#amazefesteurope – Ooh la London!

Title So it’s been a long two weeks because I’ve been across the pond, visiting Europe.  A friend of mine lives just outside London, in Peterborough, UK, so I figured it was a good a time as any to visit jolly ol’ England!

Since I get two weeks of holidays at work, and the fact that I’ve been saving up my credit card travel points, I took the full two weeks and spent four nights in London, three nights in Rome, two in Florence, two in Paris, and then the rest with my friends in Peterborough (about an hour train ride outside London).

Out of all the places I went to, I have to say that London was my favourite.  I arrived on Wednesday, March 12, and right away hit up the Tower of London, which is one of the main tourist destinations. You can follow a guide, or choose to explore on your own, but you learn a lot about history and you even get to see the Crown Jewels.  Right behind the Tower of London is the “London Bridge”, which is actually called Tower Bridge, but for some reason got a different nickname…

Tower of London Me at the Tower of London Tower of London-2 Booth Picadilly circus

Other touristy things I hit up were the London Eye, Westminster Abbey (which was closed to the public when I was there because it was David Foster’s memorial, so I didn’t get to go in), Abbey Road, Picadilly Circus (basically like a smaller Time’s Square), Oxford Street, Covent Garden, the National Gallery and Trafalger Square, all the major department stores (Harrod’s, Harvey Nichols, Selfridge’s), and of course, Buckingham Palace and the parks around it (St. James Park and Green Park, which are both lovely to walk around in, especially since the weather was so nice when I was there).  My friends and I also went to see The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London’s West End.  If you are interested in seeing the musical, buy your tickets well ahead of time and I honestly recommend the cheap seats.  We were three rows from the back but the theatre is quite small, so we saw everything perfectly.  Our tickets cost around 42 pounds each.

Okay, so the things to know about London.  Yes, it is expensive.  A meal will set you back at least eight pounds, and that’s on the cheaper end.  Everything I saw was in the 10 pound range.  To put it in perspective, a 10 pound meal is $18.50 Canadian, $16.50 USD.  It ain’t cheap. I got a meal in Peterborough for just shy of five pounds, and that was a chicken burger, fries, and a drink.  Rather than eat out for every meal, I chose to just carry around protein bars, or go to Pret A Manger, a chain restaurant that serves sandwiches, pastries, etc. – there’s one literally on every block – and pick something up and then eat it in a random square or a park. The chain restaurants there are weird, as there are two different prices, one for eat in, which is more expensive, and then the take-out price, which is cheaper.  Also, it seemed that every big store I went to had a food market, so it was easy to find food, but be prepared to budget for the day.

Hogwarts London Eye Westminster Abbey Pond Buckingham Palace Gates

As for getting around London, it’s super easy.  I’m not that great at directions, but seriously, London’s transportation system is seriously the easiest thing ever.  First things first, if you arrive in London Heathrow, you can easily catch the Picadilly line to King’s Cross (yes, that King’s Cross from Harry Potter), at King’s Cross you can catch a different line to your destination. For taking public transportation, get an Oyster card, which will set you back five pounds for the card alone, plus any amount of money you put on it.  With the Oyster card, it gives you a cheaper rate than the standard fare. You just flash it on the terminal and then when you leave, you flash it again and then it determines how much to charge you (they charge based on zones).  If you forget to “tap out” as they call it, they charge 8.50 pounds. The Metro, or the Tube as they call it, is slightly more than the buses, but both of them are everywhere and they are quick, both in terms of how fast they come (the Picadilly line comes like every three minutes) and the amount of time it takes to get somewhere.

Blue rooster Harrods Memorial in harrods Harvey Nichols Cool building

Now the best part, the shopping!  The shopping in the UK was the best compared to the other countries I visited (France and Italy).  But with that being said, the pound is a lot more than the euro, so the things you buy aren’t cheap (it’s close to double the Canadian dollar when you convert it).  Oxford Street is the major shopping destination, with all the major stores (H&M, New Look, Primark, Zara, Selfridges, Top Shop, etc.).  We have a lot of those stores already in Canada, so I was most excited to hit up the retailers we don’t have back at home, like Primark and New Look.  Okay, so I always thought Primark was like Forever 21, but I would say New Look would be the closest.  The Primark on Oxford Street is the largest one I believe, but it’s like a mad house.  Seriously, there were clothes and people everywhere.  So much so, that you couldn’t move and I stepped on clothes on more than one occasion.  The store also have bottom of the barrel prices.  I’m telling you, that stuff is cheap.  With that being said, it wasn’t the nicest stuff. A lot of plain or basic items, or shirts that said the most random things on them (I saw a shirt that said Minneapolis on it.  Like really, Primark… Minneapolis?).  I got a jumper for a pound, a necklace for five pounds, a sport’s bra for four pounds, and a bathing suit for four pounds.  It’s like sweatshop stuff.  If I had to compare it to a store in Canada, I would say it’s like Urban Planet.  They also had a home section and a travel section, you could basically buy anything in there.  Truth be told, my favourite store was River Island, which had super trendy items for middle-range prices.  It was also the only store I came across where I found a T-shirt that said “London” on it (everywhere had Paris or New York).  They have really cute clothes but the prices were similar to H&M, although a tad more pricier.

Now since I’m a beauty blogger, I had to hit up Boots and Superdrug.  Both those stores are like Shoppers Drug Mart in Canada, or CVS or Walgreens in the States.  They do have brands we have in North America like L’Oreal or Maybelline (although they had products I’ve never seen before), but I was most excited to finally buy some Sleek products. I ended up buying the Storm I-Divine eyeshadow palette, the Contour palette in light, and the eyebrow kit, all of which I love!  Sleek is available at select Boots (I only saw it at the one on Oxford Street), but you can also find it at Superdrug. Both stores had promos going on, so I actually got three items but only paid for two because of a promo at Boots.  There were a lot of brands at the drugstore we don’t have back home in Canada, like Barry M, Models Own, Seventeen, and more, but at this point, I don’t really need anymore makeup, so I chose to really be selective in what I bought.

Tube Club MOS Tommy Trash DJ Wristbands

Finally, one of the highlights for me was visiting the Ministry of Sound, which is one of the top nightclubs in the world and an institution for electronic dance music.  In addition to the club, which opened in 1991, they also have a record label, clothing line, and much more.  I have downloaded The Annual every year since 2007, which is their compilation CD which has all the major and biggest dance hits before they become hits.  They are like the authority in dance music.  I contacted the club a couple weeks before coming and the GM Jason hooked us up.  We got in for free, got VIP wristbands, and the night we were there, Tommy Trash was playing (Reload, Sunrise – YouTube them).  It was amazing and something I could check off the Bucketlist.  The Ministry of Sound was located just a stone’s throw from the Elephant & Castle tube stop, which took about 20 minutes to get to from our hostel.  The club closes quite late (like 5 or 6 a.m.), but we ended up leaving around 3:30-4 a.m., right after Tommy Trash closed his set.  Watch the vid below, I’m at the 1:35 mark ;).

Overall, I absolutely loved London, and can’t wait to come back.  It’s definitely a large, bustling city with tons to do and see.  Truth be told, I did find it to be very North Americanized, but that might be why I loved it the most.

Enjoy the photos!

London eye Pod Three girls Phone booth Wu Tang Abbey Road 2 Abbey Road Abbey Road sign

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