I love London! I was so happy to be able to spend a couple of days there last fall. I could go on and on and on about this city, and I will... There is so much to do in a city like London it can be hard to choose where to spend your time, maybe this will help.
We always stay at the Andaz London Liverpool Street, it’s a points thing. It’s a beautiful hotel, the service is excellent and the rooms are well appointed (they just renovated). It’s also right next to Liverpool Street station and within easy walking distance of Spitalfields Market, Petty Coat Lane, St. Paul's Cathedral and the Shoreditch neighborhood.
We had to eat at St. Johns Bread and Wine, and it was great! The atmosphere is low key and the food is fantastic. If you haven't heard of St. Johns its considered to be one of the best restaurants in London, they serve traditional but elevated British food. If you don’t like meat you might want to go somewhere else.
My other favorite place to eat in London is Borough market, there is fresh produce but also a ton of food trucks and some really great shops.
I’m up for high tea any where they serve it. This trip we went to the Thames Foyer at the Savoy and it was magical, right up to and including the little girl who spontaneously danced for the entire room while accompanied by the pianist. The Savoy tea room is classically British and fancy without feeling uncomfortable.
I’ve also been for tea at the Jubilee Tea Salon at Fortnum & Mason before. It’s a bit more Alice and Wonderland than the Savoy, but every bit as wonderful.
Monmouth Coffee is in Borough Market, which is convenient because I get to kill two birds with one stone. This is the cutest little shop, they make a great drip brew coffee and have an awesome neighborhood vibe.
Honestly, I’m pretty happy in any pub in London, from the neighborhood local to the big corporate owned ones. There is always the historic route, there are many options and everyone seems to have their favorite, my husband loves the St. George Inn.
As far as cocktail bars go, this is more of a wish list as I haven't made it to any yet. The next time I’m in the city I’m definitely going to Sketch London and The American Bar at the Savoy, which was named the best bar in the world. .
I try not to make any major purchases while I’m in the UK because the VAT is so high (20%), but my favorite place to shop is without a doubt Fortnum and Mason. Where else can you buy fancy groceries from someone wearing a jacket with tails? They are famous for their hampers, and I love to pick out some fancy picnic fair and take it over to the bird pond at St James Park. Old Spitalfields Market is a great eclectic mix if you’re looking for interesting stuff. Liberty London is totally worth a visit, it’s a beautiful old department store and its the home of Liberty fabric if you feel the need to go stand and drool in front of it… no just me?
There is so much more to see and do in London, this is barely even the tip of the iceberg. I'm already counting the days until I can go back.
So personally, I think Valentine’s day is a bit of a scam, unless your my husband and you're thinking you should buy me some jewelry, then I love it! What can I say, greeting cards and crowded restaurants just aren't for me. What is for me is Champagne, at any given opportunity. And what better way to try and make ourselves feel like we're still young and alive while sitting at home on Valentines day than Champagne? Why Champagne cocktails of course!
I know, I know, what kind of a monster am I that I think Champagne needs to be more special? Don’t, be afraid though, like most classic cocktails, it’s easy and delicious. Just think of it as the perfect way to perk up that so-so bottle of sparkling wine your going to last minute buy for your SO, a couple of sugar cubes and some bitters and bam! you’ve planned a thing, congratulations!
The classic version of the cocktail is made with Angostura Bitters, orangey-pink in color and has a surprising foaminess when you pour in the champagne. It has a slight bitter orange flavor from the bitters and a sweetness from the sugar cube. I of course had to put my own spin on this cocktail by switching out the Angostura bitters for some Bittercube Cherry Bark and Vanilla bitters. These bitters are more herbal and sweet and have a beautiful vanilla scent, the perfect alternative for someone who doesn't like traditional bitters.
Here is one of the simplest recipes you will ever encounter, ready?
Classic Champagne Cocktail
1 sugar cube
3-4 dashes Agostura Bitters
Put a sugar cube in a champagne flute, douse with bitters and top with Champagne! Take all of the credit as expert bar tender and all-around genius!
Happy Valentine's Day!
24 HOURS IN CORK CITY, IRELAND
I really liked Cork, I liked it more than Dublin… don’t get mad. Of course, I will be the first to admit that I didn’t spend enough time in either city to make much of an assessment. Cork just felt more accessible to me, like a small town with all of the best parts of a big city. Just like Dublin, Cork is now on my list for a return visit, I didn’t even get to kiss the Blarney Stone.
we stayed at The River Lee Hotel, which is of course on the River Lee. This a thoroughly modern hotel with huge glass observations areas that look over the river and town. The rooms were nice and much more modern than I was expecting and the breakfast buffet was delicious with both a full Irish on offer as well as lots of healthy options.
There gets to be a point when all I want is a decent drip black coffee, not always an easy thing to procure in Europe. I managed to find Filter Espresso and Brew Bar, who served me a pretty good cup of coffee while I proceeded to look like a weirdo who jogs in the rain and asks for a to-go cup. Cork seems to have quite the coffee culture if you're into that.
I’m still bummed that we didn’t have time to catch some traditional music at a pub while we were in Ireland. We did manage to hit An Bodhran Bar while we were in Cork, with a local to boot! The first thing you need to know about drinking in Cork is Beamish, the second is Murphy’s, the third is never order a Guinness.
Oliver Plunkett street, or 'Olly P’s' as its referred to by the locals, is an amazing pedestrian street full of shops, pubs and buskers. Olly P's has been around for about 300 years, and was named best pedestrian street in Ireland and the UK in 2015. Don’t forget to check out the English Market, Irelands most famous covered market, which is just a short walk away,
Cork is a very walkable city and they have taken advantage of this by creating self directed walking tours that criss-cross the city. I spent a couple of hours working my way from Oliver Plunkett street past city hall down to the River Lee over to the University of Cork, seeing the remains of the city’s original Roman fortification as I went.
There is so much more to do in Cork City and the surrounding countryside than I managed in my short time there. I can’t wait to go back