Recently I’ve received an e-mail that put a smile on my face. Why? Because I got invited to an afternoon tea to one of the most luxurious London hotels. A free afternoon tea in exchange for my review here on the blog sounds fantastic, don’t you think so? But there’s a slight problem. The kind lady who sent me this invitation didn’t realize that I don’t actually live in London. Although, if you check my about page you won’t get confused about my location but I do admit that my blog name might be slightly misleading.
However, I chose The Red Phone Box travels as the name for my travel blog simply because I’m crazy about London and because I’ve visited it many times. My loyal readers and blog friends know all these too well but I guess that someone who just stumbled upon my blog might think that I live in London when they see so many London posts. Unfortunately, I don’t live in London. I live in Croatia. I did live briefly in England a long time ago (but not in London). My obsession with London (and to be quite honest with all things British) is something that I developed through books and movies from my childhood (you see, watching telly is harmful for young children 😉 ). I was in love with London even before my first visit in 2006.
Over the past 11 years and my numerous visits to London I’ve seen and done more or less all the major touristy things. I’m a creature of habits when it comes to London so no trip to London is complete without seeing some of my old favourites such as Big Ben and the Tower of London or having a drink in my favourite pub in Bayswater. However, London always surprises me with something new, be it a new free attraction or a starry encounter.
So, here’s a list of my quirky London moments
-almost bumping into actors Emma Thompson and Rowan Atkinson in the same day whilst wandering through Hampstead
-pretending to be in a Harry Potter movie at 9 3/4 platform at King’s Cross Station
-trying to find the London stone in the City Of London
-having my photo taken with Peter Pan in the Hyde Park
-searching for film locations from the Notting Hill film (the bookstore and Kenwood House among others)
Holiday destinations are a plenty out there in the world and people are trying to get more and more extravagant with their next destination, almost as if they’re trying to outdo each other. This is not a competition, this is a time to kick back and relax rather than compete. Instead of maniacally walking around with that touristic gait and snapping photos of every single thing that dares cross your camera lens, why not take it a bit easier and just get lost in a place where you have not been before? Now, there surely are some tropical islands out there which you have not explored before, but is one necessary to have fun on a holiday? There are beautiful cities out there with more things to do in them than you can shake a stick at, so if you don’t feel like leaving your comfort zone too much but still having a nice change of pace and scenery then a big city vacation could be just the thing you are looking for.
City of London
What better place to start with, than the city that is often referred to as “The Capital of the World”? It’s hard to find one, that’s for sure. If you’ve never been to London, then consider yourself as missing out, because London is as unique, as it is familiar to the average westerner. The incredibly busy rush hour periods, flashing lights in Soho and cinemas a plenty in Leicester Square, and a majestic casino, The Hippodrome, adorning the corner just next to Covent Garden station. London is most certainly a mixed bunch, and you can thank both the local community, as well as the tourists for that. People come to visit London from all over the world, and some decided to stay, eventually opening up their own businesses and adding even more to the existing conglomerate known as the diversity of London. That said, the locals have most definitely gotten crafty over the years and are pushing businesses which tend to be rather unheard of, probably just because everything else here has already been seen and done to death. There are so many businesses looking for that new hit, but as well as that, you just have gigantic corporations thriving, for example, Primark which now has two gigantic stores on Oxford Street for whatever reason.
˝By seeing London, I have seen as much of life as the world can show˝. Samuel Johnson
No matter what happens in my life the London mood is always there. Lurking behind closed curtains, hiding in the shadows behind my house, the London mood is never too far from me. It waits patiently until I look the other way and then it hits me in the face with full force. Just like that the London mood overcomes me and I can’t resist it. I have to look through all my London photos, read about other people’s trips to London and think back about all my past visits to this glorious city. As the saying goes : ˝London is a bad habit one hates to lose (by anonymous).
The best things in life are free. Do you agree? This saying also applies to London which is otherwise a very expensive city. Luckily, there are plenty of free activities in London such as visiting world-class museums like the British Museum. Furthermore, you can walk around London and enjoy beautiful vistas without charge. Here’s the list of 5 best free views in London according to my humble opinion.
The South Bank
probably the most iconic view of London
A stretch of land in Central London by the Thames River from the Westminster Bridge to the Blackfriars Bridge. This is nowadays an entertainment and commercial district full of different activities and attractions. From the The London Eye (which is a great attraction but rather pricey) and the London Dungeon to the National Theatre there’s something for everyone here. Free activities include watching the street art performers and enjoying the view of the Westminster and St Paul’s cathedral. Magnificent view no matter the time of the day or the weather! And it’s never the same! I’ve been visiting London for the past 10 years and I’ve witnessed significant changes in London’s skyline. There are new skyscrapers now around St Paul’s jostling for a good position.
Top tip: Go for cocktails at Oxo tower and enjoy the night view of St Paul’s
Tower of London & Tower Bridge
can you see Big Ben?
If you want to look down on the Tower Bridge and the historical Tower of London as well as be smack right in the City of London this is the place for you. There are several cafes at this location as well as a garden (kind of) but the biggest draw of this skyscraper are the beautiful views. It’s completely free but you have to make a booking online. For more information check my post here.
Top tip: visit during the week, right around the opening time to avoid the crowds
the view of the Canary Wharf and the Queen’s House & the Old Royal Naval college
my cat Munchkin
Home is where the cat is
Very true, right? At least all the cat owners know this very well. I got a cat named Timmy when I was 15. Then my home was my parents’ home in my hometown. Briefly I considered England my home too but when I got back my cat was furious and ignored me for days. Then, when I moved in with my future husband I decided to convince him to get a cat to make our home a real home. Even though he never had a pet previously, apart from a turtle, he agreed and now our cat Munchkin loves him to death. Not me, him. Injustice! But ginger cats have a mind of their own, as really all cats do.
As every traveller I quickly feel at home in most of the places I visit. As soon as I unpack my suitcase in a hostel/hotel room I feel at home. At least for the duration of the trip that place is my temporary home even though my cat isn’t there. Although my real home is in Croatia I consider England and London my soul home. A place where I feel at ease, a place where I feel I belong, a place where rules are obeyed and where everything stops when you have a cup of tea. Of course, my family and friends make a place truly my home. But you can feel at home at another place too, can’t you?
Exactly a year ago I visited London. It wasn’t my first visit nor it would be my last. On 11th of May 2016 I visited London for the 11th time! And it was the first time that I actually spent several days in London on my own. Previously, I’ve been to London with my best friend and occasionally on my own for a day trip but this was the first time that I got to spend 3 full days roaming the streets of London just by myself. And it was great!:) I blogged quite a bit about it so I’m just going to remind myself (and you, dear readers ) of some of the highlights of that trip.