I went to London…
To visit my best friend and stayed at her place in the Shoreditch area. Although she lives there and I've already been, it was fun to play tourist together. We visited the Globe Theatre, countless markets, and even went to see Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theatre (100 per cent recommended. The scene with the magic carpet was amazing). The entire trip was pure magic, just like Aladdin, and despite the grey, misty days, we were able to take in the sights of London, from Hampstead to Soho.
Longing for literary London?
If you love Shakespeare, Keats, and Du Maurier like I do, then London is the perfect destination. To start off on your literary quest, head to the Globe Theatre. Although it's not the original—the original Globe burned down in the 17th century—this recreation will give you a feel for the real thing. The stage juts out so everyone can see. A select amount of audience members can fill the middle pit just like they did back then and the open-roof theatre carries on with the show even if it rains. Plays are put on there twice a day, unlike in Shakespeare's time, when there was only a daytime performance under the London sky—rain or shine.
Books to buy
There are plenty of places to buy first editions of the classics, from CS Lewis to Lewis Carroll and JM Barrie. My friend took me to a store that had a great collection of children's books at Marchpane near Covent Garden. If you're looking for copies of Alice in Wonderland, this is THE place for you. I ended up buying a 1940s edition of Alice in Wonderland and other poems, which were illustrated beautifully and the book was in great condition.
Another favourite book store was Daunt Books. Although they were not vintage, there was a great selection and the atmosphere was beautiful. The one I went to is located in the lovely Marylebone (pronounced Marla-bone) neighbourhood in an Edwardian-style space with skylights and bookshelves from floor to ceiling.
Home of my favourite writer
I had to visit the childhood home of Daphne Du Maurier. I've been curious about her life since I read Rebecca a decade ago. Her descriptions of the fictional Manderley estate—the eeriness and isolation—can be felt in the damp streets of Hampstead, easily accessible by hopping on the tube. The branches of weeping willows sweep the roads every time the wind blows. Overgrown vines crawl up mansions that sit behind wrought iron gates. The neighbourhood is beautiful in its dreariness, with roses and peonies growing wildly on front lawns. At 14 Canon Place, where Du Maurier spent her childhood with her family, there is no plaque dedicated to her, but rather to her father, Gerald Du Maurier, the English actor.
The former residence of romantic English poet John Keats called Keats House is also in Hampstead, about a 10-minute walk from Cannon Hall. The home is now a museum dedicated to Keats (although when I was there, they didn't have any of his books for sale.) He moved there with his friend from 1818 until 1820. You are free to walk around the home and even see the room where Keats spent most of his time after becoming ill. There are portraits of his love, whom he watched from afar after he started showing symptoms of consumption (or tuberculosis.)
To market, to market
Almost everywhere you turn in London, you end up at a market.
Here are some I visited:
- Borough Market: Great selection of food for lunch, drinks, cheese
- Old Spitalfields Market: Posters, vintage jackets, purses, jewelry
- Portobello Market: Vintage books, cameras, paintings, clothing
I bought three Du Maurier books at Portobello Market from a friendly vendor. If you don't like crowds, this may not be the market for you. It gets extremely busy, but worthwhile if you are also in the mood for a cupcake from the Hummingbird Bakery. It's in Nottinghill, a great area for cute trendy cafes where you can people-watch all day if you're lucky enough to get a spot on a patio.
You can't cover all of London in a week, but here are some highlights from my trip.
Soho & Chinatown
- Shopping and walking around. Check out department store Liberty's, which has been selling luxury goods since 1875. From Soho, walk to nearby Chinatown for more shops and food.
Eat: Instead of more fish and chips, check out this dim sum restaurant chain called Ping Pong if you're in the mood for lots of little dishes to share. Otherwise, Dashoom is another favourite serving up Indian fare.
City of London
- Site-seeing, shopping and walking around.
- Visit: Tower of London. You could spend hours getting lost in the area located beside the Thames. The medieval castle, actually made up of 20 towers, is home to the British crown jewels and is the spot where many were beheaded. Anne Boleyn was beheaded right in the centre, and you can still see exactly where it happened. Check out the chapel as well, where royal communions, funerals and weddings still take place. It dates back to the early 16th century.
- Walking, markets, cafes
- Eat: Go to Rascals for fun cocktails and fusion finger dishes to share. It's an alternative to pub food and almost every angle is instagrammable. If you're not sure what you're in the mood for, and you want a casual atmosphere, go to Boxpark. There are food stalls and bars and popups all in one area with free admission. Try the bubble waffle ice cream cones for dessert. Worth the wait.
Wild for Windsor
If you want a picturesque English town next to a large castle, then head to Windsor, accessible by train from London.
The views from Windsor Castle are beautiful even when it's rainy, and you can also see the queen's doll and dollhouse collection. Make sure the state rooms are open when you're visiting so you can check out where kings and queens of England slept, ate and entertained guests.