I was born in London, moved around five times in the same area (twice on the same street!) before settling where I live now. Despite never staying in one place too long, I had not explored much of the city on my own. I was always with my family, and never without at least one of my four siblings. To be honest, I had not even stepped foot on the circle line until I was 18, I think! I had seen more of London in films than with my own eyes.
After starting at Imperial, I was having lectures in South Kensington in the heart of London, I could not help exploring all the places I wanted the go, the restaurants I wanted to eat at, stores I wanted to shop at. I have not been out in a while due to lockdowns and the weather slowly drifting from sunny skies to a wet drizzle and a December chill sweeping the streets. Moving into the festive season, I wanted to share some of my favourite spots in the city.
I went ice skating with some friends close to Christmas last year at the Natural History Museum on Exhibition Road which about a minute from campus. We made great memories taking photos at the huge tree, falling over on the ice and drinking warm mulled wine. Wrap up warm and go with a lot of energy to burn. Inside the museum, they had a gorgeous 3D art piece of the moon, which I visited a lot; you can also see the giant whale skeleton.
Catching up with friends reminds me of when I went to La Petite Bretagne, a fantastic crepe place in Hammersmith. Personal favourites are the Forestière (cheese, ham, spinach) for savoury and Belle-Hélène (vanilla ice cream, pear and dark chocolate) for sweet. Grab some juice or a glass of wine and it comes out to total £14.
There are great places to eat in Hammersmith too, Dragon Cat Café is a small business that has amazing tea, the sun moon lake milk tea warm with 50% sweetness and large tapioca might just be the love of my life. I always reward myself with it after a study session or a long day of classes. I love the vanilla custard wheel cakes there as well; my usual order is about £6. They just launched gift cards (not so subtle nudge) if any of my friends are looking for my birthday gift?
Drums and Flats is a whole yes, I would recommend the sticky BBQ wings and buttermilk chicken tenders. They have a location in Wembley Boxpark and a delivery kitchen in Elephant and Castle, I am craving some right now while I am writing this actually. This is a small business that it black owned as well if that is something you are looking out for!
I am on the lookout for my go to Indian place, my best friend promised to take me. Raita, mango kulfi, garlic naan, biryani… just thinking about Indian food reminds me and when me and my friends used to grab samosas with coriander chutney on our study breaks from our local library.
If I am thinking about pasta, it is Vapiano’s time without a doubt. Usually go for arrabiata, carbonara or gamberetti e spinaci (without the king prawns I hate seafood ugh). If you are extra hungry, they do pizza, salads and antipasti too, go for the bruschetta.
I have only visited the National Portrait Gallery once or twice and wanted to go back after seeing a poster in a Tube station on my way home. The gallery has free entry for general admission (to collections like ‘Sin’) and tickets are available online for the other exhibits (normally around £10).
I was thinking of going to either the Artemisia or Titian exhibit for my birthday. Artemisia was a 17th century Italian painter who was the first woman to enter the art school in Florence. The Titian collection is a series of paintings based on classical myth from Ovid’s ‘Metamorphoses’ with the theme ‘Love, Desire, Death’ which have been reunited after being in separate galleries for decades.
Tier 3 restrictions just got announced so they are currently closed but they have a plethora of online content (I like their Instagram, especially the art history type quizzes on their stories, even though I have not got higher than a 5/10 yet :/).
If you like plants, the Sky Gardens is great with a view of the London skyline but if you have a big appetite like me, I suggest eating somewhere beforehand. But I got a cocktail and took pictures and was satisfied with that. Primrose Hill is in Regent’s Park and lots of people climb to the top to have a picnic with the view. The Kyoto Gardens are another green space but for peace and quiet, it has a pond with koi fish and a backdrop of little waterfalls. The running water and the clear air makes it great place just to sit and think, I used to go there sometimes and put on mindfulness exercises so I can appreciate the stillness and tranquility.
Daunt Books is right there by Holland Park station, so I usually stop there on the way back from the gardens. I love the sound of people walking in there, bookstores usually have carpet to muffle the sound for that traditional ‘I must be silent lest I suffer the severe consequences that will surely befall me’ atmosphere but they have wooden floors. I know, a very weird thing to like about a book shop but here we are. They have a great selection, and the staff selections have not steered me wrong yet. While we are talking about bookstores, I discovered South Kensington Bookstore when I joined book society. The month’s book is ready for pick up there near the tube entrance after ordering, the cashier is always lovely (random side note: they have very pretty greeting cards just at the desk behind the door).
I miss the smell of bookstores. That reminds me of this little store tucked away inside the Serpentine Gallery where it feels as though art, the environment, social issues and technology collide. I can’t lie the exhibits I’ve seen have been confusing and I’m not entirely sure I took away the intended message but I’m still excited to go back. It sits very close to the lake so take the time to stroll through Hyde Park, pet dogs, eat your lunch and feed the ducks.
Obviously, if I visited these places recently or will in future, I am wearing a mask, sanitizing and washing my hands frequently and following up to date social distancing guidelines. Happy exploring!