Travel to London with the Bombus Team
At Bombus we’re all about LOCATION! We asked our team to give us the low-down on some of the places they’d visited recently, along with their top picks, must sees, and insight into travelling during the pandemic.
Jo is the Bombus Marketing and Accounts Manager and has spent the last eighteen months working from home. She took her first venture back into society earlier this month with a trip to a, surprisingly quiet, London.
The pandemic has been hard on a lot of our cities and towns. But none so stark and dramatic as the changes inflicted on our capital city.
London. The heartbeat of the UK. Usually so full of life and tourists, it was an unrecognisable place when I popped in. But for a few days of food, fun, and relaxation, it was perfect.
I lived in London for a decade in early 2000, and since then I’ve seen the city develop, and thrive. So to visit on a summer afternoon and to find the Southbank deserted was quite a shock. Empty of foreign tourists, devoid of commuters, and with the West End still shut and waiting to reopen…I felt a little sad, and a tad panicked. Eateries that used to serve lunches to queues of office workers are closed. Shops that sold ‘I love London’ souvenirs were boarded up. What if the commuters don’t return? And when oversees travellers return, what will be left for them? Our diverse and exciting city has always been a sense of pride. And while yes, there are plenty of other fantastic places to see in the UK that deserve attention…what are we really, without London?
When we visit London, we walk. Wanting to avoid public transport, this time we walked the entire length and breadth of the city. Meandering along both the North and South banks from Bermondsey, to well past Waterloo, and everywhere in between.
It isn’t a surprise to us Londoners, that what used to be shunned as a ‘no go’ area is becoming the modern heart and hub of the city. South of the river, where once upon a time no black cab would venture…is where it’s at. My old stomping ground of Bermondsey, along Tooley Street, to Borough Market is thriving with food markets, high end restaurants, and great shopping destinations. But delve further South and you’ll find a lot of diverse industry.
Maltby Street Market
Maltby street market is a single lane in the heart of Bermondsey. Food stalls take up the space in between shops and underneath the railway arches. If you can’t find it straight away, follow your nose to the spice and sizzle of Bao buns, stir fry, and intentionally devilish grilled cheese sandwiches so thick you’ll need a sit down to eat it, and plenty of napkins to pull the remnants from your chin.
And if you press further east, to Canada Water, the Isle of Dogs, and Greenwich, you’ll find more heart and soul than in the tourist heavy Soho and Bloomsbury.
Greenwich market has come on a long way since I had my first business there selling bridal accessories on a Saturday, wedged between Beryl who made homemade greetings cards, and Christine the puppet lady. We used to shove hot water bottles up our jumpers in January, hopeful to catch the eye of the single shopper braving the cold. Now you’ll find it heaving with unique artisan crafts and bespoke pieces. Yes, it still ticks the tourist bucket list, but with so many eateries in Greenwich, it’s a one stop shop for entertainment, shopping, and dining. Once you’re done, hop on an Uber boat anywhere up river for a Covid friendly way to see the city.
Must-sees in London
While we have the city almost to ourselves, I would urge any resident Brit to get on the train (with your mask!) and head into our capital to make the most of what it has to offer.
And while yes, the off-beaten track places are great, if you’re new to London there are some tried and tested places that you really shouldn’t miss.
My top picks for a fun, food, and adventurous trip to London are:
Their slogan is ‘locally famous’ and they have every right to brag about it. The Breakfast Club at London Bridge is the friendliest spot in town. A menu of crowd pleasing brunch dishes, staff that will make you feel so welcome you’ll never want to leave, and pancakes TO DIE FOR, this diner-inspired restaurant is a comfy and cosy retreat. You’ll finish brunch having fed your stomach, and your soul.
It’s best to book, because the secret is getting out there. And as a recently diagnosed gluten-free weirdo, I even managed to substitute my English muffin for some hash browns on the MOST delicious Eggs Benedict, propped up with a proper mug of builders tea.
While you’re strolling about the London Bridge area, possibly stopping for a pint on the river to watch the boats go by…when hunger strikes there is nowhere quite like Borough Market. But don’t eat while you’re in there. Grab yourself some of the fresh mozzarella, a spicy chorizo, or a salt beef bagel, and walk the road parallel to the river. Here you’ll find plenty of hidden little green spaces to sit down and enjoy your feast in a little bit of peace and quiet, without the crowds.
I can feel the eye rolls from here. But really, if you haven’t already, you simply MUST book a table at Rules. The oldest restaurant in London. And it stands up to its reputation. Decorated like a proper ‘Old Boys Club’ it may be best to avoid taking your brother’s ultra feminist vegan girlfriend…but if you can over look the mounted animals on the wall and the all-too-conservative vibe, it’s worth it for the pie. Oh my, the pie.
Here I am delighted on my 40th birthday, having scoffed an entire steak and ale pie with all the trimmings AND a helping of their ‘died and gone to heaven’ Treacle Sponge.
If you’re cheeky enough like me, you can always ask them to knock up one of their retired signature cocktails, the ‘Kiss for Lily’. Lethal, but divine, it’s my all time favourite cocktail (well, it is predominantly champagne after all...) But only if they have the essential sugared violets on hand to make one for you.
After dinner drinks:
Another stop on the tourist train, The Alchemist, in Covent Garden is a gimmicky spot where, once you’re sozzled on a fancy Rules cocktail, you can indulge in drama and sweet, sugary nonsense. It makes its name on the ridiculously over-the-top cocktails that come with a side of fire, smoke, or magic. It’s fun, silly, and a must-do at least once on your London adventure. Leave any ego at the door, and embrace your inner child.
Where should I stay?
Well, that depends entirely on the purpose of your visit. At the moment, hotels in London are CHEAP (for London.) That’s because the tourists haven’t returned….yet. So you could pick up a stay in one of the more luxurious hotels if that’s your thing. Personally, for what we go to London for, the Premier Inn Hub, or a Novotel along the Southbank, is perfectly pleasant for resting a, possibly sore, head.
I adore London. It always will feel like home. But I am worried that some of what made it the most vibrant city on earth has been lost to the last few years. If you can find the chance to visit, do, and support, buy, and promote our local British businesses!