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Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Taking a London Staycation

The last month has been a busy one, even without being able to do much outside, but we finally penciled in a Destination Date Night, where we visited London. As you might know, London is one of my favorite cities. It feels like home for me, but also like I can never explore it enough. The neighborhoods are all very unique, the food is delicious, the people are lovely, and the architecture is beautiful. 

Now that I think about it, maybe I should have saved London for my birthday this week, but I didn't (we'll be going back to Italy for that). I had a whole plan for this date night though, which required me to hit up a couple different food places that I adore. My first stop was Lovejoy's Tea House, who are doing orders for entire tea services or separate pieces, including shepherds pies and crumpets. 

I jumped on Lovejoy's online ordering system and got my starter - their homemade pumpkin soup - and my dessert - scones, petit fours, and macarons. We'll talk more about that later. After I picked up those things, I headed to our nearby food cart pod (BG Food Cartel) to get fish and chips from The Frying Scotsman. Usually, I order their fried haggis, which I think is delicious, but our London theme called for fried fish and a side of mushy peas. 

I got Eric a large order of cod, which I thought would be served as an extra piece of fish, but instead just came as the same two pieces, but twice the size as normal. LOL! 

I chose the regular size of Mahi Mahi. We probably could have split one large order, as we both had food left over to eat at later time. So, if you're trying to be more budget-friendly, definitely make sure you know what the portion sizes are  when you order. It's possible you just need to order an extra side of chips. For the record, this place gives you just as many chips as fish, so you aren't lacking anywhere. They want you to be full, and we were, for sure.

We've visited London several times, and each time we go, we have totally different experiences. I set up a playlist of YouTube tour videos to enjoy while we ate and took in the view of Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster. I love this building and one day we'll visit again and try to take a tour. 

One of the tours showed some of the history of the London Bridge (not the iconic Tower Bridge), which originally burned down, because it was made of timber. The replacement bridge fell into disrepair from lack of use. It was rebuilt and maintained again, but was destroyed by a tornado. Another fire came and burned the next London Bridge, which was the last time they built the bride of wood. 

The bridge was rebuilt made of stone and had a better archway support system. It became very popular and buildings housing shops crammed onto, creating issues with the structure. Another fire broke out, engulfed the buildings and a bunch of people were trapped on the bridge and killed. Several more fires followed and created a firebreak to it, which helped save it from The Great Fire. More buildings were added to the bridge and it was home to heavy traffic as well, all of which collapsed arches over the years, and finally the London Bridge Act was passed, allowing the city to buy all the houses on it, demolish them and fix the bridge. 

Unfortunately, they added a Great Arch, and this weakened all the other arches, resulting in tons of costly repairs. They finally decided The Old London Bridge was costing too much and built another one further down the river and tore this one down. This new modern bridge was only 100 feet away, but proved to be better constructed and soon became very popular again. This caused the bridge to sink several inches on one side, and they knew it would need replacing yet again. 

Instead of destroying it to build a new one, they had the crazy idea to sell it. This is how the New London Bridge was acquired by Robert McCulloch, disassembled piece by piece, meticulously hand numbered and shipped to America where it was reassembled in Lake Havasu, Arizona. The sale brought in $2.5 million for the City of London, allowing them to cover most of the cost of the new London Bridge, which is the one you see today. One one end of it, you can view some of the original supports, as well as a very old timber plank that was part of the bridge before it was replaced with stone. Sorry, but I find the history of this bridge eternally fascinating and I will be visiting that piece of wood next time I travel to London.

For dessert, we "walked" down Bond and Oxford Streets to see the Christmas lights already up for 2020. They are beautiful and stretch across the street between buildings. Some are angels and some are illuminated, changing screens with winter scenes or greetings on them. We saw them once when we were there, but haven't been back late enough to enjoy them again. 

We paired this with current scones, petit fours, and macarons. The petit fours I chose were chocolate mocha, which tasted strongly of coffee, and pear & rosemary. Our macarons were Earl Grey and peanut butter & jelly. Clearly, the whole meal had to be accompanied by hot tea. We had Earl Grey, because it is mild and goes with everything. 

You can easily create this Destination date at home. Learn about some traditions, foods you're likely to encounter, tour the markets, or even people's apartments like we did. Make your playlist longer or shorter, add games, talk about your vacation memories or go through a travel book to plan your next trip. It was lovely for us to reminisce and enjoy some familiar sites. It was also fun to learn some new stuff and add to our wish list for later. 

Here are some things to help you create London at home:
  • A backdrop or two
  • A fun teapot (we also have a tea kettle, because we're those people)
    • you'll also need tea! (I just really love this packaging)
    • and teacups! (Get ones that match your teapot, get ones that match each other, get ones that don't match anything. The possibilities are endless. I had a tea party several years ago and scoured Goodwill for random ones, because I like the mismatched look...and they were cheaper, but I also have some great ones from Etsy, too. Use them for tea, coffee, cocktails, soup...)
  • A tiered food server - you might know it as a cupcake stand and you might even already have one. If you're not doing a full tea service, you can use a cake stand like I did for some height. 
  • Clotted cream
  • Lemon curd (or another curd you like)
  • Some Brit swag
  • A playlist of walking tours or travel tips. Here's mine.
  • A cookbook if you want to create the menu yourself. I like this one that has recipes from London restaurants, pubs and cafes. I also really like this one.
  • A fun game

Make it a pub night or afternoon tea. Combine it like I did. Make a whole day of it that starts with tea and ends with pub dinner. 

Have you ever been to London or other parts of England? If so, what did you like best? If not, what are you most looking forward to?

Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, and I may be compensated should you choose to make any purchases through them. This allows me to keep this blog running for you. Thanks in advance! 

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