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“Seriously, what am I going to write about this week?,” I called out to my friend Kat as I stepped into the shower in her Shadwell flat. “I have done nothing but eat and drink since I got my passport stamped. Maybe I’ll just title my post Places to Get Drunk and Fat in London?

So, I went with something a bit more sentimental. But still. This being my third spin through the city, I felt 100% free from the obligation to sight see or play good tourist. Let’s get real — I wasn’t playing good blogger either, even flirting with the idea of leaving my week in the UK off the blog entirely. All I wanted out of this trip was quality time with my favorite British-accented babes, and nothing else. Okay. Maybe a few delicious ciders too.

My first stop on the friend tour of London was lovely Lou’s flat in Queen’s Park. Louise and I met in 2009 when we did our Open Water diving course together in Thailand. Through the wonders of the internet and my occasional trips to London, we’ve stayed in touch swapping travel tales and tips ever since. She’s been a bit of a role model to me and I love the way she lives her life!

Lou is an at a major corporation in London (someday I am going to have to get this girl to write a guest post about how she balances a major career with so much travel), so throughout my stay we met up in the evenings for drinks and dinners and during the day I did my own thing. “My own thing,” in this case, meant a brunch-tastic business meeting at , writing blog posts, sleeping off my jetlag and my overnight airport layover in Iceland (when will I learn to stop doing that to myself), building mix and match salads and and heading to a cool for what I assumed would be a weightlifting class but turned out to be more of an hour long bounce sesh but was lovely nonetheless.

Also, I remembered how much I enjoy British humor.

But wait, sorry, this post is supposed to be about places I got my gluttony on, not snarky bumper stickers! One night, I met Lou outside her office after work along with special guest Neil, our Open Water instructor and one of my dear friends — you might remember him from our last reunion on the other side of the world in Nusa Lembongan. Because I was in chilled hang-with-old-friends mode and not be-a-good-blogger mode, I forgot my camera and only took this one crappy iPhone photo, which zero percent reflects how cute is. Perfect spot for tapas and drinks if you’re near Oxford Circus.

My time with Lou (and Neil!) was all too short and soon I was on my way to my next hostess with the mostest, Kat. Kat was my first real friend upon moving to Koh Tao in 2011 and is one of the closest I’ve made in all my years of world wandering. Damn did we tear that island up! I do not have words to properly express the happiness I felt sitting side by side at the bar of , reminiscing about the good old days, filling each other in on some of the harsh current ones, and toasting to better ones ahead. Though once again my mind was elsewhere and I didn’t take a single photo, Opera Tavern is a must in Covent Garden — and I’m only slightly biased by the fact that Kat is the General Manager.

Soon it was time to move the party onwards and upwards — all the way up to . Just a few steps and several stories away from Opera Tavern, Radio had views impressive enough to inspire this lazy vacationing photographer to whip out the iPhone. As we sipped away on the balcony, we watched the sun set over London and all its impressive landmarks — The London Eye, Big Ben, and the River Thames.

We may have gone a tad overboard at Radio. And by tad I mean we racked up one of the biggest bar bills of my life, raged our way back to Opera Tavern, and had an after hours dance party that is somewhat fully fuzzy in my memory. What can I say? There’s nothing like reuniting with your old partner-in-crime to inspire you to let loose in a major way.

Kat, ever the fabulous entertainer, had had big plans for the following day. However, relentless rain and the worst hangover I can remember in recent history put a damper on them and we spent the entire day lounging around her gorgeous flat (doesn’t flat sound so much more glamorous than apartment?), save for an extremely touch-and-go bike ride to Sainsbury’s for emergency snacking supplies.

By the time evening arrived we had flat fever, and over the conversation this post opened with, we vowed to have a blog-worthy evening. I mean, guys, I brought my big camera and everything.

Our destination was Shoreditch, and our unamused companion was Kat’s darling husband Stefan, who’d been peacefully slumbering when we came crashing in from our bender the night before and woke him up by jumping on the bed and trying to start a pillow fight. Considering how much I love listening to these two banter in their South African accents — possibly my favorite lilt on the planet — I was in heaven. Minus the residual hangover.

Shoreditch will always be the place that melted my heart towards London.

I fell madly in love with this particular piece of street art, which seemed to speak so poignantly to relationships I hold most dear. Let’s adore and endure each other, indeed.

Dinner was dim sum at . Kat and Stefan weren’t impressed, but aside from the disinterested service I had no complaints — the garlic soaked broccoli was a particular favorite and the cocktail list was impressive.

But after dinner was the real treat. While halfheartedly searching for something to do that night, Kat had showed me a website , which reminds me of a London-specific version of the Drinkadvisor app I just reviewed. BarChick’s description of Shoreditch speakeasy intrigued us — I mean with that name, how could it not? — and we made note of the detailed directions for entering the hallowed grounds.

Step one was to make our way to The Breakfast Club, a hip AM eatery that is high on my list of places to dine next time I find myself in London town.

Once inside, we took a seat in the mostly vacant restaurant, ordered a round of drinks, and alerted the waitress that we were “there to see the mayor.” He was a bit busy at the moment, she replied, but she’d let us know when there was an opening. Just as we started to lose hope, she beckoned us forward and led us inside a secret passageway hidden within a Smeg refrigerator (hipster homeowners eat your hearts out.)

We liked what we found.

The teeny tiny speakeasy at the bottom was dripping with cool. The decor was kitsch in the hippest kind of way, and the extensive cocktail list was full of surprises. Such as the fact that my drink would arrive on fire. With flames.

But my favorite bit? Heading to the loo bathroom and noting the stenciled words etched across the wooden door; WORLD’S SMALLEST DISCO. Indeed, inside, the reflections of a small rotating disco ball sparkled against the black tile. Mayor, you won me over.

For my final evening with Kat and Stefan we switched gears entirely from trendy to traditional, and rode our bikes through the balmy evening towardsΒ , London’s oldest riverside pub. After grabbing a round of ciders and crabbies from the 494 year old bar, we made our way out to the deck and soaked up the views of the River Thames. Later, my iPhone decided to eat my most adorable snaps from the day, but it had the compassion to spare these two.

I’ll wrap this post up with the short version of a long but beautiful story. That final afternoon, getting off the bus at Kat’s place after running a few errands, I froze, realizing suddenly that my wallet was not with me. What followed was a mess of frantic phone calls with endlessly friendly dispatchers, breathlessly hopping on various buses to please my case to bemused drivers, and eventually biking several miles out to the bus depot to retrieve the sweetly rescued wallet. Maybe it was the adrenaline from the ride, but as we whooped our way back, wallet in hand, I never like London more.

The best part? Earlier in the day, I had found an iPhone on the street and turned it in immediately. That same afternoon, I lost my wallet, and it came back to me. Coincidence? I think karma.

Stay tuned for part II of my week in London!

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63 Comments...
  • becky hutner
    August 20 2014

    I connect with so much in this post!

    1) I too once found myself in London without my wallet, except I was alone & phone-less & relied on the kindness of strangers to get my life back.

    2) I have had many a fuzzy after hours dance party in London. And in random countryside pubs. In fact, I’ve come to expect at least 2 per British holiday.

    Thanks for all the bar & restaurant rec’s. & I’m sorry but I may at some point steal the original title of this post. You’ve been warned.
    becky hutner recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      The second point made me laugh out loud! And yes, steal away with the post title! I’m starting to feel a bit regretful I didn’t use it… alas, I didn’t think mum would find it funny πŸ™‚

  • Amy
    August 20 2014

    London seems so awesome! Sometimes it feels good to NOT have to explore a place like a tourist but the city ends up becoming a friend you more or less catch up with. πŸ™‚
    Amy recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      That’s such a beautiful way to put it, Amy! I love that and feel that way about so many special places in the world…

  • Kristen Noelle
    August 20 2014

    What a charming post — to think you would have nothing to write about! Oh I just love London so much, I can’t wait to actually visit in person and fall in love with it in real life.
    So, in your Riding House pic it looks like you have a short bob haircut. Very cute — you should consider! =)
    Kristen Noelle recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      I cut my hair once to above shoulder length in college… and NEVER AGAIN! Ha. Actually I think about it sometimes but my long blonde hair is my security blanket, I don’t know if I’d feel like Meihoukai without it!

  • Kiara Gallop
    August 20 2014

    That is indeed a beautiful story, that I would never expected to have happened in London (i’m a Brit and I know London quite well!) Really restores your faith in people doesn’t it? πŸ™‚
    Kiara Gallop recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      Yes! Every single person I spoke to from the drivers to dispatchers was so sweet and helpful when really I was nothing but a blundering idiot of a tourist and they didn’t have to be quite so kind πŸ™‚ PS: Glad you liked Chan Chan! I unexpectedly loved it when we rolled through.

  • Ashley of Ashley Abroad
    August 20 2014

    Ah, London. How I miss thee. I really enjoyed this post and will definitely be bookmarking it for future London visits!
    Ashley of Ashley Abroad recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      Thanks girl! Much appreciated πŸ™‚ Glad to share some new haunts!

  • Sue
    August 20 2014

    Oh man, this post makes me miss London. I loved living in that city. The Prospect of Whitby was my local, and where my kayak club met after weekly training. The Mayor of Scaredy Cat town played host to my birthday one year. A lot of fun but I had to go up and down a bit as not everyone could get in. Oops. A great venue all the same, just not for larger groups.
    Sue recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      Aw, so cool! Agreed a teeny speakeasy is logistically not the best idea for a birthday party but man, you could go to the world’s smallest disco too! πŸ˜‰

  • Chris
    August 20 2014

    Glad third time did the trick (I’m a fan of the city)

    Did you end up investigating those railway carriages further (I think we were talking about them awhile back)?
    Chris recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      No, I just admired from afar. I was being a bad blogger, remember?! πŸ™‚

  • Silvia
    August 20 2014

    This sounds like pretty much every trip I ever make to visit friends in London, ha. Though I have to admit that Shoreditch is a little much for me – all of the cuteness and wit going on in their shops and bars makes me want to explode. I just can’t handle so much cool.
    Silvia recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      Ha! Well I don’t consider myself anywhere near that level of cool I do think I love it so much because it reminds me a bit of Brooklyn! (Another place I’m not quite cool enough for, now that I think about it…)

  • I love that you took a weekend with friends and made it actually adorable and totally blog-worthy. Take notes, Emily. London has definitely moved up on my “big cities I must see” list!
    Emily from Let’s Roam Wild recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      Ha, thanks girl! Compliment much appreciated πŸ™‚ I didn’t know where I was going with it for a while!

  • Justine
    August 20 2014

    It sounds like you had a blast in London! And the Shoreditch speakeasy looks so cool. I’m totally a sucker for speakeasies! But I can’t help but wonder how much a drink costs there. I spent all of a day in London and one of my main memories was buying THE most expensive gin and tonic ever at a bar…though it was delicious πŸ™‚
    Justine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      I have a little trick which is that I blindly hand over my card/cash and don’t even pretend to try to do the conversion, just tap it into Trail Wallet app and don’t look at the results, ha! That way I don’t suffer until the end of the trip πŸ™‚ I’m sure they were fairly pricey, I don’t think I paid under 10GBP for a cocktail this whole trip…

  • Jana @ ITB Globetrotter
    August 21 2014

    I used to live in London for more than a year! Even though, I could not live there anymore I still love the place and try to go back there every now and then. This vibrant city has so much to offer and I can’t believe what people are saying about the “bad” English food… If you are not having fish and ships right next to a major sight in London, the food is pretty awesome over there!!!
    Jana @ ITB Globetrotter recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      Agreed, I am shocked by that as well because my last two trips to London have been all about great meals and fab cocktails! I think the key is being with friends who live there, as they’ve always brought me to the best places!

  • Karlijn Travels
    August 21 2014

    Yesterday I got it in my head that I really should return to London, since it’s already been two years since I visited my favorite European city. And now I read this fabulous post and I find myself searching for tickets and planning a weekend πŸ™‚ Shoreditch is on the list!
    Karlijn Travels recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      Sounds like this post was a sign you are headed in the right direction πŸ™‚

  • Janice Stringer
    August 21 2014

    Hi Meihoukai,
    I think you expressed eloquently the finer points of London – there is much eating and drinking to be done in our nations captial!
    It is a fantastic city and one I am very proud to say is my own.
    Oh and I loved your initial title for the post – said it all on one line! πŸ™‚
    Janice Stringer recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      Ha, I’m starting to think I should have stuck with that one!

  • Lucy
    August 21 2014

    Ahhhh this warms my cockles Meihoukai! Immediate karma is brilliant, and I am so proud of my hometown for being so un-douchey. Great, great pics too – you’ve inspired me to explore a bit more.

    L

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      Thanks Lucy! And thanks for your campaign — I definitely think it helped πŸ™‚

  • Sara @ Simply Sara Travel
    August 21 2014

    I love your post on London! If there’s ever is an area to be charmed by, it’s Shoreditch! I ate at that Breakfast Club in June but had no idea there’s a speakeasy there – so cool! My honest opinion is while the breakfast there transported me back to the US (it’s refreshing to have a breakfast menu that includes eggs every once in a while, coming from living in France), it wasn’t outstanding, but good. But I love the decor and atmosphere of the restaurant!
    Sara @ Simply Sara Travel recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      The decor IS pretty darn cute, fab enough that I might return for myself just to see if I agree with your just meh review πŸ™‚ Check out the speakeasy next time, too!

  • Gillian
    August 21 2014

    aw i loved this! shoreditch definitely won my heart.. after living in San Francisco for 3 years, all the hipsters made me feel right at home πŸ™‚ ill have to check out that speakeasy next time i make it back.. if i can ever tear myself away from barcelona!

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      Barcelona is still on my list! And lucky for you, not too far from London…

  • Kendra (the Escapologist)
    August 21 2014

    Great pictures. I wasn’t a big fan of London (I’ve only been once for a few days) but I’m willing to give it another try. Shoreditch will be on the agenda!

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      I totally wasn’t my first time either! It took going back with locals to make me appreciate it, for sure.

  • Shaun's Cracked Compass
    August 21 2014

    I can’t tell ya how often I’ve relied upon that same karma.

    The most recent:
    I was snowboarding at Whistler and while snapping away with my camera from the gondola, I realize I’m at the top, jump off, snap my snowboard on and start riding only to realize I left my backpack on there. Rental car keys, wallet, phone, EVERYTHING… and I was there solo. Luckily I got it back 3 hours later but it wasn’t easy.

    Anytime I find something like a wallet or phone I always turn it in as I need to bank that karma.

    p.s. – Camden is my fav part of London.
    Shaun’s Cracked Compass recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      Oh my gosh, you would have been in for a nightmare withat that thing, glad your backpack got back to you. Karma is real! Oh, and Camden is definitely my second favorite part of London πŸ™‚

  • Carla Turun
    August 21 2014

    Amazing post !!! you have given me so many great ideas for my next trip to London – Thank you πŸ™‚ Glad you got your wallet back from πŸ™‚

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      Aw, thank you Carla! And you know what this means… Malta is coming up soon πŸ™‚

  • Annie of TravelShus
    August 21 2014

    I havent been to London since I was a kid. Maybe it’s time to give it another chance…
    Annie of TravelShus recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      Considering from New York it is more or less the gateway to Europe (for cheap flights, at least) I bet you’ll have a chance soon!

  • Ashley
    August 21 2014

    I really like your alternative title for this post! Ha. I need to get myself to Shoreditch the next time I’m in London!
    Ashley recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      Man, I’m having post title regret πŸ™‚

  • Leah
    August 21 2014

    You make London look gorgeous, I don’t think it would take me three times to fall in love with it! x
    Leah recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      I think perhaps the touristy side of London just doesn’t appeal to me, whereas the touristy side to a lot of places appeals to me MUCHO. Castles, Big Ben, um, whatever else is there…. not super psyched. Oh! Except for the London Eye. My friend Freya and I both realized we’ve never done it and she vowed to wait for my inevitable return to hop on.

  • Sam
    August 21 2014

    So glad you enjoyed this trip to my hometown. It’s always interesting to see an outsider’s view of it, and it usually reinforces my view that it’s a great city to visit, but not such a wonderful place to live, at least long term. (Oh, by the way, the river is spelled Thames. Easy mistake; don’t sweat it!)
    Sam recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      Shut the front door, I Googled it and everything! Ugh, appearantly my penchant for misspellings is too strong for even a good faith effort at research to cure. Thanks for the kind correction πŸ™‚

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      LOL because I just went to correct and was like, “What is he talking about, it is spelled that way?” And then I realized I spelled it once the correct way, and once the incorrect way. In the same post. Le sigh.

  • Rachel of Hippie in Heels
    August 21 2014

    okay seriously did these speak easys start in the two years ive been in india or what?! so many people are talking about them now & i had to google it like 6 months ago.. actually i think it was you who posted about it. Am I living under a rock? i mean im still keeping up with the kardashians…shouldn’t that count for something?
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      Ha ha oh Rachel please never stop commenting on my blog because your comment make me laugh so hard! Get it girl… you could be the first person to bring speakeasies to India!

  • Erika
    August 21 2014

    I love that there’s always a million awesome places to go in London no matter how many times you’ve been. Thanks for adding a few more to my list for my next visit!
    Erika recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      That is one thing I love about the mega-cities of the world. Something new every day, so no excuse to ever get bored!

  • Glad you enjoyed London this time around. I miss the parks, the pubs and the markets the most, and the friends I left behind. Can’t wait to go back although it will probably be a couple of years away
    Katie @ The World on my Necklace recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 22 2014

      I can’t quite believe how often I’ve been there… three times in the past three years! I wonder if I’ll be making it next summer as well.

  • Carla Turun
    August 22 2014

    Yes it does !! The post i have been waiting for — 4.5 weeks until i arrive over there and im sure your adventures over there will make me even more pumped to go πŸ™‚

    • Meihoukai
      August 25 2014

      Awesome! You’ll definitely get the chance to read them before you go then! First one coming up tomorrow…

  • Melanie Fontaine
    August 22 2014

    Your post makes me long to go back to London! My boyfriend lived there for a year and it was a great excuse to get there as often as humanly possible! πŸ˜‰ And by the way, I honestly don’t think there’s a better thing to do in London than getting your gluttony on! πŸ˜‰ Yes, there’s other great things to do as well, but the food culture is probably the biggest reason why I love this place so much – so I’m super glad you decided to blog about it! πŸ˜‰
    Melanie Fontaine recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      August 25 2014

      “Getting your gluttony on” is my favorite part of this comment. Love it! πŸ™‚

  • Louise
    August 24 2014

    Darling. Glad I made it into another one of your blogs! Great to see you and great photos! I have lived here for 17 years and you have even given me a few new ideas of where to go!!! Hope to see you again very soon xxxxx

    • Meihoukai
      August 25 2014

      You will be making it on here for as long as you keep having me πŸ™‚ Hoping it’s in Cornwall next time love! xoxo

  • Grace
    June 25 2015

    Really enjoyed this post! I also love what you and Amy were saying about some places feeling like an old friend – a perfect way to sum it up!
    Grace recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      June 28 2015

      That’s my favorite feeling, and why I love returning to the same places over and over again.

  • Angelina of theAMZ
    July 2 2015

    You take the most beautiful pictures! I’m stopping over in London for a quick two days by myself in August, any must-see or must-do suggestions for my first time there?!
    Angelina of theAMZ recently posted..

    • Meihoukai
      July 2 2015

      Thanks Angelina! Hm, well I feel I’m far from an expert on London, but I always love doing those double decker hop off hop on tours when I’m in a new city. In London, you can combine it with a boat tour. I did it the first time I was in London and loved it!