It was late afternoon by the time I made it from Heathrow to Tooting, since I ended up taking the Tube across the city. The weather was gloomy and somewhat rainy as expected, and Nancy and I were feeling a bit lazy.My only goal for the day was to take a quick look at Primark, London’s best inexpensive department store, before meeting my friend Mo for dinner. After that, I planned to spend the rest of my time there exploring local London sites, far off the tourist track.
Funnily enough, time flew by during our little shopping excursion, and we found ourselves rushing to meet Mo for dinner. Luckily we are all Arabs, so we all arrived late (albeit together!) in true stereotypical fashion.
Mo is a huge foodie, and he suggested Namak Mandi, a delicious and authentic Afghani restaurant in Tooting. I had never eaten Afghani food before, but boy was I impressed.We enjoyed several plates of hearty stews along with the largest piece of naan I’ve ever seen – all while sitting on pillows in our own private room. My kind of restaurant!
Mo ended up walking us both home, and Nancy and I realized that he only lives a few minutes away from her! Small world. I’m only envious that I won’t be there to hang out as well.
Nancy and I made good use of my last full day there, visiting as many local London sites as we could. We started off with breakfast at Milk Cafe, an ultra trendy café in Clapham. If the menu options and decor didn’t make the trendy vibe apparent, then the fact that they serve horchata, a Mexican milk drink, confirmed it. However, my salmon and poached eggs were absolutely delicious, and I’m a sucker for a good atmosphere.
Per the recommendation of TimeOut, Nancy and I decided to make our way to King’s Cross to check out an outdoor market. When we arrived, we were surprised to find nothing but a couple of food trucks parked in a plaza. Apparently the market is only there in the summer, and since it was officially September, nada. Sad times. Luckily we were a short Tube ride away from one of my favorite local London sites, Covent Garden, where we spent a good chunk of time watching a hilarious Australian stand-up comic.
Once my stomach stopped hurting from laughter, Nancy and I meandered over to Neal’s Yard. Located off the main road in a little alley, Neal’s Yard is famous for its brightly colored buildings. It almost felt like I was walking into another world – definitely a must-visit if you’re interested in local London sites!
It was starting to get a bit chilly, so we decided to walk to Soho for a spot of tea. Nancy was using Apple maps to get us there, so, naturally, we got lost. I got to see more of the city, though, so I was completely okay with it. Apparently getting lost is a great way to find local London sites – I even spotted a Chipotle! It didn’t seem particularly popular – maybe only Americans are obsessed with it. Anyway, we eventually made it to Yumchaa, where I had a delicious cup of fusion chai.
By this time, it was late afternoon, and Nancy and I had dinner plans with my friend Rachael from the volunteer program. Since we had a couple of hours to spare, we decided to explore Victoria Park before dinner. The park itself is beautiful, and there were even some leaves that had already started changing colors.
Shortly after, Rachael texted us that she was running late. Since Nancy and I were freezing (did I mention it was raining?), we decided to kill some time at the Westfield mall while waiting. Side note: this mall is HUGE. It’s five stories high and packed with brands from all over the world. If you’re a person that likes every store imaginable at your disposal, then Westfield is the way to go.
Rachael showed up shortly after, and we all agreed to dinner at Busaba Eathai, a popular Thai chain in London. It was delicious, and we spent a good few hours chatting and joking around. Nancy and Rachael got along really well and ended up making plans to hang out later on – I love it when that happens! Right before parting ways, Rachael and I introduced Nancy to Head’s Up! Somehow she’d never heard of it, so we played a few rounds outside the mall. We must have looked so ridiculous! By then it was getting late, so we said our goodbyes and headed home.
Sadly, the next day was my last day in London. Since my flight was at 3 pm, I only had time to have breakfast with Nancy before schlepping to the airport. We ended up choosing to eat at Brew Cafe in Wimbledon, which wasn’t particularly amazing, but at least I got to see a bit of the city, and explore a few more local London sites! It’s very posh, as the Brits like to say.
After breakfast, Nancy and I said our goodbyes. I really hate goodbyes. Luckily, Nancy’s brother is moving to LA, so she will be visiting sometime soon!
I managed to make it to the airport two hours before my flight with my luggage in one piece. This time, I was prepared and bought plenty of snacks for the plane since I flew Norwegian home. While it was a little sad to head home, I have a feeling I’ll be back again in Europe soon!
TLDR: a short summary of what I did and where I ate in London for those too lazy to read the post
Where I went:
- Primark: London’s most popular inexpensive department store
- King’s Cross: Both a Tube and train station and an area within London. Home to parks, plazas, and even Platform 9 3/4
- Covent Garden: A large food and shopping area bustling with people and performers
- Neal’s Yard: An alley near Covent Garden known for its bright and colorful buildings
- Victoria Park: A large park in East London complete with a lake, two cafes, and a skatepark
- Westfield mall: The third largest shopping center in the UK with over 400 stores and restaurants. Located in Stratford city, East London
What I ate:
- Afghani stews and naan at Namak Mandi
- Salmon and poached eggs at Milk Cafe
- Chai fusion tea and a scone at Yumchaa
- Thai cuisine at Busaba Eathai
- Salmon and poached eggs at Brew Cafe