It is a long couple of flights from Melbourne to London. A super long trip and being organized once you touch down is key.
As I’ve written before when travelling overseas, I think it is important to arrange a driver for the initial airport to hotel / apartment pickup. It is just easier after a long flight to have someone take over and get you to the accommodation quickly and smoothly. Blackberry Cars collected us and for approx $150 for 5 people with 5 large suitcases, it was a better cost than taxis x 2. And easier. Most important.
I decided to book an apartment in Covent Garden, London’s Central District. Best known for it’s plethora of restaurants, bars and a wide range of chic shopping.The Uber London Penthouse is a 2 bedroom, pullout sofa bed, 2 bathroom, modern space, that was a great choice for 5 guests. Cost wise, on par or just over the cost of 2 x hotel rooms. As European accomodation is renound for being squeezy, this apartment is light filled and breezy, with an outdoor deck. Rare!
Plus the location is brilliant.
We arrived into London at 4.30pm. Driver booked for 5.30pm. Arrival to the apartment 6.30pm. Dinner pre booked for 7.30pm. Seems like militant precision, however, the idea to book dinner prior to leaving home, was to cut out the semi jet lagged ‘what shall we eat, where shall we eat?’ and go straight for food, then home to bed early.
Jamie Olivers Italian Restaurant, Covent Garden, is one of many chain style eateries he has opened over London. It is a simple modern fit out. Simple and authentically Italian. Complete with Italian wait staff, and a modern take on Italian classics. The winner for me was the cured meats served on planks of wood. Spicy Sopressa, thinly shaved Mortadella and salty prosciutto coupled with cheese and olives was simple and delicious. A quick meal, some Pinot and early to bed.
The best way to see a city for the first time is to take a bus tour. My partner and kids had not been to London, so this was a perfect introduction to this bustling town. I had pre booked with Golden Tours, which is an open top, ‘hop on hop off’ bus that has 4 different routes travelling all over London. We caught the blue line at 930am which headed to Buckingham Palace and we jumped off and waited for the daily Changing of the Guard ceremony at 11am. With all the pomp and ceremony expected of the British, the guards marched along the Mall and into the gated Palace. The Guards completed their changeover and then marched out. Quite amazing to think this happens every day. Road closures, mounted police and thousands of tourists. Incredible. Buckingham Palace. Tick.
Back onto the bus and we then continued enroute to Knightsbridge to pop into Harrods, The world famous department store, most famous for its designer range, old school charm and stunning food hall.
The food hall consists of room after room of gourmet foods and gifts, such as teas, chocolates, gelato, pizza, seafood, candy, produce and much, much more. There is even a truffle section (as in truffle oil) and a place to buy Krispy Kreme donuts. Also, a favourite, Laduree, is located inside the food hall, serving delicious desserts and macarons in a beautiful setting. Mind blowing.
After a quick lunch we jumped back on the bus and toured for over an hour through London. Taking in all the landmarks and stunning architecture, as we wound our way through Mayfair, onto St Pauls Cathederal, and over the London Bridge. We jumped off at the Thames river and headed to the London Eye to take in the aerial views. I strongly suggest buying the ‘jump the queue tickets’, which cost a little more, but well worth it as the crowds are huge.
The view over London on a clear day is stunning. You also get a real sense of how huge and sprawling the city is and how regal the different boroughs are. Also, once again the architecture from the sky is amazing. The ride takes about 30 minutes from start to finish and tickets are approx $50 p/p.
We then headed back over the bridge, past Westminster Abbey and Big Ben and then onto the Strand for a quick shop at H & M for the kids. Then Top Shop…for the kids. Then ..Zara..for…the..kids…….ok..maybe for me….
Dinner. One word…Hakkasan. Second word…Book at least a month out.
Hakkasan was founded in London in 2001 and has since become one of the most distinguished global brands offering a unique approach to the restaurant, lounge and nightlife experiences. Accessible yet sophisticated, Hakkasan has redefined the modern Chinese fine-dining experience. I ate here for the first time 4 years ago and it was mind blowing. All of it. So it was a no brainer to dine here again. Located in Hanway Pace, London, it can be a little tricky to find. Down an alley and an unobtrusive entry door, but once inside..wow. The stunning decadent furnishings and the almost too glamorous to be real wait staff, coupled with the best Chinese food you will ever taste in your lifetime…it is well worth the higher than average dining prices.
Back in Covent Garden, a tangy yoghurt from the yoghurt chain ‘Snog’ to cleanse the palette…and then it was lights out for us. A wonderful day one in London.