This is our second time living in what can only be described as “destination cities”, first was Sydney and now London. Not that family and friends ignore you in any other parts of the world, but when you live in one of these “destination cities” one tends to get a lot of visitors, which is awesome. So the second half of November started with Mrs FOMOist’s cousin and his wife visiting us from Singapore. They arrived the weekend that got suddenly really cold, but surprisingly enough, they coped with the cold with a lot more vigour than I had imagined, being from a humid warm climates.
Before I get into the gist of this post, I’d like to mention something that all Londoners contend with and that is – the size of their apartment. To give you an idea, the size of our apartment in London is the size of the backyard we have in our Australian house and the rent of this flat is more than our mortgage back home. When we tell people that it’s small, I don’t think any of them appreciate that we are not being humble, we are being honest. So we start the prep for our impending guests starting with a thorough clean to impress and clearing out the space in between our coffee table and TV to set up their grand blow-up mattress, which is super-comfy and was well received by the guests.
After spending a semi-sleepless night, it was Saturday morning and we had a busy day planned. At this stage I’d like to mention that I am not sure who was more excited by the possibility of going around Londontown. While enthusiastic, the guests were still partly jaded due to their jetlag, but I had a list of places that I wanted to show them that may not have been on their list. We started with a brisk walk from our flat to my favourite local café – Hej Coffee. These guys are amazing! They have their own special blend of coffee that is roasted on-site and have a Barista School upstairs. Result – deliciously strong coffee to start a fun day out in town. Armed with our delicious brews, we walked across Tower Bridge, making our way to the Breakfast Club in Spitalfields. We got to the café around 10.00am and after waiting for about 20-minutes, were shown to our table and enjoyed a full English fry-up to our guests acquainted to the local cuisine. The reason we chose the venue was not only for breakfast, but for the infamous speakeasy bar – The Mayor of Scaredy Cat Town. The bar is accessed through a very discreet SMEG Fridge that seems to be in the dining area as opposed to in or near the kitchen. Once the “fridge-door” was mentioned, I had undivided dedication of the guests to experience this quaint adventure. The bar opened at midday and we were the first ones in, preceded by excited squeals and jerky iPhone videos of us entering the bar. If you have not been to any of the Breakfast Club cafes and the adjoined bars, I would highly recommend it. The breakfast menu is simple but exactly what breakfast should be and the bar is just an added bonus.
After a quick (and delicious) cocktail at the bar, we then walked to 20 Fenchurch Street for our 1.15pm appointment for a free visit at the Sky Garden for panoramic views of the City of London. If you’re a first-time visitor to London and are absolutely convinced that you must go up the London Eye, please wire me the money instead and I will book you a free visit at the Sky Garden instead. Once you take the lift to the 35th floor, it is more airport terminal than a garden, but the views are the best I’ve seen, and yes I have wasted money going up the eye and would like everyone to learn from my mistakes. After soaking up the views, we headed back to Spitalfields Market for a snack, browse and a spot of shopping. Since the guests woke up at 3.00am, by this point cousin’s wife was on the verge of tears and wanted to go home so I let them because they had a whole lot of London to explore the next day.
Sunday was another early start with breakfast at the Garrisons. We had a 9.30am booking, but much to our (mainly mine) disappointment, the Sunday Roast wasn’t going to start till midday so we settled for breakfast menu instead. While it was good, it failed to impress like the Breakfast Club from the day before. However, if you are a hot chocolate aficionado, the Garrisons has one of the best hot chocolates so get your hands on that the next time you visit.
I truly believe that the best way to see and experience a city while you’re travelling is to walk. It might be tiring and you may not be able to cover as much ground as you would have wished for, but walking really allows you to immerse yourself in your surroundings and most often than not, you stumble upon hidden gems that you would have missed out on while on a bus, cab or underground. With this speech, I convinced the guests to walk from the Garrisons to Southbank where we walked passed the London Bridge (we had to due to the song), onto Southbank, across (and back) the Millennium Bridge to have a closer look at the colossal St Paul’s Cathedral, before getting back on track to see the much waited sight from the Waterloo Bridge. The London Eye on one side and the Big Ben on the other. This still remain one of my favourite views of the city I now call home.
After a jam-packed London weekend, the guests went off to Paris and we got back to our weekly grind. Once the guests were back, we had agreed that we’ll treat ourselves with lunch at Dinner by Heston (I love saying/writing this – lunch at Dinner). I know I wrote about our first visit to Dinner, but the second trip was just as magically delicious. That was Saturday and Sunday we went for a daytrip to Liverpool. Mrs FOMOist’s cousin is a big Liverpool fan and they were playing and won against Swansea. Even though missing out on the game was tugging at my heart strings, I was excited by the opportunity to explore the wonders of a town that was awarded the European Cultural Capital in 2008.
For a town built on the
strong foundation of slavery, Liverpool is charmingly beautiful – I haven’t yet decided if the charm is a result or a cause. Anyways, the cousin’s wife and I only had a few hours up our sleeves and I had an extensive list of places I wanted to tick off – which I didn’t. So we started off at Metropolitan Cathedral. After going to a number of Cathedrals around Europe, I hate to admit it but they were all kinda getting a bit of the same. Not the Metropolitan Cathedral though, no sir! It is a Cathedral like no other and definitely not something I expect to see anywhere else, anytime soon. I would have loved to share some amazing insta pictures, but alas, I am not even half as good as my wife so you’ll just have to take my word on the beauty of this modern-day marvel.
If you’ve read or heard about Liverpool, home ground of the Beatle is definitely known for its Pop culture. So after admiring the mighty Pop landmark of the Metropolitan Cathedral, we started making our way to the Liverpool Cathedral. Before I get to the Cathedral, I’d like to mention the road leading up to the Cathedral – Hope Street. If you google Hope St, Liverpool, you will be rewarded with rave reviews and beautiful photos of this Street cladded with period-architectural beauty. Now this is going to sound like another excuse, but seriously no amount of photos can do justice to this street, but here’s a picture of a pile of brick suitcases that caught my eye.
At the end of Hope Street, we were treated with a view of the colossal structure that is the Liverpool Cathedral. I have to admit, I don’t know what I was expecting, but one glimpse of the Liverpool Cathedral and I was captivated. The sheer size of the structure is imposing and then you enter to be treated with something that you do not expect (at least I didn’t) from an English town. The grandeur of the Liverpool Cathedral felt like I had just stepped into another time. The Cathedral was getting ready for the Sunday mass, allowing us just enough time to climb to the top of the tower to soak up the panoramic views of the city.
I am not sure if it was due to the game or the gale-force winds, but the Liverpool town centre was as deserted as a town under coup. To escape from the piercing cold winds, we headed to the Baltic Triangle and settled at a bar called Camp & Furnace. I use the term bar fairly loosely, because once we pushed the button to enter this so-called “bar” we were invited with warm yellow glow from the fire in one corner and families enjoying the warmth and the glow in comfy couches – worlds apart from the freezing cold outside.
The bar had three massive sections, one with the fireplace and comfy couches, then the second room had indoor street food stalls selling German beers and delicious food and the third lined with wooden benches (much like the Oktoberfest), in front of a projector showing the Liverpool and Swansea game. Thankfully Liverpool won (even though only with a penalty kick)and the spirit inside this bar was much like the atmosphere at the game.
Once the game finished, we grabbed a quick bite and then took the first class train back to London. The reason for taking first class – it was cheaper than standard class. Why? No idea! It was our first time in first class train and I am happy to report that it is definitely not worth the extra money, so stick to the standard class, unless of course it’s cheaper.
After a hectic 10-day trip to Europeans, the Singaporeans headed back home on Monday and we got busy prepping up for our next guest who arrived last night. More on that and much more in the next post.