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Last Thursday, my adventures in London continued with an eventful girls night out.
After dinner at cozy Italian eatery Caffe Concerto, Rachel and I walked over to Dion’s, a bar tucked away behind St. Paul’s Cathedral. I had very fond memories of live music and a very favorable guy-girl ratio at Dion’s during my last visit. So I was a little disappointed when we walked in to find the bar mostly empty, especially since I’d been talking it up to my single London friends as a great spot for mingling.
We were only a few sips into our cocktails when a cute local bloke named Joe, 35, suddenly appeared.
“My friends are boring, can I join your conversation?”
A direct, wry and ever so British approach. Needless to say, Rach and I happily said yes. We were soon joined by a few of Joe’s colleagues as well.
As Rachel hit it off with one of them, I learned that Joe has a passion for motorcycles and DIY projects – and possesses the charm and candor that has made me very susceptible to British bachelors. When I commended Joe for taking the initative in a friendly way to say hello, he responded—
“We’re all lonely at the end of the day, so why not?”
Sigh. If only New York men could take a page out of this no nonsense playbook!
Eventually, the verbal flirting between Joe and me found him pulling me into a quick hug. I could happily have extended it, but Rachel reminded me the tube was about to shut down for the night. Before I raced to catch it, Joe leaned down for a kiss. Apart from him referring to himself as my “toy boy,” a perfect night.
Speaking of perfection, that’s also how I would describe my final day in London.
The weather was glorious – so glorious that I took a picture in Trafalgar Square with sunglasses on for the first time in 22 years of coming to London. After drinking in the view of the square and Big Ben beyond it, I made my way over to iconic tea house Fortnum & Mason on Piccadilly, where I enjoyed my final round of afternoon tea and scones with clotted cream.
Then, it was off to Sloane Square for drinks with fellow writer and Ireland-born Conor, whom I had the pleasure of meeting during my European Dating Blitz. This visit to London was a wonderful mix of new and old friends, a week-long reminder of why I love England’s capital so much.
What better way to end my trip than with my dear friend of 19 years, Steve?
Over a delicious meal at upscale Indian restaurant Zaika on Kensington High Street, Steve and I fell into easy conversation like we always do. Three hours later, we’d covered a lot of ground on the topics of life, love, family and the battle to fight wrinkles.
As we said goodbye, I felt a surge of melancholy about leaving London. And then I smiled because I know it will always be a part of my life. Until next time, fair city.
My vacation in London continued last Wednesday with a road trip to the charming little village of Great Missenden, home to legendary writer Roald Dahl and a museum celebrating his life and work.
My good friend Rachel and I made the 45-minute drive, instantly smiling as we sat down at the museum’s Café Twit, featuring brightly colored décor and whimsically named items inspired by Dahl’s literary creations.
After savoring scones with clotted cream and jam and foamy hot chocolate with marshmallows, we walked through the museum. In addition to photos, letters and other memorabilia from Dahl’s life, the museum features Dahl’s cozy writing hut — transported intact from where it once resided at his home.
Back at Rach’s flat in West Hampstead, she whipped up a delicious pasta with roasted eggplant and spices as we settled in to watch the classic Meg Ryan/Hugh Jackman chick flick, “Kate and Leopold.” Add to that a few glasses of red wine and we had the perfect girls night in!
Thursday, I moved to the Copthorne Tara Hotel just behind Kensington High Street. I had just enough time to unpack and freshen up before heading over to Notting Hall, where I caught up with Dublin-born Ellie, one of the fabulous single gals I met during my European Dating Blitz two years ago.
Over a delightful lunch at fashion retailer/bistro 202 London on posh Westbourne Grove, Ellie and I talked about career transitions, unexpected romance and the divide between singles and marrieds.
The latter was on my mind having overheard a wife and mom criticize a friend for wanting to change careers and follow her bliss, implying that it was somehow irresponsible and at odds with the desire to meet someone. To that I simply say…huh??
Up next…a girls night out takes a surprising turn and capping off my trip with a fun London first.
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!
For more than 20 years now, London has been a big part of my life. It is the city that — apart from my beloved hometown of New York – I’ve had the longest, richest history with. And my current visit has reminded me of the many reasons why.
Since arriving on Saturday, I’ve revisited favorite places in England’s capital, discovered new ones and, of course, reconnected with the dear and longtime friends who make it feel like my home away from home. From soaking up some of the Olympic excitement to afternoon tea at The Dorchester hotel and exploring the artistic resurgence of Southbank, this week in London has added wonderful memories to the many I’ve made here since my first visit back at the age of 16.
Coming up…the full scoop on my glorious week in this magical city!
My final week in Europe brought with it a much-needed return to London. As always, being in England’s capital gave me the chance to catch up with dear friends and recharge my batteries before coming home.
Longtime galpal Carine and her hubby generously hosted me a second time. Carine and I went to see Wicked, which more than lives up to its storied reputation, and celebrates the life-altering power of friendship. The ballad “For Good” had me tearing up as I thought about my beloved London circle — dear friends like Carine, Eva and Ness and best buddy Steve.
Steve and I spent a wonderful day catching up, talking for hours about life, love and lessons from my European Dating Blitz. Knowing I was a little homesick at this point, Steve led us to Whole Foods on Kensington High Street for lunch.
After a brief stop in St. Mary Abbots church and some shopping, we stopped in a little café for afternoon tea. Steve asked me about the speed dating event I was supposed to attend later on. I happily shelved it in favor of more time with him — and a girls night out with London single gal Angela, 38.
Angela and I hit it off when we connected during my August London visit. Stunning, smart and witty, she had said she knows Mr. Right isn’t going to just show up.
“My bills are automated, so not even the postman’s going to knock on my door,” she quipped.
We got reacquainted at Dion’s, a lively bar just behind St. Paul’s Cathedral that attracts a young, professional crowd and serves up fantastic live music.
After hitting the dance floor several times, I was taking a breather to cool off when I noticed a gorgeous guy (think Taye Diggs, only much taller) looking at me. He motioned me over to him and quickly bought me a drink.
“I’ve been watching you all night,” he said. “You are so beautiful.”
I smiled. Definitely my kind of opening line, and just the kind of unexpected flirting I needed after six weeks of planned dates across the continent.
As the music cranked up again, Mr. Flirtatious pulled me close to him and we started to slow dance. About five minutes in, he kissed me. Five minutes after that, he murmured in my ear–
“I want to make love to you.”
And with that, Mr. Flirtatious set a record for being the fastest pickup attempt I’ve ever been on the receiving end of. Also memorable — him telling me his mother says he’s a “good boy.”
Whatever that means.
Up next…the worst would-be blind date ever and the most hilarious opening gambit I’ve ever heard from a guy.
My second date in London, T, was one of my most eagerly anticipated on this side of the pond.
The lawyer colleague of our mutual friend Carine, T looked adorable in his corporate photo online and came highly recommended as being smart, well traveled and genuine. When Carine informed him of my Europe Dating Blitz, T was hesitant at first to meet me. Thankfully, her persistence — and calling him when I was sitting next to her — paid off.
We met up at Camden Town tube, where my first impression of T was that he was even cuter in person. After a short stroll through tony Primrose Hill, we arrived at The Engineer, a gastro pub in tony Primrose Hill with courtyard seating.
Over a delicious brunch, T told me about his travels to Ecuador and his affection for mountain climbs. I also learned that he became a “Sex And The City” fan through his ex-girlfriend and that, as I’d already heard from London single gals, British men are loathe to make the first move.
“I would never go up and ask a girl for her number,” he said. “I guess British guys are all [insecure] like Chandler [from Friends].”
I appreciated T’s candor, and was hoping to extend our date so I suggested post-meal drinks. He demurred, saying he had errands to and thought I had another ‘interview’ to go to.
This is the downside of telling bachelors about my current adventure — they treat it more as an interview than a date. Or, in the case of one particularly awful Match.co.uk guy, they flip out upon discovering what I’m doing.
Pete Irish (that’s his Match username) seemed like a great catch. Worldly thirtysomething journalist-teacher with a boyish smile originally from Ireland, a place I now associate with good guys because of my recent visit to Dublin.
After receiving a friendly email from Pete — in which he wrote “I hope I’ve caught you before someone else did!” — I called him.
Sarcastic and rude from the get go, he mocked US politics and had me wondering what his agenda was. Until he interjected–
“So, what’s it like being Single Gal In The City?”
Gotcha! was the obvious subtext behind that question. Clearly, Pete felt he had been deceived. Fair enough, I suppose, though I don’t know if that justifies what came next.
Sensing hostility from Pete, I cut the conversation short then emailed him saying it was probably best we didn’t meet. His response?
“I saw straight thru from the start, you wannabe manipulator. U are just a fake. Only dumb guys will entertain u…U need a therapist, maybe u are already seeing one. F**k off loser.”
Yikes. That’s an awful lot of rage to direct at someone you’ve never met. Then again, this is a guy who thinks a high score on Match’s compatibility quiz is cause for excitement. Clearly he’s better at numbers than social etiquette.
Hopefully, the European bachelors on SmartDate.com will be more like London date #1.
My eventful weekend in London ended with France-born bachelor Patrick, 38.
Pat and I connected on Match.com’s UK site. We met up in London’s lively Southbank district near the Thames, where Pat immediately put me at ease by complimenting my eyes and my bright pink coat.
We settled in to a corner table at The Wharf, a riverside bistro, where I learned that Patrick teaches wine master classes for a department store (his family owns a vineyard in France), he learned English during a stint of living in the US and he knows the art of how to woo a woman. Pat fulfilled every fantasy I had about French men.
It began with Pat ordering multiple tasting plates for us to share — tomatoes, olives, charcuterie meats & cheeses. By the time we got to dessert, I was more than happy to accept Pat feeding me a spoonful of heavenly vanilla ice cream.
“You are a lovely person,” he said, as he leaned over for a hug and kiss on both cheeks. “I am not single anymore,” he added. “I’ve been waiting for you.”
Our second embrace led to a knee-weakening series of kisses. As we left the restaurant arm in arm, Pat declared he wanted to kidnap me and spirit me off to the Caribbean.
“I’m going to have to leave you in a few minutes,” he said before leaving me at the Tube station. “And I already miss you.”
We kissed once more and before the night was over, Pat texted me to say what a good time he’d had. We spoke the following day and he asked if we could get together again. I’m looking forward to that next time I’m in London — which might end up being in the not too distant future.
My action-packed weekend in London kicked off over coffee with British single gal Nichola, 34.
Nichola pointed out one of the greatest differences between dating in the UK and dating in the US. In the states, you assume the person you’re going out with is seeing other people too unless you talk about being ‘exclusive.’ She said that was the hardest thing to get used to during a stint of living in San Francisco.
“To me, it was completely unheard of that someone could potentially be dating someone else,” she said. “That doesn’t really happen here.”
Much like Dublin, dating in London seems to happen organically, with people meeting through friends rather than going out of their way to make the first move.
“As a single girl, you would never go to a bar on your own,” she said. “I would never go and talk to someone in a bar and neither would any of my friends.”
Brits, says Nichola, don’t talk about dating as openly as Americans. Which is one reason why when you do go on a date, it’s often not acknowledged as being one — and why drinking is often the icebreaker.
“There’s no meeting for coffee. You go to a bar and you get drunk,” Nichola said. “It’s kind of backwards the dating in London. You’ve already kissed the person and then you’re going to go on a date.”
Thankfully, like New York, there’s no shortage of things to do in London if you’re unattached.
“You can have as good a time being single as you can in a relationship here,” she said.
The journey from singlehood to marriage was one of the subjects that came up later, during a girls night out with my longtime friend Carine.
Over a delicious dinner at La Quercia D’Oro, the cozy Italian bistro near Covent Garden where we celebrate Carine’s 21st birthday years ago, we talked about the romantic ups and downs we experienced back then and since. Now a happily married mother of two, Carine reminisced about her old flames in the way that someone who’s found their mate would — fondly yet glad they’re all in the past.
Carine was smitten with her husband from the day they first met. She spoke about him with such love and respect that I could feel myself becoming just a little more optimistic about my own romantic fate.
“You’ll find it too,” Carine said with conviction.
Carine’s one of the smartest people I know, so far be it from me to disagree with her.
Last Friday, I headed over to Covent Garden to meet up with France expat and single gal C, 37.
Like other bachelorettes in England’s capital, C said meeting people tends to happen in groups and she raved about London’s international population.
“It’s very cosmopolitan, like a mini Manhattan,” she said.
Having traveled extensively and lived in other parts of Europe as well, C had an interesting take on London’s dating scene. She’s found British men to be guarded and shy, in stark contrast from their counterparts in Spain and France.
“The men are more open in Southern Europe,” she said. “They just come and say hello, start a conversation. It happens very rarely here and when it does, I know it’s a foreigner.”
In Italy and Spain, people in their thirties tend to be married, while living together is more the norm in France.
According to C, London’s social scene is very divided, citing the prominence of by invitation only members clubs.
Unlike many of the other single women I’ve met, C is in no hurry to settle down.
“I love being free,” she said. “All of my friends have children and I don’t envy any of them because I see their responsibilities and constraints. I love my life.”
After C and I said goodbye, I found myself back in Trafalgar Square again.
I couldn’t help thinking about what C had said. Freedom is by far the number one thing all of the single women I’ve met on both dating blitzes have said is what they love most about being unattached. And I’ve certainly heard enough from people in relationships to know the grass isn’t necessarily greener when you have a plus one.
Still, I think you get to a certain point in your life where you’d like to invest time and energy into building a partnership with someone instead of just another first date. That’s the juncture I’ve come to, anyway. Being ready to settle down, though, only makes appreciate more being footloose and fancy free right now. Especially when I get to do it in some of the world’s most magical cities.+
Last Thursday, I met up with London single gal N, 33, at All Bar One in Holburn.
Like other local bachelorettes, N told me casual dating is something of an anomaly in London.
“It’s not like Sex And The City with regards to multiple dating and having a different guy every night of the week,” she said. “Here, if you meet someone and you like them and there’s a connection, you keep dating them.”
Another difference — London guys, unlike their New York counterparts, won’t stop you on the street to give you a compliment.
“You don’t tend to meet a guy in everyday situations here,” N said.
N raved about popular British dating expert Matthew Hussey’s Get The Guy seminar. Hussey asks the question of why women have stopped selecting men, citing the example of eras gone by when ladies would drop their handkerchief and make men think they made the first move.
N admits she’s never been in love or had a long-term relationship, and that she’s only now ready for that to happen. She also realizes being proactive is a big part of being single.
“Why do we put more effort into finding a job or finding a home?” she mused. “Because we think it’s going to be like a romantic comedy where you’re just going to bump into him. But it’s not like that in real life.”
N is discovering there’s a lot to be said for dating outside of your comfort zone. After years of going out with younger guys, she recently connected with a 40-year-old bachelor online. They’ve been out half a dozen times.
“I’m gobsmacked,” she said with a smile.
I can’t wait to hear how this romance develops.
Coming up…girls night out in Paris with an American expat blogger and dates with two French bachelors!