Polarity Travels: London
By Vanessa Palencia
London's diversity, rich history and culture makes it one of the world's most sought after travel destinations, which isn't surprising as it has been around for nearly 2000 years (and you thought Betty White was old!). There is so much to see and, depending on your length of stay, usually not much time to get to see everything. While having a full day-to-day itinerary will help cut down time and allow you to check off what you want to see, it’s sometimes difficult to figure out how to prioritize your activities and what needs to make it onto your list. If you're a first-timer, then you probably already have the iconic Big Ben and red buses on your to-do list, but if you're looking for something different, then here are some unique things to see and places to eat while you are in London!
Things to See
The second oldest antique shop in London located in beautiful Notting Hill, Henry Gregory holds the most unique and antiquated pieces of history while (itself) being a historical place itself. From discovering the rarest die to marvelling at the once popular collapsible cup (used by aristocrats), you can easily lose yourself in this small shop. But the person who really brings this shop to life (the man behind the desk) is Nigel who made our experience an unforgettable one. He took the time to share the stories and history behind some of his favorite pieces. So if you ever find yourself in London, make your way to Henry Gregory and immerse yourself in history.
You don't have to be religious to enjoy the grandiose architecture and majestic artwork within these walls. Attending their Sunday services will allow you to witness a ritual that has been a part of history for centuries. Hearing the all-male choir echo their songs of praise will give you a glimpse into the past.
If you can, I'd definitely plan your trip to London in June, London's Food Month, because tons of food festivals pop up. Tickets range between 10-15 pounds per person (depending on the event), but the foods served are delivered from the best chefs in the area! What I love about the atmosphere is that although the food brings everyone together, it's the community that really brightens up the scene. The food festival we attended was Night Market, and it delivered a wonderful, cozy feeling with its plastic domes that people could gather in away from the chilly winds, a dance stage with a pianist, and a large outdoor movie screen with giant bean bags where people could relax after eating. This is one example of the great things you can expect from attending a good festival in London.
How can you not be a Harry Potter fan and be in London at the same time?! While a little outside of London, this studio tour is a must! The details in this place are so surreal, you can easily spend 3 hours here. The highest record that someone spent here is 13 hours! You'll learn how the filmmakers shot certain scenes, watch how the digital photographers whipped up some of the most magical creatures we know today, and see the intricate designs that went into the wardrobes, props, and scenery drops that created the magical world of Harry Potter. And for the truly die-hard fans, you can have a Christmas Dinner in the Great Hall!
Places to Eat
The ultimate chocolate shop for chocolate lovers! The name already suggests that you are in for an interesting experience. The shop is separated into two floors. The first floor is where you'll find chocolate gifts and chocolate decor that you can purchase and marvel at. You'll find the most insane chocolate decorations, like intricately detailed chocolate dogs and cats, so be sure to break out your phones for this. On the second floor you'll find the cafe where you can try outrageously chocolatey brownies, shakes, and cakes. There's also coffee and other non-chocolate items for those who aren't die-hard chocolate fans, but obviously you must be if visit this shop.
Calling all cereal lovers and Instagram addicts! This small cafe offers over 120 varieties of local and international cereals with different types of milks and toppings to choose from, making your bowl of cereal more than just a bowl of cereal. You can create your own concoction or choose from the menu which offers decadent milkshakes that are totally Instagram-worthy. You'll also definitely be in for a treat as you wait for your order. Surrounded by 80s and 90s memorabilia while eating your favorite cereal, the Cereal Killer Cafe will give you feelings of nostalgia, making you want to never leave.
This is a must-see when in London! Located on Newington Causeway near the Elephant and Castle area, this place is a haven for foodies! Londoners gather here after work for some drinks and their pick of the litter for foods of all types and cuisines.Complete with strung up patio lights, indoor and outdoor areas, wines, beers, and a variety of specialty dessert places, this is the place to be after a long day with friends. But don't get put off by the food court-like setting, because all of the vendors here are top-of-the-line, and their attention to detail in their presentation and delivery is a testament to that.
Okay, so it's not a restaurant, but they sell chocolate! You can find some unique chocolates here, like beer flavored chocolate, or you can find a perfect gift to take home. We fell in love with the salted caramel chocolate spread, but because we weren't aware that spreads are considered liquids in airports, we had to abandon it. However, we were saved when we realized that we could order their products online! Needless to say, we will be ordering our lost product.
Space is a bit cramped here, but it's such a cute interior. They serve a traditional English breakfast, which consists of baked beans, an egg, tomatoes (fresh or tinned), ham, mushrooms, and (if you’re brave enough) black pudding (pig’s blood). Gross, right? I consider myself adventurous, but I had to pass on that. If anyone tries it, please give me details!
A part of Westminster Abbey, this cafe is situated in the same place where monks used to store their food years ago. With an elegant and historical feel, this is also a perfect place for afternoon tea and/or a delicious lunch or dinner!
Best ice cream shop ever! Decorated with pastel flowers and offering the creamiest ice cream I've ever tasted, Udderlicious has found its place on my food list. It's also conveniently located next to Denmark street,where all the oldest guitar shops are, so you can come here for a break from shopping and sightseeing. You won't be disappointed!
Not for the faint of nose. The cheesy aroma slaps you before you even stepping foot in the shop. It doesn't deceivingly embrace you like America’s crap cheeses, Velveeta and Kraft. You have to be a die-hard cheese fan in order to appreciate this gem. This shop offers a variety of local cheeses and lets you taste-test them, which just proves the quality of cheeses. I couldn't leave without taking a small wedge of aged cheddar cheese and some creamy goat cheese!