I turn 40 at the end of November. I’m not phased by the prospect of it, but instead of my usual birthday request of taking the day off and doing nothing except watching my favourite films and eating my favourite food I wanted to do something special to actually acknowledge it.
The only problem with my birthday being so late in the year is that is falls in the start of the run-up to Christmas. It’s cold and dark, everywhere is packed with shoppers and partygoers and prices of things often increase, so earlier in the year I decided to try and plan something for September instead when the weather is nicer and things are less busy.
When I started looking around in March I knew it was a bit of a gamble. We were still in the second lockdown and with covid cases increasing I couldn’t guarantee what the situation was going to be six months later. I knew that going abroad wasn’t an option, and even if it was it was far too risky, so I decided on a long weekend in London. Pre-pandemic, London was a place that The Bloke and I visited several times a year – we would take a section of the city and spend a few days exploring and being tourists – and it had been over two years since our last visit. I’ve missed it – while I couldn’t imagine living there, there’s just something about it that makes me happy.
I discovered that the prices of the usual hotel chain that we stay in weren’t just cheap, they were at the lowest I’ve ever seen them, so I booked a few nights in a central location that is usually out of our budget. When I told my friend who lives in London about my plans she suggested that I come down a day earlier and we could have a girly day out, so I booked an extra night in a hotel near her too.
The gamble paid off. I’ve just had four days of total awesomeness, and while my feet are going to be sore for a while from so much walking I couldn’t have asked for anything better. While I mapped out a general list where I wanted to go in advance, I had three main places that were a must-see and viewed anything else as a bonus. I ended up completing everything on my list and then some.
Here are some of the highlights (there will be much more detailed individual posts to follow on some of these):
Afternoon Tea at Sketch
Sketch has been on my bucket list for a while, so The Bloke booked the Afternoon Tea as my birthday present. Our Afternoon Tea was in the highly instagrammed pink Gallery Room, and both the food and the service was the best I’d ever had. Our visit also coincided with the return of the Mayfair Flower Show, in which the restaurant and toilets were adorned with follower displays from Carly Rogers Flowers and Ricky Paul Flowers, which looked stunning. I will be sharing more of this in a later post.
While a cemetery may seem an unusual place to visit as part of a birthday celebration, this was also on my bucket list and was the perfect opportunity to go while we were in London. The cemetery is split into two sections – East and West – and was unlike any other I have seen, with lots of woodland and shrubbery that have grown around the graves. We spent hours wandering around on a stunningly beautiful day and found a number of famous internments, including George Michael, Jean Simmons, Douglas Adams, Jeremy Beadle, Malcolm McLaren, Michael Faraday, Roger Lloyd-Pack and Lucien Freud. I also saw the most unusual gravestone ever, belonging to Jim Stanford Horn, which looked like a book.
The Tower Bridge Walkway
I’ve walked past Tower Bridge many times but I’ve never done the walkway along the top of it, so my friend and I spent some time looking at the amazing views across the Thames, walking along the glass floor (well, my friend did, I was too much of a wuss) and climbing LOTS of stairs. Lots and lots of stairs. We were really lucky in the the weather was glorious too!
I visited several of these over the course of a few days and tried something different from the menu each time, including the Dutch Baby Pancakes, Ombré Passion Fruit Cooler and Mozzarella Focaccia. I loved the different decor – flowers, love hearts, neon signs – and looked like a total tourist with the amount of photos I took!
French Toast at Crome
A tiny cafe on James Street solely dedicated to french toast, The Bloke and I indulged in the most epic french toast brunch including Stuffed Nutella and Caramel Popcorn. Yum!
Sophie Tea Art Gallery
An interactive gallery on Carnaby Street dedicated to body positivity, self-confidence and the female form, and I’ve never been to a gallery like it. She’s so talented!
The Sky Garden
Another one on my bucket list. Amazing 360 degree views of London, lots of beautiful plants and places to eat and completely free! Entrance to the Sky Garden is via ticket only which need to be booked in advance online – be aware that there are only a certain amount of tickets available and they are released a week or two in advance.
The Rooftop at St James
This was the only disappointment of the trip – they were reluctant to allow us on the rooftop balcony area and placed us inside the restaurant area instead. There weren’t spaces when we arrived despite it being pre-booked, but they assured us they would moved us once a space became available. This would have been fine, until a table of girls who arrived much later than us were moved immediately upon their request. We also saw that there were quite a few tables free when we were leaving – I think that they didn’t want to have the hassle of moving us. Despite this, the standard of the service was good, the food was lovely (I had shiitake bao buns) but if you plan on visiting be aware that there is a minimum spend at certain points throughout the week. This would be acceptable if you got the view that was advertised, but otherwise it was quite overpriced for what we got.
Walking, eating and sightseeing – my favourite combination of things to do. We walked through Somerset House, at Frozen Yoghurt from the pink Snog bus on Southbank, sat by the Thames, saw the Saville Row building where the Beatles gave their last live performance on the rooftop, travelled up the Thames on the Uber Boat with my friend, ate macarons from Laduree in Covent Garden, drank bubble tea from Dyce, photographed the autumn decor at Peggy Porschen and took what seemed like a thousand tube rides on the way.
Amazing. And now on my actual birthday in a few months I plan to sit back, relax and do absolutely nothing!
What about you guys? Have you visited somewhere for the first time in ages? Let me know in the comment section below!
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This sounds amazing and pretty close to what I would have planned. Yes to the cemetery. So happy you are celebrating early. I think you should continue celebrating this birthday for the rest of the year! As why not
Hahah! I totally agree – although I’ll have to find free things to do as I won’t have any money left 😂😂
I was in the States for the first time in 4 years! Just got home last week. It was both the longest and the shortest vacation all at the same time. Felt so weird to be out traveling again.
Oh amazing! It’s so strange to be doing things that we saw as normal before isn’t it? Where did you go?
40 is a great age, Suzie. What a smart idea for an early birthday trip. I’m American, been to London once, I was about 40 then, too, and plan to go back again. It’s a lovely city.
Thanks, Cynthia! What was your favourite part of London?
Happy Birthday, Suzie! I’m glad that you had a great time in London. I would love to see London! 🇬🇧❤️
Thanks, John! It’s a wonderful place!
What a fun trip – the perfect birthday celebration. And you walked off all the calories to boot!
Hahah! You’d have thought that but I probably would have had to run a marathon to burn off all the calories I ate 😂😂😂
Looks like a great pre-birthday celebration, Suzie.
It was fabulous! It was definitely the best decision to go in September – hope you’re well!