I kickstarted the London Diaries on a Bank Holiday Monday, the perfect opportunity for a full day of sightseeing. I left my little estate in East London and headed over to the wide boulevards and grand white, stucco houses of Kensington. I've always loved the glamour of West London and the buzzing, lively atmosphere of people from all over the world coming together. That pretty much epitomises the city itself, but it's particularly evident in the more touristy parts of the UK capital.
I met a friend for brunch; we ate at Muriel's, which is a chain restaurant just off of South Kensington station. I had heard good things about this place and it was reassuringly busy when we arrived, with waiters hopping from one table to another at electrifying speed. We sat in the corner (albeit right next to the toilets) but we encountered good hospitality and some really great breakfast.
Myself and Joe drank lattes - mine with almond milk, which I was charged a bit extra for and so my coffee ended up being over £3 (wasn't too impressed with that!) However, brunch was super tasty; I opted for the grilled halloumi and roasted tomatoes, which came with two poached eggs, pesto and sourdough toast. I hadn't considered putting halloumi, tomatoes and pesto together but it's definitely a combination I'll be trying out in the future - so yummy. Joe went for the pancakes - I was seriously considering getting these as well - and they came with maple syrup (Joe also added streaky bacon for an extra cost.) My meal was £9.50 which I thought was a little bit pricey, but I guess it is Kensington, and I was feeling like treating myself.
Overall, I was very satisfied and I would definitely recommend Muriel's, although probably will opt for a local place next time. We headed to the Natural History Museum afterwards, which has been one of my favourite museums since I was a kid. It was a very nostalgic trip and we were a little saddened by the fact that the main entrance hall was closed for refurbishment - apparently Dippy the diplodocus is being replaced by a blue whale and the dinosaur is touring the UK in the near future?? Famous monsters aside, the museum didn't fail to disappoint - it's a great place for both adults and kids, with a huge array of information on all periods of natural history, very interactive as well which is great for fidgety fingers like mine.
The animatronic t-rex was one of the most impressive sights - children were cowering at its feet while adults stood about looking mildly nervous. Wandering around the dinosaur section made me feel incredibly nostalgic - I used to be absolutely obsessed with dinosaurs when I was younger, and spent all my time researching them, drawing jurassic landscapes across acres of paper and looking into how I could become a paleontologist. The world of dinosaurs fascinated me and still does although not to the same extent, but it's just crazy how these terrifying lizards used to roam the earth and we've managed to piece together so much of their history. I really enjoyed the section on the human body, particularly the brain, as that was super interesting. It talks you through growth from a baby to an adult and virtually everything in between. If you're into psychology, this is definitely not to be missed.
Another really cool section was the section on the planet itself, which talks you through volcanoes, earthquakes, rock formations and all that kinda stuff. The escalator into the centre of the earth is not to be missed.
The best thing about the museum is that it is absolutely free, although the staff do encourage donations and can be found walking around trying to sell merchandise (shoutout to the guy who must have worn that dinosaur tail all day outside the shop.) Museums do take it out of you, so I was excited to sit down on the tube and head back towards the endz. However, I hadn't planned on going home just yet - I took a detour to Aldgate, where I indulged in a mani-pedi, courtesy of Pearl Hair and Beauty.
This was my first time at Pearl Hair and Beauty - I found an offer on treatwell and booked it immediately as my feet have been DYING for a pedicure since I hiked up a mountain in Morocco last August. It's tucked away just opposite Aldgate station and I have to say, this was the most tranquil salon I had ever been to.
The salon was unbelievably quiet - there were a few customers but I felt relaxed as soon as I came in. I was offered a drink and was able to start my treatment a few minutes early. I had one lady doing my toes and another lady attending to my hands, so it was definitely the pampered experience I had had in mind. The therapists were lovely but very quiet (I'm not sure they had a lot of English) and soon my good friend Zinat arrived for her treatment. Even though we hadn't been able to book our treatments together online, Zinat received hers while my nails were drying so it was great because we managed to have a nice catch-up. Zinat opted for a deep red, which you can see above (all the nail polishes were OPI.) It's been almost a week and my nails are still in good condition and have hardly chipped, although maybe that's because for once I've kept them short. The treatments were £29.75 altogether, which was a great deal for both nails and toes. I would say I'd go back to the salon; it seemed very professional and had a very nice atmosphere, although it would have been nice for the therapists to have been a bit chattier! After sitting on the treatment chairs for what felt like absolutely ages, I was ready to hit the streets again. We were in the mood for a coffee and a light snack, so I suggested we walk through Brick Lane and down to Shoreditch, where trendy cafés are in abundance.
On our way we stopped at Beigel Bake, THE BEST bagel place to go, which is open 24 / 7. There's always a queue at this place but the end result is so worth it - there are enough fillings here to send your head spinning and equally tasty pastries that are always fresh from the oven. Beigels are cheap too - plain ones come at about 30p, so pop in and stock up for the week. At Shoreditch, Zinat and I tried out Albion, which is a café and shop, selling locally produced fresh food. A caffeine fix was definitely needed but immediately the pastries caught our eye; I had been skeptical about trying out French food since coming back to London but the pain au raisins looked absolutely divine, and I wasn't disappointed.
Again, was a little pricey but I suppose that's what you get with gentrification! We did share a pot of coffee though, cutting the cost down that little bit. Zinat left and I wanted to do one more thing before I went home. Walking down Brick Lane, I turned off from the bustling crowds, the unyielding men reeling in curry-seeking customers and the wafts of Bangladeshi cuisine and found Princelet Street, which is a gorgeous little road home to a row of beautiful, eighteenth-century houses. Somehow the terrace of Georgian-era buildings has escaped the hipsterisation of Shoreditch and Spitalfields. I was the only person on the street as I walked down, gazing round and snapping some pics, making me feel as if the whole area had been frozen in time.
London is such an historical city and it's seriously cool that you can walk five minutes and be able to dive into another century. I'll be looking out for little gems like Princelet Street more often! That was all for today - I realised when I got home that I had been out from 10am to 7pm, so it was a pretty full-on day. Having said that, I didn't feel particularly tired and was more excited than anything else to get straight back into sightseeing!