Midsummer in Finland and Sweden is a big deal. We get a Friday off before midsummer and people mostly spend the long weekend at their summer houses with families and friends. Increasingly younger people spend midsummer also in the city and have a picnic or hang out with friends at someone’s house, but generally speaking at least Helsinki is a ghost town during this time. Also if you don’t make any plans, you just kind of end up sitting at home doing nothing because everything is closed and all your friends are in the countryside. So this year I was thinking what could be fun to do during this time when my boyfriend announced that he is participating in a workshop in London on Wednesday and Thursday before midsummer, so we agreed that I would just book flights and join him there for a long weekend and we would fly back on Sunday.
It is a bit ridiculous as I was just in London in mid-April, but London always has things to do, so you can easily spend a couple of days there again and again and not get bored. So I flew to London on Thursday evening. British Airways flight was over an hour late due to overheated brakes and when we finally got onboard it’s no wonder. The plane seemed to be bought from some sort of Soviet Union yard sale as not even the budget airlines fly such old planes. When we finally landed in London, our brakes were once again overheated and we were escorted to the gate by four fire trucks, which was announced as “normal procedure”. Sure, BA.
Last time I was in London, we stayed at Premier Inn hotel at Aldgate and I really liked it. I saw that hub by Premier Inn London Westminster Abbey had great reviews, so I decided to choose that for our stay this time. Well, the hotel itself was very new and spotless, but the room was super tiny and it didn’t have any windows. So I guess hub means this tiny dark capsule, which was very strange as people were raving about this location and nobody mentioned that there was no windows. I mean, windows are not mandatory, but it makes the room much less claustrophobic and it is nice to be able to tell that it’s already morning. Luckily there was air conditioning because otherwise it becomes very hot and it’s difficult to breathe in such a small room. Also you could hear everything that was happening in the bathroom, which is not ideal to say the least. 😀
We didn’t manage to grab anything to eat because my flight was so late that I arrived at the hotel around 22:30 and mostly everything in the neighborhood closed at 22:00. Luckily my boyfriend bought me some food from the Pret a Manger nearby, so luckily I had some food waiting for me.
The next morning we slept in as there was no natural light to wake us up and headed to a cafe called Raison d’Etre. We didn’t have much planned, so I figured why don’t we try some places, which are not right next to our hotel. The cafe was nothing special, but I really liked my food. Boyfriend though his baguette was a bit meh.
After late breakfast, I wanted to find a Shu Uemura shop, but apparently it had closed down permanently and the information on Google wasn’t quite up to date. So we walked around Covent Garden area for a bit and then headed to the O2, where there was an exhibition by DC Comics called Dawn of Super Heroes.
I was here last year to see the amazing Star Wars exhibition and was expecting something grand, but this was an okay exhibition, but nothing special. I was a bit disappointed even.
I was expecting to spend more time browsing the exhibit, but we spent less than an hour there. When we got out, my boyfriend remembered that London public transportation includes small boats that go on the Thames and we decided to take one. It was super nice as the weather was perfect for a boat ride, but the fun lasted only for a couple of stops as more and more families with small kids climbed onboard and it became quite crowded and, well, chaotic. But I’ve never tried that before, so it was cool to see London from this angle.
After the boat ride we headed to Bloomberg Arcade, which I understood was something akin to a food court. I was looking for new places in London and stumbled upon this article, so I was curious to see the place. It turned out to be more separate restaurants in one place rather than a food court, which made it a bit more difficult to agree where to eat, but as a compromise, we decided to go for burgers at Bleecker Burgers. Burgers were super good, although quite small for the price, but the fries were crap. Totally should’ve taken two burgers instead of burger and fries.
After getting some food, we again walked around in London. The weather was amazing especially compared to Finland and Sweden, where it was raining all day. In London it was around +22°C and a bit windy, so perfect summer weather. Also it was supposed to get closer to +30°C just after Sunday when we were leaving, so we caught the perfect couple of days when it wasn’t too hot nor too cold.
I go to see a musical every time I visit London. They are so well produced, so it’s always a pleasure. This time we bought tickets for The Book of Mormon. The tickets were sold out on the theater’s web page, so I bought them via Ticketmaster and despite Ticketmaster being a huge official company, I wasn’t certain I would actually get the tickets. Luckily they were waiting for me at the ticket booth, so all is well that ends well.
The musical itself was great, but also offensive to everyone. 😀 It wasn’t mean-spirited though, even if it made fun of all Mormons and all Africans. The audience was laughing a lot and the time flew by. These tickets are pretty expensive (especially if you want to have good seats), but they are always worth it.
After the show, we were actually pretty hungry again, but according to Google, almost all the places were closing down at 22:00 and it was only half an hour until that time. Nevertheless we decided to try a place called Tonkotsu, which served Japanese ramen and they invited us in and we were able to order and eat without any issues despite the closing time coming and going. The ramen was pretty good, nothing to write home about, but again, at least we got something to eat before heading back to our hotel.
Next morning we again had some issues waking up, as there was still no natural light to wake you. We decided to take the bus and go to a cafe to get late breakfast. After waiting at the bus stop for 15 min and seeing no buses but this gem of proselytizing, we understood that there must be some kind of diversion going on, so we took the tube.
My boyfriend really hates taking the tube in the summer just because it is super hot and uncomfortable on them and there is no air con unlike on busses. Finally we ended up in the cafe called Balthazar. We actually ended by accident in Balthazar’s little sister cafe, which was located next door to the actual place. We were just so hungry that despite wondering that the cafe looked much bigger on pictures, we ended up ordering and sitting on a couple of chairs that were available. Only after we were done and started walking, we understood that the place we were aiming for was just a few meters further. 😀 I know it doesn’t look like much on the photo, but the breakfast was actually really good. The selection is probably better in the actual cafe, this was more a takeout place.
We walked around and did some shopping. Well, my boyfriend did, to be precise. It seems that I only find clothes when I’m not looking for them and when I actually need something, it’s almost guaranteed that I don’t find anything I like.
We also had a tipsy afternoon tea scheduled at 13:00. It was a bit early, but what the hell. We showed up at W Hotel and were seated. I have very conflicting feelings about having afternoon tea at fancy hotels. I prefer that things are good quality, but rather casual and I dislike super uptight service and ambiance. We were seated and offered to have a glass of bubbly, which we took and then started waiting for the food. After something like 35 min I enquired what was taking so long as we were pretty much the only clients. There was one party, which came for beers and one party which arrived just around the time I got impatient. At this point it turned out that they didn’t have our reservation and that is why they weren’t prepared for us. They apologized, offered another glass of bubbly on the house, and asked for references from our booking email, so they could look into it. It too another 15 min or so before our tipsy afternoon tea was served and it was nothing I have seen before.
The food was served in a box with different drawers and the tipsy part were the shots on the top. They were alcohol-based, but not actual shots as they were like Jell-O, so we needed to use the spoon to get them out. The weird thing was that the staff suggested that we should start with dessert and then finish with scones and sandwiches, which was just too weird for me. 😀 So we asked for two pots of regular tea, and started with sandwiches, which were quite goods. Scones were pretty good as well, but the mastery was mainly in the desserts. Desserts were actually really good (unlike during our afternoon tea at Brown Hotel), but there was just too much sweetness. The desserts were rather large and accompanied by sweet shots, so I actually had to leave something uneaten as I simply couldn’t take any more sweetness. Otherwise the experience was good and pretty different from the more traditional afternoon teas I’ve tried.
After the afternoon tea, I was so full that all I wanted is just go and lie down. We were planning on going to V&A Museum, but decided to just go to the hotel and lie down for a moment. That’s the upside of having been to London a million times. If you’re feeling tired, you can just go and have a nap instead of worrying that you’re going to miss super important and interesting stuff and it will be years until you come back to this place, if ever.
In the evening we walked in Fitzrovia, which is an area I’m not at all familiar with. It seemed to have a lot of restaurants, but to be at the same time quite peaceful. Maybe next time it would be a good idea to stay somewhere in Fitzrovia just to get a better feel of a different part of London. We had dinner at BAO, which I’ve been meaning to visit for a few years now. I even had a reservation made one, but the airline employees went on strike at the time and I was happy that I got rerouted as my flight was cancelled, but this caused me to miss the reservation. Now I finally managed to try the food and it was… meh. I mean it was quite okay, but nothing to rave about as in the reviews. But at least I finally got that crossed off my list. 😉
We ended the night with friends of mine at Mr Fogg’s Gin Parlour, which I love. They have the coolest cocktails and every time I have described them something I like and they have made something that wasn’t on the list and it was great every time. The music is a bit too loud, but you can still carry a conversation in a smallish group.
The next morning all we had time for is to pack and get breakfast before heading to the airport. For breakfast we chose Ole & Steen near Victoria, which was actually a very cool place. You can choose from all the things they have on display, but there is also a breakfast menu, from which you can choose more complex dishes than just sandwich and coffee. But the sandwiches were really good and they have amazing selection of pastries. I definitely have to go back and try more the next time I’m in London.
When we arrived at Heathrow, my flight was leaving from terminal 5 and my boyfriend’s from terminal 2, so we said goodbye on Heathrow Express. Once again British Airways did their utmost that I would never fly with them again: a) I got a middle seat and if I wanted to change it to any other seat, it cost 15€, b) the flight was once again over an hour late, c) it was the same crappy plane, d) they forced me to check in my luggage even though I was not nearly last to board, and e) the plane wasn’t even full and there was plenty of space in the overhead compartments for carry-on luggage. So my boyfriend was in Helsinki at exactly the same time as I was in Stockholm even though the flight to Helsinki is almost an hour longer and I had to check my luggage for nothing, which is something everyone hates. The only upside was that the plane wasn’t actually full, so the person sitting next to me moved to sit somewhere else and I got to move from my middle seat to the aisle seat. But yeah… it will be a long time before I fly with BA again. Their ticket costs a lot and you get worse service than on any budget airline. And I don’t consider myself a picky flyer. I board and leave the plane quickly, I don’t want any service, and I prefer to have an aisle seat if only possible. The rest of the time I have my noise-cancelling headphones on and either listen to music or watch Netflix. The only thing I expect from the airline is to be on time, let me keep my luggage, and leave me the fuck alone. 😀