetlag for once, I skipped my usual post-arrival nap, opting instead for a shower and afternoon out.
Leila and I stopped for a quick bite in patisserie Maison Blanc – complimented by a few cups of tea, of course – before doing some shopping. Among the stores we visited was Reiss, a favorite of Duchess Kate known for its sleek silhouettes and vivid colors. Not being blessed with a pencil thin figure myself, I fared better at Whistle’s, where Leila spotted a plum-hued top that was both the perfect fit and perfect price (18 pounds).
We enjoyed a quiet evening in. Much to my delight and relief, the combination of wine, an after dinner liqueur and decaffeinated tea helped reset my body clock so that sleep came easy that night. It’s only taken me 22 years of visiting London to figure out how to manage jetlag!
Sunday, Leila and I made our way into Central London on one of the city’s iconic double decker red buses – which offered a great view of the many flags unfurled in celebration of the Olympics. Even on the final day of the games, London was bustling with excitement.
As I took in the Olympics-related signage and multitude of friendly volunteer ambassadors, it was easy to see why England’s capital has hosted more than any other city. The level of organization was incredible and Londoners went out of their way to make visitors feel welcome.
After strolling through Trafalgar and Leicester Squares, Leila and I headed over to The Dorchester in Mayfair for afternoon tea.
The iconic luxury hotel provides an elegant backdrop for its version of the popular English ritual – not to mention a selection of mouthwatering finger sandwiches and scones. We especially loved the Olympic-themed petit fours.
Monday, I paid my first-ever visit to the Barbican, to take in “Designing 007: 50 years of Bond Style.” The fascinating exhibit features costumes, gadgets, setpieces and other memorabilia – including an eye-popping recreation of the titular murdered villainess in Goldfinger. Lots of interesting trivia about James Bond author Ian Fleming too.
Then, it was off to Southbank for a reunion with my dear friend of nearly 20 years Steve. The artsy neighborhood has undergone quite a revival and there was no shortage of colorful sights – from a gigantic Lego map of the world to an installation of milk cartons designed to look like an ice sculpture.
Our favorite diversion, though, was of the more traditional variety: a pop up fair inspired by none other than Coney Island.
I took one look at the Cyclone-themed mini roller coaster and knew we had to check it out. As I expected, it didn’t disappoint. Steve and I laughed (and screamed) our heads off. Summer fun simply doesn’t get any better than this!
Up next…a visit to the home of one of Britain’s most beloved authors and an unexpected encounter with an adorable London bachelor!