The Traverse 2017 pre-conference events in London were the perfect excuse to travel locally. Since moving abroad for love and settling into the UK, I had stopped exploring the city. Everyday life kept me busy enough, but I had been missing out on the best parts of my new hometown! Touring London with other travel influencers reacquainted me with the sophisticated city that thousands of visitors adore. So, from delicious treats to fun activities, these are my top London finds from #Traverse17.
Japanese Cuisine at Kouzu
Of course, the first of my top London finds is dedicated to yummies. I write off many self-labelled fusion restaurants, particularly Asian fusion eateries, because they simply want more leeway to serve non-traditional dishes without actually advancing the cuisine. Anyone can thoughtlessly toss in ingredients and call it “fusion cuisine,” right? But the quality of the food stood out first and foremost at Kouzu, where we sampled many canapés from the Afternoon Tea menu. Upon tasting each hors d’oeuvres, we first delighted and then happily analysed the unique ingredients and how they affected the dish. For an elegant Japanese dining experience, I highly recommend a visit to Kouzu – and an order of their ice cream mochi! Hats off to Head Chef, Mario Isidro.
Sorry, I didn’t bring my camera to take nice food pictures – and I was honestly too busy eating!
Afternoon Tea at London Bridge Hotel
Afternoon tea is a quintessential element of British culture. Although locals seem to continuously down tea (seriously, do not underestimate the power of a hot tea in England), the afternoon tea experience is elevated at a restaurant. I felt completely relaxed as I slid into padded booth at The Quarter Bar & Lounge at London Bridge Hotel, unwrapping my miniature caramel-filled stroopwafel as I ordered my tea. The serving staff was very kind and attentive, even as I waited for others in my party to join. But I didn’t mind having the sunlit booth to myself as I observed other visitors in plush chairs, chatting to comrades over food. The tea, sandwiches and scones were very tasty. It’s a shame I had to rush off before really digging into their desserts…
P.S. – If you head there for a spot of tea, make sure to adhere to their smart casual dress code!
Checking out the Street Art Scene with Strawberry Tours
With all of the opportunities to scoff delicious food, it was necessary to go on a walk. The first of my active London finds brought me a breath of fresh air and a big dose of culture as we checked out the famous street art scene in Shoreditch with Strawberry Tours. We met our friendly tour guide at Tower Bridge Station, where we had a discussion of what qualifies as street art before trekking across the city to see a variety of examples: graffiti, installations, stickers, posters, mosaics – you name it! I almost even trod upon an “artistic” cluster of pink broccoli at one point… Olivia not only informed us about the different artists and styles, she really facilitated a conversation with us. Because she mentioned how quickly the street art in the area changes, it felt really special to witness the vibrant and thoughtful pieces at that exact moment. During part of our excursion, we could also smell the delicious Brick Lane curries, which makes for another great tour…
For more fun in the British capital, check out this guide on responsible travel in London!
Bicycling Around London with Donkey Republic
I was so nervous to bicycle in London. As an American expat, I worried that I would panic and start biking in the wrong lane or turn the wrong direction… But I was convinced to join the bike tour, sponsored by Donkey Republic, at Traverse since I could safely stay in the middle of the group. Our tour group was huge, so the traffic lights did split us up at many points, but cycling by the River Thames was delightful. I felt like I really hit my stride there – and that’s the only place in London I’d ever want to bike again. For shorties (and those with disproportionately short legs, like myself), I advise wearing tall shoes. I’m quite flexible and agile, but even after the seat was adjusted, I had a terrible time “saddling up,” so to speak. If you face the same problem, mounting the bike as you stand on a curb should do the trick.
Rolling Down the River with City Cruises
Many of you know, I never really desired to move to London. But the evening cruise with City Cruises was so enchanting that it actually helped me to fall in love with the city. Although reticent to join a riverboat party, with no escape until they docked, the serene passage down the Thames tops my best London finds list. We started with sights of the peculiar 02 Arena and ducked beneath the Emirates Airline cable cars, but the views just got better from there. The grand finale of the night-time cruise brought us beneath a spectacularly lit Tower Bridge, past the glowing red London Eye and the illuminated Houses of Parliament, including the iconic Big Ben clock tower. For more details of the spectacular tour, please check out my City Cruises guest blog.
Best London Finds Conclusion
In conclusion, I was so silly for dismissing London as a fun and happening place! Yes, it is occasionally dreary and tiring, no thanks to the weather and bummer commutes. But, finding little spots in your hometown is necessary to adjust to expat life, and I will be more than happy to repeat these London experiences. Let me know which of these London finds you would like to try in the comments!
Disclaimer: Up&AtEm Travel, along with other Traverse attendees, was given complimentary services. A blog post was not requested, but if you would like to work with me, please do contact me for collaborations!