So, first holiday in over two years. I find that sentence hard to read ‘cause not taking time off before now was a big mistake. A lesson learned: the body and soul need respite, particularly during a time like the last year and a half.
We were meant to go to Japan last June. It wasn’t really possible to do anything last summer even here, given on and off lockdowns. I had no real desire to go some place like where I live (semi-rural, seaside). The optimistic hope for this autumn was Amsterdam, but it is on the amber list and I seriously can’t be bothered with tests coming and going and worrying about a place moving from amber to red, which would mean coming back early if I didn’t want to quarantine on return.
So, we went to London for six days. Took the train, masked the whole way (2.5 hours). I managed to buy cut-price first class tickets which made the whole there and back reasonably pleasant.
Aparthotel in very central London location. All meals eaten out. A few activities, but mostly just eating and wandering. It was pretty perfect. Exactly what we needed.
Mostly we wandered from one area where I’d booked a restaurant to another. We did go to the zoo one day and visited Hampstead Heath another. Oh, we also went to the Japan Centre and a new development in Kings Cross (north central London) called Coal Drops Yard (more on that later). And we briefly visited Fortnum & Mason and Liberty’s perfume departments.
Overall, food was very good (one really uninspiring breakfast, one meh breakfast, one meh dinner, but that one was our fault for ordering badly).
A few highlights.
First breakfast at café called Abuelo near Covent Garden. Really recommend this (good chai) and were able to eat outside (see pic of my breakfast of sourdough toast with marscapone, figs, pistachios and ‘micro’ flowers).
Breakfast day before we left at place (again in Covent Garden) called Dishoom (meant to mimic a café in Bombay decades ago – the place smelled of incense and spices in the best possible way). Sausage naan and bottomless chai (this chai was exceptional).
Lunch at chi chi Japanese place near Liberty (ie, Regent Street) up on terrace above London (see pics).
Dinner at one of Yotam Ottolenghi’s restaurants (Nopi). Small plates of tremendously imaginative and good food (my son even ate the aubergine/eggplant – not something he generally likes). I only remembered to take pictures of dessert (roasted apricot, lemon thyme caramel, orange blossom yoghurt, pistachio shortbread and chai, pistachio & raspberry verrine, Jaconde sponge, pistachio ice cream).
No sniffing at either Liberty or F&M. At both places the SAs appeared to have decided to spray everything they could think of in the air which meant the atmosphere was stifling. I did try a couple of things at Aesop (hugely overpriced) where I bought some hair stuff: Hwyl (supposed to reflect a Japanese forest – woody, green – nice fougere on me) and Marrakech (this had a big moment on the blogs and Makeup Alley fragrance board years ago – spicy oriental – nice – nothing to write home about).
I didn’t wear perfume even though I brought stuff with me. It was very hot for most of the time we were in London and it’s much more polluted than I remember. There were two fragrance moments that have stayed with me: first, a huge honeysuckle on a wall in Hampstead which was just heavenly; second, a tree in the zoo (see pic – what is this, please) which smelled sort of like jasmine but not pongy and fresher.
Finally, we ate twice at restaurants at the new-ish development in Kings Cross. I was fascinated by this place because years ago when I lived in northeast London, I’d pass what was derelict land on the bus which featured three gas storage structures. What I found most shocking about the development is those structures were turned into million-pound apartments (the place includes Google’s London headquarters plus Google’s AI offshoot, Deep Mind). They are very interesting looking (see pic – they appear to have metal privacy screens that move along some of the windows) but I can’t get past the fact that the regeneration is targeted at very wealthy people rather than the area having mixed housing.
I’m very pleased we got away. It did exactly what we needed and I’m not going to leave the next bit of time off so long.
PS Took first post holiday covid tests and we’re both negative. So far, so good