I recently took 3 much needed days off in order to catch up on sleep, chores, see my husband and generally get my life back in order before starting my new job yesterday. After working 2 jobs and going through the job hunting process I was absolutely mentally and physically exhausted so the short break was a welcome one.
Luckily for me, the few days off coincided with the appearance of the sun and the warm weather, which is more typical for this time of year in London but has been evading us of late. The sun came out and it was so nice to be able to wake up and actually enjoy it rather than think about going to work or prepping for interviews.
I finally got to get back out for a run, (something that I’d had to cut out of my routine for the last couple of weeks), I cleaned the house (I can’t relax properly unless it’s clean and we’d really let it go), I did some baking, (another thing that I love to do and helps me feel like my world in order). And on top of all that I did a whole lot of, well, nothing. It was bliss – spending long afternoons lazing in the park with my book or resting my eyes with the warmth of the sun on my skin!
One of the days that I was off, C was also off work so we decided to make a special ‘Mr and Mrs’ day of it and enjoy London for some of the things it offers.
We started with a small sleep in. It was about 9.30/10am when we got up but that’s pretty late for me, so it felt pretty luxurious and for once I didn’t feel that guilt that sometimes hits when I feel like I am wasting the good weather or generally not making the most of my day. The lazy sleep in was followed by a delicious breakfast – coffee, pancakes (gluten free of course), bacon, maple syrup and fresh bananas. It sounds like an odd combination but I am telling you it’s delicious!!
Then we decided to get out and about and the day looked a little like this:
11am: Bike ride along Regent’s Canal.
London is famous for the River Thames but what a lot of people don’t know is that there are a bunch of canals that run through the city, winding through the East and West, North and South. They are filled with house boats that often double as small businesses like ‘The Floating Hairdresser’ or the ‘Canal Coffee’ or second hand bookshops, antique stores and a bunch of other things. It feels like a different world and you can almost forget that the city is right next to you. There are big walk and cycle ways all the way along so it is a great thing to do when the sun is shining. We decided to go for a bike ride along Regent’s Canal which goes right past Angel where we live and up towards Hackney, linking you up to Victoria Park and around to Bethnal Green and beyond.
12.30pm: A stroll through Hackney Village.
We had packed ourselves a picnic but decided we should get some ice to keep some of the things we brought with us cold, and while we were on a mission to find it we stumbled into Hackney Village. You’d know from my West End Brisbane post that I love finding areas of a city that feel like a little village and not really part of the bigger city. Hackney is quite quaint. Despite the fact it’s becoming more and more ‘trendy’ and seems to now be a place where all the hipsters congregate, you still get the small community village feel with the small independent bookshops, fishmonger, green grocer, cafes, corner shops and so on.
1pm: Picnic in Victoria Park
We cycled around for a bit to check it out as Victoria Park is one of the only parks in central-ish London where you don’t have to dismount while you’re actually IN the park. We settled for a little grassy area filled with daisies and not too close to the main walkways. It was incredibly nice to take some time out to spend with each other, something we’ve done very little of lately. I can’t tell you how nice it felt, sun on our shoulders, delicious food, ice-cold pink bubbles, and each other for company. It was exactly the relaxing afternoon we both needed.
2pm: A snooze in the park
So lovely in fact that we both ended up falling asleep. I think our exhaustion and the warmth of the sun, combined with our full bellies and the perfect amount of alcohol was enough to make us both drift off into a deep sleep.
It was so lovely lying there and I was so deeply asleep I was actually dreaming – not that kind of park sleeping where you have one ear and one eye open to the things going on around you.
The moment was drastically and rudely brought to an end when we were woken by some council workers, and their chainsaws and wood chipper, who had come to do some tree maintenance. We were so shocked and felt horrible being jolted awake like that but in the end it was probably a good thing as we’d both not realised we’d fallen asleep in the sun without suncream. I said at the time, ‘well they probably saved us from getting burnt’ not realising that C was severely burnt already as the sunburn didn’t show up until much later. A word to the Aussies – don’t be fooled by the British sun, although not quite so harsh, it can do just as much damage as the Australian one!!
4pm: Peddle boat hire
We decided to continue to make the most of the sunny day and warm weather and cool off on the water with a peddle boat. London has loads of these in most of the parks in London and although a little touristy, it is quite a fun thing to do.
We were happy floating or peddling around and as it’s Spring/Early Summer there were loads of little baby geese and swans and ducks around and we enjoyed peddling around looking at them all and finding their nests. C was steering and thought it was funny to keep running me under the water fountain or under low hanging trees!! We followed it up with an ice cream before getting back on our bikes.
5.30pm: Borough Markets followed by a drink on the Southbank
After a quick stop home we decided to ride through the City* and over London Bridge to the Southbank. We tied up our bikes just near Borough Market and took a stroll through before heading over to the water where we settled in a beer garden and watched the world go by.
Borough Market is all about the food. Good quality, delicious, organic, local food and drink. Need I say more? All I can say is go there with an empty stomach and a full wallet! Thankfully we arrived as they were packing things up for the day so we didn’t spend money on things we didn’t need.
There is always loads happening on the Southbank – all the way up and down it there are street performers and bands, cafes and pubs. The place is always buzzing and especially in the sunshine when people take in the sites like the many bridges along the Thames, St Paul’s Cathedral and further down, the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament.
7.30pm: A play at Shakespeare’s Globe
As we were already there and the weather was so lovely (and we didn’t have to worry about work the next day) we decided to see if we could get any last minute seats at Shakespeare’s Globe.
I’ve been to this awesome venue twice before and on both occasions thoroughly enjoyed it. I saw Richard III the first time, and Taming of the Shrew the second time and I knew at the start of this year that I wanted to try and get there again. C on the other hand had never been, despite spending some 34 years in this amazing city and he’d been quite jealous to have missed out the two times I went along.
The Globe offers roughly 700 standing tickets at £5 per person which is great if you’re travelling or living in London on a budget. Unfortunately, even those can sometimes be hard to get because the venue is so popular but it’s worth trying because they often release re-sale tickets on the night. We were lucky to get 2 of the last 6 tickets to the standing area and we saw A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Quite fitting considering the weather and the fact we’d had a dreamlike day!
The actors at the Globe impressed once again. The performance we saw was hilarious, gripping, and thoroughly entertaining and the 3 hours we spent standing absolutely flew by. Pearce Quigley, who played the fool in the performance I saw of Taming of the Shrew, graced the stage again for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, playing Bottom, and once again had everyone in stitches. In fact, he really made the show, along with Matthew Tennyson who performed brilliantly as Puck.
C was suitably impressed by the venue and the performance as well and I was pleased he got to see such a great one. So now I’ve been there and experienced two of Shakepeare’s comedies and one of his histories, from a number of vantage points, both sitting and standing and I could keep going again and again and again. I must get along to one of his tragedies before my time in London is up!
Home we rode, back over London Bridge into our little flat in Angel. It was so nice to come home to our little house, in our little pocket of London that we love so much after such an amazing day out. We both said it felt like we were actually on holiday as opposed to just having a day off and we were so appreciative of some decent time together.
I woke the next morning still buzzing from it… and C was still glowing… from the sunburn that is. Even some 3 days later his skin is still lobster red and it looks VERY painful. We have both definitely learned our lesson!!
* The ‘City’ in London refers to a specific Borough or area, as opposed to a generally meaning Central London. The City (intended capital) is the main business area – where most of the big banks and so on are.