Move over Beatles…I have my own Fab Four!

Four of my best girlfriends came to London recently for a visit. We toured, dined, shopped, partied, and laughed our way through four fabulous days. We left no stone unturned and hit the ground running…or should I say, ambling. Our pace was relaxed but our coverage was vast.

Here are my suggestions for the perfect Girls’ Weekend in London:

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THURSDAY: Our first outing was to the Tate Modern to view the latest exhibit of Paul Klee’s work. The Tate is filled with enough contemporary art to occupy a full day, but we opted for a brief visit. From there, we wandered along the Thames river to the base of London Bridge for a stroll through the bounty of Borough Market. Specialty food, gourmet coffee, organic produce, and delectable treats dazzled our eyes and tempted our stomachs. In search of satisfaction, we walked a few more blocks to the impressive Shard, designed by famed Italian architect, Renzo Piano, and completed in March 2012. Standing at just over 1,000 feet high, the Shard is currently the tallest building in the European Union and is the second-tallest free-standing structure in the United Kingdom. Here we took the express elevator (don’t push any buttons…there is only one stop straight to the top!) to the 32nd floor. We dined at the new chic restaurant, Oblix, where we enjoyed excellent food surrounded by panoramic views of the city. By arriving late in the day, we were able to watch the city transform from identifiable architectural structures to an amorphous mosaic of twinkling lights as dusk turned to dark. Later that evening, we decided to take a walk on the wild side and head into Soho to Bodega Negra for a frosty margarita and spicy Mexican cuisine. Don’t let the street front entrance mislead you. Despite appearances to the contrary, this is not a Sex Shop …though the food and ambiance is racy and hot!

FRIDAY: Today we ventured from the high brow to the low brow. We began by strolling down South Moulton St. in Mayfair, a cobbled car-free lane lined with lovely boutiques and art galleries. From there we continued along the venerable Bond and New Bond streets, where designer glitz and splashy jewels dazzle the shop windows. We arrived for traditional afternoon tea at the Mayfair institution, Brown’s Hotel. Our “cuppa” teas were expertly poured and our champagne flutes were filled and flowing. Nestled in a cozy booth, we ate our bite size sandwiches and delicious treats, and our chatter was accompanied by a pianist tickling the keys. After our morning of chic eye candy, we decided to switch gears and headed over to the eclectic Camden Market with its funky clothing and artsy jewelry, tattoo parlors and Indian cuisine, patchouli scent and pierced crowd. Rain eventually forced us to seek shelter from the open market and head home for a break. We needed the rest because our evening plans included a visit to the posh private members club, 5 Hertford. We arrived in time for a cocktail in the cozy paneled bar where we ordered the house specialty, the “Screaming Viking”, an irresistible grapefruit and tequila concoction. Then, we descended the stairs to the exotic dining room at LouLou’s where tables are tucked into discreet banquets amid lush décor. After dinner, we literally danced the night way under a spinning disco ball in the private nightclub.

SATURDAY: There is not better place to be on a Saturday than the Portobello Market in Notting Hill. Lined by pastel-hued homes, Portobello Road becomes a “happening” on the weekend when bands entertain, food stalls pop up, and all the shops open their doors offering everything from priceless antiques to cheap souvenirs. We wondered around collecting various bits and bobs.   When we were ready to escape the crowds, we headed up a side street to Daylesford Organic where we dined on fresh salads, gourmet cheeses, and rustic breads. Still recovering from our previous evening’s antics, we decided to spend the afternoon back home. Inspired by our morning walk, we rented the movie Notting Hill and watched a floppy-haired Hugh Grant traverse along our same stretch of Portobello Road.   That evening we decided to eat at a local pub. En route, we paused for a picture in the middle of the road, Abbey Road to be exact. We traced the Beatles’ footsteps at the famous crossing and then wandered down Abbey Road to the Salt House for traditional English pub fare.

SUNDAY: Today we decided to see some of the iconic sites. We ambled through Green Park and arrived at just the right moment before the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Rather than immerse ourselves in the crowd, we tucked into St. James Park and stood along the footbridge where we could hear the bombast of the band and see a perfect view of the palace unimpeded by overeager tourists. We then continued on to Parliament Square to take pictures of Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Having checked off the main tourist attractions, we boarded the tube to Sloane Square and began meandering along the Kings Road in Chelsea. Like the sleek “Sloane Rangers” of the ‘80s, we perused the upscale shops on our way to the Bluebird café. The spacious dining room was filled with people enjoying their Sunday roasts complete with giant Yorkshire puddings. We relaxed over a nice bottle of wine before returning home for a quiet afternoon. That evening we headed to Fitzrovia to have an early supper at the brand new Berner’s Tavern at the Edition hotel, designed by style-guru Ian Schrager. Don’t let the word “tavern” fool you, this is an elegant affair set in a slick metropolitan setting with opulent chandeliers and framed art-by-the-yard covering entire walls. The macaroni and cheese was the best I have ever tasted. Our evening ended with a late movie at the Everyman Theater in Maida Vale. We sank into a plush sofa seat, propped our feet on a foot stool, sipped our chardonnay, and watched a new release on the big screen. The intimate setting is like having surround sound in your own private living room.

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A visit with good friends is always too short, and I end up longing to spend even more time together. This is not unlike my relationship with London. There is always more I want to see and do, and I look forward to getting to know London even better as we spend more time together during my expat experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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