Last month Kieron and I celebrated his birthday together down in London and it was definitely 2017’s highlight so far! I knew I wanted to make it one to remember and as Kieron has never been one to make a fuss out of his birthday, this year I wanted to create as many surprises for him as I could and spoil him rotten. A couple of weeks before our trip we had a productive planning evening to arrange our transport, hotel and places to visit. Some holidays are best left unplanned, however we knew we had to plan this weekend to get the most out of it and it’s a good job we did!
My trip began with an early start to finish packing all of my essentials (including backpack, suitcase and birthday present bag). Ariana Grande ensured I awoke with a large smile on my face as I ticked off the last few items on my checklist with her Dangerous Woman album on. I would later find out Kieron had been listening to the same album as me whilst also finishing off his packing! I drove round to Kieron’s house as designated chauffeur for his birthday trip to load the car and drop off his first surprise present… A finished copy of our personal scrapbook. Kieron was delighted with it and it was lovely to start our weekend together with a surprise romantic gesture.
Our train departed from Doncaster at 9:31am after a slightly panicky journey as we were stuck in traffic for what felt like forever. Train journeys are always relaxed affairs for Kieron and I as we take the opportunity to spend some quality time together. This is normally sharing our favourite music and catching up on recent events. With so many surprises up my sleeve I was practically bobbing up and down with excitement which meant Kieron’s train nap didn’t quite go to plan.
Before we knew it we had arrived in sunny London and I was certainly struggling to contain my excitement. As we walked out of Kings Cross Station we entered a beautiful heatwave – we couldn’t have asked for better weather. Our first mission was to drop off our luggage as sporting my new backpack whilst wheeling a suitcase with a precariously balanced shopping bag full of presents and Champagne was not the easiest way to travel in London. We soon found our tube line was closed which meant a 20 minute walk to our hotel. Of course this turned into a 40 minute walk due to all of our luggage, 27 degree heat, a water break and the distraction of a wedding dress shop (that was me not Kieron). I’ve never been so happy to arrive at a hotel and experience air conditioning! The hotel staff were fantastic and stored all of our luggage to free us up for the afternoon. We refreshed ourselves with iced lemon water before heading back out into the hottest day of 2017 for a wander around London hand in hand.
With our first mission successfully completed, it was time to find some food. As we had dinner booked in a restaurant, we knew just a light bite was required to tide us over until then. We popped into a couple of little cafes but my fussy “no butter” rule made finding something slightly awkward… On a positive note, if we hadn’t walked away from those awful buttery places we wouldn’t have found the delicious chicken escalope toasties we devoured together. It was lovely to sit down and rest our legs for half an hour whilst enjoying some lunch and a drink. I regret not getting the name of the cafe we ate at. It was very rustic inside with picnic benches, bar stools and an outdoor eating area under a canopy. Lots of people were busy popping in for a snack on their work lunch break which created a busy yet quiet atmosphere for everyone to enjoy. I also noticed the difference in pronunciation for the word “escalope.” Everyone pronounced it differently and I still don’t know how to say it…
Next on our list was to visit the Natural History Museum. A couple of tube stops later and we had arrived at South Kensington. To Kieron’s delight, I was distracted by every live musician we passed on the way, particularly a saxophonist playing Clean Bandit. The atmosphere and culture in London was simply brilliant and I wanted to absorb everything. I had been told you could spend a whole day in the Natural History Museum but I had no idea just how much information would be contained there, so much so an ice cream break was required half way round…
We looked around as many areas as we could in the time that we had, including human evolution, geography, minerals, mammals, creepy crawlies and dinosaurs. I loved looking around although I wish we had had more time there to learn more and read more of the information provided. The attention to detail on all of the exhibits is stunningly accurate. My favourite section was definitely the animals!
I’m a sucker for a gift shop and I have to say the Natural History Museum has a very impressive shop with something for everyone. We easily spent at least 30 minutes browsing through books, home ware, stationery and lots of other merchandise. I was adamant I wanted to take a souvenir home with me and being a book lover, I thought it wise to take one home with me. The challenge then became choosing just one book to take home… In the end it was impossible and I had to take two with me.
When we left the Natural History Museum I already felt as though we had experienced an amazing day and we were only half way through. We still had the hotel to discover and a lovely meal planned that evening. Me being me, I had already contacted the hotel to arrange a little surprise for Kieron on our arrival. I can’t express just how impressed we both were with Thistle City Barbican, London. A gentleman called Vincent had helped me arrange a surprise white rose for Kieron and a complimentary room upgrade prior to our visit which was a lovely gesture. Vincent was so helpful and little did we know he had also thrown in a few more surprises for both of us!
When we arrived in our room we were delighted to find a birthday card and a box of delicious chocolate truffles for Kieron along with his beautiful white rose. Kieron was also relieved to find the room had air conditioning as he had been worried about this on our walk to the hotel that day. I had struggled to keep this surprise room upgrade (complete with air conditioning) to myself! We had only been in the room for around 30 minutes when two members of the team knocked on our door. By this point Kieron was in the shower and I was in my pyjama shorts – not the most ideal timing but it added some humour to our day! Kieron certainly didn’t believe me when I said I hadn’t asked for the two huge slices of chocolate fudge cake with strawberries and a bottle of Prosecco to be brought to our room! Thistle City Barbican treated us wonderfully throughout our stay and we will certainly be returning.
Upon first deciding to head to London for Kieron’s birthday, his only request was to visit his favourite restaurant: Le Bistro Savoir Faire. This is a family owned French restaurant with everything cooked on site. I had never eaten French cuisine until our London trip but if this meal was anything to go by I loved it. Without being bias, I think we got the best seat in the house as we were offered a window seat in the corner which meant privacy to talk (and share food)!
We decided to go for three courses as this was Kieron’s birthday meal and we were served a selection of breads with oil to accompany our meal. The portion sizes were perfect as they weren’t too big which meant you weren’t too full for dessert. The service and attention to detail was superb. The food itself was cooked and presented beautifully. I fell in love with the restaurant itself and spent a lot of my evening reading the quirky slogans on the ceiling. I imagine this restaurant to be perfect for a first date with lots of talking points as me and Kieron certainly experienced a tasty meal in a gorgeous location. This was probably the most romantic part of our trip as there is something special about a meal for two with your loved one. I was especially pleased to see how happy Kieron was with the evening as he had really looked forward to visiting Le Bistro Savoir Faire.
Leading up to our London trip I was adament we would be experiencing the London nightlife in a cocktail bar. To be honest, I’m slightly disappointed we didn’t get to do this, although it’s entirely my fault that we didn’t! My reliable Clarks heels let me down after Le Bistro Savoir Fair and even though I’ve lasted 10 and a half hours in them before at work, they couldn’t get me through a 15 minute walk to a cocktail bar after being sat down for a couple of hours – very disappointing! Google Maps took us the wrong way, we weren’t too sure where we were after walking for 20 minutes and my feet were very sore. After a long, tiring and fantastic day we decided to call it a night and get the tube back to the hotel for a much needed rest. We’ll have to experience the London nightlife on our next trip with a trusty pair of flats in my suitcase ready!
1. It’s important to remember that when visiting London, you won’t be able to see it all! Pick your favourite places to visit and spend more time there rather than trying to see everything all at once and not getting the most out of each place.
2. Absorb London. There’s nowhere else quite like the busy and musical city of London. If you’re anything like me you’ll be distracted by everything, so leave early to allow plenty of time to experience it all.
3. Make sure you have a contactless bank card. My new debit card let me down on the first day at the tube station, however travelling around London was much easier once it was working.
4. Save your pocket money and treat yourself. I know everyone has different budgets and allowances when on holiday, however Kieron and I definitely threw most of our cautions to the wind and went in the mindset of having a good time. Neither of us wanted to come home with any regrets regarding not buying or experiencing something whilst we were away. As a result of this, we have some incredible memories and souvenirs from our wonderful trip which will last a lifetime.
Have you visited any of the above places? Perhaps you have some tips to share from your London excursion?
Day two of our London adventure featuring Camden Market and Aladdin the Musical can be read here.