A change is as good as a rest?

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

  • Dina C. says:

    So happy for you. Sounds like it was a delicious trip!

  • Portia says:

    Hey Cinnamon,
    YAY for going to London. What a town! Bloody miss it.
    I love going to Liberty but that weird niche room aways smells nauseatingly strong. Instant headache for me. I’ve never stayed long enough to buy anything. Shame because they have some good lines.
    YAY for C19 free.
    Portia x

    • cinnamon says:

      I just couldn’t see my way to countryside or seaside — needed something different. It was really odd — the fragrance overload. Walking through F&M I just kept thinking what do we do — I am so uncomfortable and I’m certainly not taking of the mask to get even more of a face full of perfume. There wasn’t that much I was interested in. The ground floor with all the chocolates and cookies was a lot more enticing.

  • Musette says:

    your holiday sounds fab! Except for the perfume depts. Those sound horrifying. Who does that, just spraying a bunch of rando stuff in the air like that?

    Other than that it sounds like a wonderful time and congrats on the No Covid return tests!

    xoxo

    • cinnamon says:

      Hope you’re feeling better.

      It was really weird — the perfume clouds in F&M and Liberty. I mean what was the point? Since a lot of people are still wearing masks was it done so you can smell perfume (all the perfumes they offer) while still wearing a mask? I am glad we got away though.

      • Musette says:

        I am feeling much better, thank you!!! And if that was the thought behind the Nuclear Spray, it’s even dumber than I thought – a miasma of Perfumes sounds migraine-inducing and serves no purpose.

        Glad you got out of there, too! xoxox

  • Tara C says:

    Ooh, London! Great choice. I have no holidays on the horizon, wanted to go to Hawaii but unless things improve dramatically in the next few months that won’t happen. Possibly a camping trip or two. But really, I live at the beach and love it, so it’s not a hardship, and I’m in driving range of excellent perfume sniffing/shopping, so it’s all good.

  • March says:

    Oh, that sounds absolutely LOVELY. And I’m with you on your choices — you’re not looking for another seaside getaway! At some point, we’re going to have to figure out how to travel (and at some point this will be behind us, unlikely as that seems now.) I’d have done what you did, lots of fun restaurant meals, done as safely as possible. I don’t know what that fragrant bush is although I feel like I’ve seen it around.

    • March says:

      PS did some googling … is it harlequin glorybower? The leaves / smell/ flower arrangement seem right.

      • cinnamon says:

        That might be it. It certainly smelled very good. And I’ve now seen a tree in the garden of a house I’ve been passing for years. Who knew 🙂

        • March says:

          Well that’s a funny thing that happens sometimes — you spot an interesting specimen somewhere and next thing you know, you’re noticing them where you never saw them before!

    • cinnamon says:

      It was lovely. And while I feel like I needed more time off (two weeks would have been better) I don’t think I would have wanted to do two in London. In any case, the whole not cooking thing was a dream. I now want someone to cook me delicious healthy meals and stick them in my freezer for me.