Spending time in London before catching your Eurostar: 7 things to do within walking distance of London St. Pancras!

Rushing from one train to another can be quite a stressful affair. And feeling stuck at the train station, hanging around waiting for the connecting train to arrive, is just as boring as watching paint try.

After one of my close friends decided to move to London (and I ended up moving to  Paris),  I’ve done my fair share of traveling between the two cities to visit my friend who lives in the city of Big Ben and Buckingham Palace.

While I found myself bored and restless, while waiting for the Eurostar (and my return to Paris)  I couldn’t help but wonder; what about those who arrive in London St. Pancras whose final destination is not London, but somewhere completely different? I’m sure they must hate the idea of spending two, three or even four hours just waiting for their connecting train?

I mean, I could barely even handle forty-five minutes of waiting, so imagine several hours? No, just no.

As the train station is centrally located, there’s plenty of things to do within walking distance of London St. Pancras. No need to buy that Oyster Card or figure out how to get from A to B by metro (or as they say in London; the tube).  Let your feet carry you to the pub (and hopefully out of it, too) , or to the shops, to the spa, to the museums – and if you happen to arrive around brunch-time – to the nearest place where you’ll find a nice traditional English Breakfast.

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Here are 7 things to do within walking distance of London St. Pancras

  1. Go shopping. Isn’t that one of the reasons why a lot of tourists go to London in the first place? To do a bit of shopping? Well, I sure love to visit the small local bookshops and doing my share of window-shopping at the mall, whenever I have the opportunity to do so peacefully. Maybe even buy a new dress or two, if I have the extra money for it. The Brunswick Shopping Centre is only a 12 minute walk from London St. Pancras! bookshop
  2. Grab a cup of coffee (or tea). Coffee culture is obviously a big thing in London – just like the traditional cup of tea. Want to spend an hour just enjoying a nice cup of something warm (and a snack) while reading a good book or working on your laptop, in a coffeeshop? Visit Bloomsbury Coffee House (13 minute walk) or Notes Coffee Roasters & Wine Bar (3 minute walk)! coffee and books
  3. Or a full English Breakfast. England is not exactly famous for their cuisine, but they are famous for their breakfast (fry-up). As I don’t eat eggs and I prefer veggie sausauges over meat ones anyway, I decided to do a bit of research and head down to one of the traditional pubs that (according to online reviews) serve the best veggie fry-ups in the area of London St. Pancras. And that’s how I ended up in Doric Arch (12 minute walk). And yes, the breakfast was delicious. Beans, hash browns, mushrooms, tomatoes, toast, spinach and a veggie sausage. Yummy! english breakfast
  4. Or the traditional fish and chips! Another dish the country is famous for. Not exactly high gastronomy, but it sure is a guilty pleasure of mine. Fries with or without salt and vinegar, and a big, crispy fish fillet. I highly recommend the “chippy” I went to during my last trip to London; North Sea Fish Restaurant & Take Away. While I was waiting, the nice man who took my order offered me a cup of English Breakfast tea (on the house). When my lunch arrived, I sat down on a bench outside of the restaurant and started photographing my enormous fish (and chips) from different angles (to post it on Instagram, obviously). One of the costumers, an older man, “came to the rescue” and offered to take a picture of me with my food, as to him, it looked like I was a sad, struggling tourist. I didn’t wanna tell him that I didn’t want to be in the picture, but hey, it was a nice gesture, so why not. fish and chips
  5. Visit a museum. There’s actually quite a few museums to choose from within walking distance of London St. Pancras. The Foundling Museum (14 minute walk) explores the history of the Foundling Hospital, the UK’s first children’s charity and first public art gallery. The Charles Dickens Museum (18 minute walk) invites you to the Victorian family home of Charles Dickens, the author of famous stories like Oliver Twist. If you’d rather prefer to visit a natural history museum, visit the Grant Museum of Zoology (19 minute  walk). And again, something for those who love literature, maybe you’d like a guided tour in the British Library (7 minute walk)?
  6. Enjoy a luxury spa. At the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel which is conveniently located right next to the train station. Are you traveling with luggage? No problem! if it doesn’t already fit into the locker, the staff will find a place to store your luggage for you. My friend and I, spent around 3 hours just enjoying the pool and the jacuzzi (for the fee of £30 per person, for a full day). We did not book a massage, as they have to be scheduled in advance. So do all the other treatments offered in the spa. Want to save a little money, and still feel like a queen? You might be able to get a discounted deal on treatments at the St. Pancras Renaissance Hotel Spa, on websites like Treatwell. st pancras renaissance hotel
  7. Grab a pint! Feeling festive? I don’t blame you. Just don’t drink too much, or you’ll miss your connecting train! If you want your pint accompanied by home cooked traditional pub food (such as a yummy lamb stew), check out McGlynn’s (7 minute walk). Other traditional pubs worth checking out is The Skinners Arms (8 minute walk) and King Charles I (10 minute walk). Cheers! english pub

Any Harry Potter fans out there?

While at London St. Pancras – don’t forget to look for Platform 9 3/4 (for some reason I’ve never managed to locate it while at the station)!

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Tea tourism in London: Is the Aladdin-themed afternoon tea worth the hype?

Two months ago, a friend of mine who lives in London dropped me a message on Facebook with a link to a video I just had to watch – along with an “OMG” and “we have to do this!”.

I had already made plans to see her in London the following month and we had already made plans to do a whole bunch of stuff, including some kind of an afternoon tea event – although nothing was yet reserved. I knew she wouldn’t go “OMG” on me unless she’d discovered something beyond fantastic. It had to be borderline magical for her to use such an exaggerated statement. I mean, she’s French, and French people are not exactly known for going ga-ga over n’importe quoi.

Needless to say,  the video triggered my curiosity.

And her reaction was within reason. The video was an advertisement for an afternoon tea unlike anything I’d ever seen before. Gone were grandma’s tea sets, cream filled scones and dull rooms decorated in fifty shades of beige. Those were all replaced with purple, glittery walls and magic lamps as teapots. Welcome to Agrabah, I mean, Cutter & Squidge .

Welcome to a magical afternoon tea in Genie’s Cave!

There you are, sitting in a bakery in central London – yet, it doesn’t feel like that at all. Feels a lot more like having tea in a whole new world (see what I did there?) inside of the Disney universe.

“Should I make a reservation for us?”, my friend asked. Before I even finished watching the video I gave her a thumbs up. I needed this. I needed a little bit of magic in my life.

Fast forward to the day before our reservation in Genie’s Cave took place.

Pretty much as soon as I arrived in London, I was offered a cup of tea.

I was hungry, so I went to a fish and chips shop and was offered a cup of tea on the house while I was waiting for my fish to be cooked. Totally unexpected, very appreciated.

Now, if that ain’t British hospitality, I don’t know what is!

To me, this was a reminder of how tea is such an important part of British culture.

I wanted to honor this part of the culture. I wanted to experience tea in multiple ways. After all – don’t shoot me for saying this – but, I’ve always felt like afternoon tea events were just a full blown gimmick.

Yet, I wanted to experience it myself to see if it’s worth the money – and find out why people are so obsessed with it.

But I also wanted to drink tea where all the locals drink their tea (well, apart from in their homes) and I wanted to purchase high quality tea from the famous English brand Twinings and drink so much tea I’d be having tea running through my veins by the end of the week.

The Twinings Tea Shop and Museum  offers tea tastings so you’ll get to try before you buy and not end up with something that sounds like an amazing flavor but ends up being just one big disappointment in need of large quantities of sugar, honey or lemon in order to be consumed. Yes, Lipton cherry tea, I’m looking at you!

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A staff member poured me some tea and told me I could ask her anything, anything at all about their product range. I tasted (and purchased) green tea with a hint of dark chocolate and coconut, and green tea with a hint of caramelized apple.

“Do you sell these outside of the UK – and does your online shop offer international shipping?”, were the questions I asked, to which she answered no. Talk about exclusivity!

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Guess I have yet another reason to return to London then.

As if I hadn’t tasted enough tea that day, I was determined to find somewhere cozy to sit down and grab a cup of English breakfast tea to go with my lunch; a raspberry jam and cream filled scone.

I did find a nice little bakery called Fleet River Bakery where absolutely everything looked delicious. My eyes were begging me to order a big slice of delicious-looking chocolate cake, but I ordered a scone instead. Because, I didn’t come to England to eat something you can eat pretty much anywhere in the western world. No. I came for  a cup of tea. And a scone.

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The tea was just as good as anywhere else, and the scone was amazing. I’m usually not a fan of anything cream filled, but the acidity of the raspberry mixed with the sweetness of the cream complimented the taste of the tender scone. Everything was just perfect.

And then came the day I’d been waiting for. The Aladdin-themed afternoon tea. 

When entering the Cutter & Squidge you’d have no idea there’d be some kind of magical Genie stuff going on in the basement. The charming modern bakery invites you in with its beautiful cake display and butterfly decor. Pastel macaroons, picture perfect cakes and anything Pinterest and Instagram-worthy.

A pink haired shop assistant guided us downstairs to Genie’s Cave. We walked into a room way smaller than expected, with sparkly purple walls – just like in the video. Jewels, gems, golden coins and other treasures were glued to the walls and to the floor. The pink haired girl showed us to our table, asked us if we wanted Mimosas or Bellinis or whatever fancy cocktail brunch-goers drink these days. I don’t quite remember, and we were both fine with  just fruit juice and tea.

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As an appetizer we were offered yogurt with berries, cotton candy and meringue. Visually very pretty – and an oddly delicious combination of flavors and textures.

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Then came the dessert stand and the sandwich platter. My friend and I looked at each other with the same mixed reaction. It all looked so good, but… how on earth were we gonna be able to finish all of it?

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Guess what? We didn’t. We couldn’t. Once we were done with all the savory pieces, we were full. And we still had all these cute little desserts to finish. Even a chocolate dessert with 24 carat gold inside of it. Yup. Gold.

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I force-fed myself as I didn’t want any of the delicious goods to go to waste (and neither did my friend) and practically rolled out of the bakery and almost vomited on the street because I was so full after eating what felt like thousands of calories. I  felt like I was having a hangover from all the afternoon tea magic presented to me in Genie’s Cave.

aladdin lamp tea pots

 

Now you may ask, is the Aladdin-themed afternoon tea worth the hype?

I think it depends on what kind of experience you’re looking for. If you’re not much of a big eater and you just wanna have a nice little meal in typical British surroundings and don’t care much about the “magical” aspect, you’ll be better off going to a bakery or a cafe and ordering tea and pastries of whatever quantity you like.

However, if you’re a big fan of Disney and everything magical (unicorn frappuccino crowd, where you at?) and you want to escape from reality into a world of purple glitter and more cake than you could possibly eat – this is definitely for you.

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I have yet to try a traditional style afternoon tea, and I am interested in trying, just so I can compare it to the Aladdin-themed one.

…And roll out of yet another bakery, hotel, restaurant or whatever establishment I’ll end up going to.

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Wonderful Wonderland: Christmas markets in London

Eleven AM, with a heavy backpack killing my back, wearing a way too warm winter coat making me feel sweaty and disgusting. I had made my way from the Eurostar terminal at St. Pancras railway station to the Hyde Park corner metro station in the heart of London – a city I had visited multiple times before. My main purpose for this trip was to visit a friend who had moved here. But it wasn’t my sole purpose. I was also in London to visit the Winter Wonderland Christmas market and the little market on Leicester Square, to share yet another exciting post with you guys to get you all into the Christmas spirit – just in case my posts on the Parisian markets or the ones in Hamburg weren’t enough to get you to start rockin’ around the Christmas tree.

Before entering the Winter Wonderland, be prepared to have your bags searched by security guards. My over-sized backpack made the guard chuckle. “You’re planning to move in here?” he asked jokingly. I’m sure a lot of people would have loved to move in to the Winter Wonderland. I’ve already worked and lived on Disney property in Orlando, which is kind of the same thing – but less cold and less foggy.

I bought a cup of hot cider – which is way better than it sounds (in case you haven’t already tried it) and went to explore the market. Just like the Winter Dom in Hamburg, Germany, the Winter Wonderland is a combination of a traditional Christmas market and a large fun fair. The Wonderland also presents exciting entertainment such as different circus shows, The Nutcracker on Ice, puppet shows for the little ones and live music for the festive crowd.

You’re welcome to go ice skating on the Wonderland’s ice rink, or perhaps you’d rather grab a drink in the Bar Ice instead? As I am pretty much Bambi on ice, I’ll skip the ice rink and head over to Bar Ice and drink a cocktail from an ice cup instead. Cheers!

General Information

what: Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

where: Hyde Park (metro: Hyde Park corner or Marble Arch)

when: Until January 2nd, 2017

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It was still early afternoon and none of the shows were on yet and my backpack (yes, it’s just a lame excuse to cover up my fear of heights and high speed) prevented me from riding any attractions, so I decided to move on to a different part of the city to visit a smaller and more traditional kind of Christmas market.

Leicester Square. The square is transformed into a Holiday heaven – where Santa himself is waiting for the little ones to come and tell him their dearest wish. If meeting Santa doesn’t interest you because, well, you’re an adult, then why not book tickets to the theatrical show La Soirée? If acrobatics, burlesque and pyrotechnics is your thing (and you’re over 18), you’ll have a great time!

If not, strolling along this lovely little market with a hot beverage in your hand while doing a bit of Christmas shopping, is not a bad idea either.

General Information

what: Christmas in Leicester Square

where: Leicester Square (metro to Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus)

when: 11.11.16 – 08.01.16

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Why York (England) holds a special place in my heart

York. A historic walled city in North Yorkshire, England. Founded by the Romans and once capital of the Roman province of Britannia Inferior, and later of the kingdoms of Northumbria and Jorvik. Growing up in Norway, we learned a lot about the vikings and their conquests. We learned a lot about Jorvik and I’m sure there are some Norwegians out there who still claim York – sorry, Jorvik – as their own.

My British stepfather and my Polish mother came to Norway as immigrants and even though they both claim they feel more connected to their native country and its culture, I can tell that they’ve become more and more Norwegian as time goes by….which is probably one of the reasons why they ended up buying a holiday apartment in York, when they first started searching for an apartment in England.

My parents know – and I know – that there are plenty of reasons to love York, besides the Viking history and Nordic street names (Swinegate, for example, meaning Svinegata and refers to a place were pigs were kept). Here’s a few reasons I can think of:

UNESCO

The city of York is part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a city of Media Arts. The city has invested in its cultural institutions, initiating plenty of iconic activities such as the York Mystery Plays and the Illuminating York Festival.

Safety

Coming from someone who have moved around and traveled a lot, I can assure you you’ll feel safe in York – and I would highly recommend it as a destination for solo travelers!

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Tourist Attractions 

Visit the beautiful Cathedral York Minster, the medieval Clifford’s Tower, one of the many museums (Castle museum or the Jorvik Viking centre) or take a Yorkboat tour along the beautiful river Ouse.

Harry Potter

This city definitely has a Harry Potter-esque vibe to it. Wouldn’t it be nice to stroll along these little streets with your shopping bags, or maybe sit down somewhere with a good book – maybe Harry Potter – and sip a cup of tea and just enjoy this fairy tale-like atmosphere.

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Parks

York is blessed with beautiful parks. During the warm summer months you’ll see people everywhere, having a nice little picnic, going for a run or a bicycle ride, or….making out with their loved one, in the grass.. There’s also a bunch of geese everywhere for some reason – and they are not only in the parks! (And lots of white doves too, like these guys).

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Ethical Shopping

There are a lot of secondhand shops in York. And when I say a lot, I mean tons. Everywhere. Many different charity organizations have their own shops, which gives you the option to choose which cause you want to donate to. I usually visit all of them and buy a little something here and there, to support as many organizations as possible. The clothes are usually sold ridiculously cheap anyway.

Nightlife

York has a great university and is a very student-friendly city with lots of bars. But then again, wherever you go in England there will be lots of bars/pubs. I’ve been to a few different ones in York, and it’s safe to say there’s something for every taste and every price range.

Christmas

Celebrating Christmas in York is magical. They have an amazing Christmas market where you can buy local Yorkshire produce for your Christmas feast – or some lovely decorations or warm outerwear. When it snows in York – on all those little houses in the city center – it looks just like taken out of a fairy tale. Mesmerizing. More information about this year’s Christmas festival here .

These are all “old” photos and I didn’t have any photos from winter in York, so you’ll just have to take my word for it and enjoy these photos from June 2015 instead.

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My mother and I, enjoying the countryside not far from York

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