london | january 2017

I have to admit, I've never been a huge fan of London.  Always dreary, cold and grey when I visit, the sprawling city, although beautiful, usually just feels too much like home, but without the energy.  Too bland, too spread out, too buttoned up, it's never been at the top of my list as I venture back and forth to Europe.  

This last trip changed my mind.

I've been fortunate to make it to London twice in the last year, and it's finally starting to grow on me.  Perhaps it's because I have some lovely friends there that always make trips more enjoyable, or perhaps I've just started to get used to it, but for some reason this past trip to London had me falling in love just a little bit.  It was still cold and dreary, freezing rain for the majority of my time there, but somehow the charm crept through. Although absolutely massive and sprawling, the tube system is super easy to use, and by far the best way to get around. The similarities to New York are vast - everyone is grinding, working, rushing around. Tourists everywhere, and with that, you have your usually collection of touristy things - chain restaurants, ridiculous attractions, hop on hop off busses. But between all that, London truly is a beautiful city.  Charming row houses fill the city, classic pubs dot the corners, and the rich history is juxtaposed with a severe sense of modernity.  

Although I was only there for 48 hours this time around, I managed to find some pretty dope spots (which wouldn't come without a shout out to some good friends for showing me around like a local).  Check out my top 5 from this trip below, and share the recommendation love.

1. Hotpod Yoga

Clearly had to kick this list off with a yoga studio.  Hotpod actually has a bunch of locations internationally, including Amsterdam, Johannesburg, Bucharest, Lisbon and Berlin.  It's also really just an inflatable pop up pod, so truly, the location options are endless (they'll even bring one to your office for some sweaty team building, should you so desire).  That being said, I went to the Notting Hill location, where the pod is located in an actual studio equipped with showers, towels, water, lockers and changing rooms.  Although a bit far from central London, the class was pretty good. The pods only hold about 6-8 people, which I love, and the neon lights and lack of mirrors give it a pretty cool vibe. It's heated, which I also love, so you definitely feel great after you leave. The instructor was super nice, and did an awesome job balancing the class for both beginner students and more experienced practitioners, like myself. Either way though, after a long red eye I'm not sure there's a better way to stretch it out and reset. 

2. Liberty London

As the reason for my trip was a business meeting at Liberty, I feel obligated to include it.  Although I likely would have anyways. Despite working in the fashion industry I absolutely hate shopping, particularly in department stores. But Liberty is different. It's first and foremost a landmark - absolutely stunning exterior and interior - you almost feel transported to another place. Dark wood beams throughout, and super original displays add to the ambiance, making it feel less like shopping and more of an experience.  Plus, the staff there is incredible - I spend quite a bit of time in stores and I can honestly say the team at Liberty is one of my favorites. Go check it out, not necessarily to shop, but because there truly is no place like it (at least when it comes to stores - industry bias seeping in here)

3. Taberna do Mercado 

Located in the Spitalfields Market, this quaint Portuguese tapas place is pretty damn good. I've always had a hard time finding good food in London, which, if I'm being honest, is part of the reason I've never loved the place (a girl can only have so many fish and chips, tbh). I'm also a huge sucker for tapas. Notoriously undecided, the ability to try multiple things is super appealing to me. The menu changes on occasion, but definitely go for one of the tinned fishes, a specialty of theirs, as well as any of the sandwiches (plus some sort of charcuterie- can't go wrong). The waiter also introduced us to something called an orange wine, and now I'm on a mission to find more (any intel on this please send my way stat).

4. Nightjar

Located on the outskirts of Shoreditch, this cocktail bar/jazz club has an old world, speak easy feel that's super cool. A bit dark and romantic, the cocktails are endless (and are presented in some pretty unique ways).  Get there early as there can be a wait, but definitely a cool spot for a cozy cocktail. 

5. Yoga @ The Shard

When I came across a website advertising yoga on the 24th floor of the Shard, I clearly had to do it.  Knowing full well these rather tourist driven classes can either be decent or terrible, I still figured, why not? At least there would be a good view?  The class wasn't great, but that's ok.  After a 6 hour flight and a long day of travel all I really needed was a good stretch and a bit of relaxation. The views were definitely cool, however, with the lights in the yoga room on it was a little hard to really get the full picture of what you're looking at, so if you'e able, I'd recommend doing a morning class over an evening one - but hey, a yoga class overlooking the city of London?  It could be worse.