London Sky Garden

The Sky Garden/Sky Pod Bar in London is probably one of my favorite “sky high” bars that I’ve been to yet. It’s a little oasis in the middle of the City of London and a nice little break from the crowds and transport and business going on below.

Located in the Walkie Talkie Building (20 Fenchurch St), the Sky Garden is literally that…a public garden in the sky. It’s free to enter, so long as you book a time, and can be visited just to enjoy the gardens, or to enjoy drinks, or even to have dinner at one of the restaurants. I’ve always been only for drinks. Of course, you pay the price of having drinks in the sky, but they are delicious – and beautiful! They also have fantastic cheese and meat platters, so don’t be afraid to arrive with an appetite.

I visited for the first time with my friend Lucy back in the summer and took Sara, Hope, and Sean when Sara was in town last week. They were completely different experiences! In the summer, of course, it was still relatively light outside and you could see everything. This time, it was dark – the city was lit up and beautiful, but it made it hard for us to get pictures. I also have yet to go before the balcony closes in the evening (in my opinion it closes a bit too early, but I understand the concern!) so I feel like I haven’t gotten the full experience.

I highly recommend the Sky Garden for anyone visiting London! Now that it’s been open for a bit, it’s even possible to make a reservation the same day for some last minute plans. My goal is to go back in the daytime next time so I can actually go outside…hopefully when it is warmer as well! I promise better pictures then, but until then, here is a look at my most recent trip….

  [Aren’t the drinks just beautiful?]

    [Glaring eyes is the price you pay for trying to get the whole group in a picture]

      [A blurry (but still beautiful) through-the-window shot of Tower Bridge]

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When Friends Visit

I have a love-hate relationship with having friends come visit London. I love pretty much everything about it: reuniting my friends, showing them my favorite places in London, traveling, etc. But it really stresses me out. I think it’s all part of the wanting everyone to be having a good time always thing. Working from home, I can be around my friends, but can’t really go and do anything with them, so I kind of have to send them off on their own during the day and then meet up with them in the evening.

We also have a very, very small flat. This means that air mattress is a way to go, and I must say…it isn’t a comfy air mattress.

However, despite all of this, I am always inviting friends to come stay. We’ve developed a bit of a routine for when friends/family visit that guarantees they see more than just the touristy stuff. As I mentioned, I ship my friends off into London during the day with decent directions on how to get places and my personal recommendations. Then, when everyone is free, we go for the following:

  • Fish & Chips – We used to pick up fish and chips from Moxie’s in Clapham South and bring it home to our friends. Now that we’ve moved, our go to is Kerbisher & Malt on Abbeville Road. Craft beers + delicious fish (& scampi!) + an overload of chips = heaven on earth.IMG_0001.JPG

 

  • Our Local Pub – Sunday roast, Wednesday burger night, any day drinks – it’s the perfect opportunity to show our friends a *real* London pub.  

 

  • A Swanky Bar – There are so many that I want to try! Rooftops, sky high bars, pop ups. I usually drag my friends to something I’ve never even been to, but sometimes I go for a repeat.  

 

  • Cook at Home – Save money. Eat in pajamas. Show off our new cooking skills. Drink wine. Play Cards Against Humanity. Everyone wins on the nights when we just can’t be bothered to do anything.IMG_5193

 

  • Afternoon Tea – If we have a free weekend day, this is probably my favorite thing to do with visiting friends. It’s extremely British and so good for a girls day out!IMG_4001.JPG

 

  • Ticketed Event – There is ALWAYS something going on in London. From Cocktail Week (Marisa’s visit) to pop up experiences to musicals and plays, there are endless things to do that provide a great London experience without all of the tourist queues.IMG_0020

 

  • Weekend Away – I try to travel with every friend who visits. After all, they’re coming all the way across the ocean, so it’s worth seeing more than just London! This started when Sara visited last year after I first moved here and we went to Nice. Then, Marisa visited and we hit Marseille. We choose a cheap and relatively quick place so we can make the most of it and just go!IMG_1568

This list has changed a bit, but after Sara’s (second) visit this past week, I think this is the best of the combinations. It’s nice to have a little routine that we can tailor to each friend who visits. Next I need to figure out the perfect three day itinerary for sending my friends off to explore London on their own.

Who wants to be my next visitor?

Hanging On to the Holidays

Sean and I have done a terrible job calling it quits on the holiday season. It seems that, since Christmas, we’ve just continued to celebrate…well, Christmas. It’s been absolutely exhausting, but also a great way to savor my last week in London.

On Boxing Day, I met my dad for a quick walk through Winter Wonderland (and mulled wine and churros, obviously) before he came back to my house for a home cooked meal. We settled on ham, but had no idea how to cook it. So, with the help of BBC Food and a bit of experimenting, Sean and I produced a fully cooked honey baked ham. I made some potatoes and carrots to go with it. I was so nervous because it was my dad’s first time at our house, as well as my first time really cooking a meal for him – but he loved it! Actually, we all did. I’m not sure how the ham was so successful, but we all devoured it and Sean and I have devoured the leftovers since. I cannot wait to make the second half!

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We decided on a lazy day the following day, choosing not to leave the house at all. My dad and I had originally planned a trip to Cambridge for the day, but we weren’t feeling the weather. Sean and I stayed in our pajamas, my dad chilled out at his apartment, and we met up in the evening for fish and chips at our local favorite.

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[I’m so proud of this breakfast I created – hashbrowns, leftover ham, cheese, and fried egg…I couldn’t get enough!]

Monday was my dad’s last day in town, so we met up with him to do some shopping and wandering. While we spent some time in Covent Garden, we ultimately ended up at the pub…surprise! Then, we walked over to Somerset House because Sean and I had an ice skating date. My dad said goodbye and left us there while we worked up the courage to skate. Oh – it was a blast! I used to have ice skating birthday parties every year, but I hadn’t been in so long so I was nervous. Somerset House was absolutely gorgeous all lit up and once Sean and I got the hang of it we had so much fun. We didn’t even fall the entire time! We followed it up with wine and fondue in Fortnum’s Lodge –  I’m already planning our next ice skating adventure.

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[Our ice skating was booked for 4:15, which is right around sunset, so we had the opportunity to see Somerset House in all shades of light – from it’s charm in daylight to it’s beauty under the lights they have setup at night]

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The Christmas celebrations wrapped up on Tuesday, when we went up to celebrate with Sean’s family at his sister’s house. We had a lovely lunch followed by great conversation and a couple of rounds of Uno. It was nice to get back to a real at-home family setting and has made me quite excited to get back to mine in Virginia next week!

Now we are gearing up for the New Year with plenty of rest and a major house clean. I’m down to my last four days in London before a pop over to the states, so trying to make every moment count!

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[One of my oldest friends, Caroline, is in town, so we met up with her on Carnaby Street after ice skating. I’m absolutely loving the Carnaby Street Christmas lights – and their New Years Eve feel makes it the perfect place for post-Christmas lights browsing]

Culinary Delights

I’m finally starting to fall in love with cooking. Sean and I recently signed up for Gousto and now have three easy meals delivered to us each week. We tried it for the first time last week, as well as made some of our go to meals, and it was so nice to spend that time cooking at home…and to save money! Our Vitamix also just arrived, and there will be plenty more where that came from!

I’m thinking about starting a weekly post about the food we make at home, but until we really get into the groove, wanted to share some of my recent favorites:

I made these garlic parmesan wings in the crockpot and they were to. die. for. They will definitely become a frequent dinner for us (not to mention the house smelled amazing).

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With meats left over from our full English the day before, we made kale, gruyere, and bacon omelet with some bacon and sausage on the side…delish!

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These are the Gousto meals. Sticky chicken and honey glazed ham. Honestly, both were mouthwatering and required such little effort. I’m so looking forward to the others we have on the way!

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Crazy Golf at Waterloo

I absolutely love miniature golf. Or, as the English put it, crazy golf. It reminds me of Myrtle Beach Thanksgivings with the family and summers with friends at the Shore. We had a blast with mini golf, trying to find the shortcuts and always fighting for the lowest score.

So, when I found out that there was a crazy golf pop up opening in London, I knew I had to go. Lucy mentioned it for a girls weekday night out and I jumped at the opportunity – to Birdies we went.

Birdies is located by Waterloo station in the vaults. It has a very underground, edgy feel. You walk into a warehouse looking room, which has been converted into a bar with the crazy golf to the side. It was all in the same room, so you could see everyone playing mini golf in the sectioned off area and it had a great atmosphere.

We had such a blast playing the tricky, “crazy” holes. I don’t mean to brag, but I won! And to top it off, there were delicious hotdogs and some ice cream at the end. I’m now on a mission to find all the other crazy golf places in the area (Sean and I have played once before where I also won, so I guess I’m a pro).

   
    
    
   

Friendsgiving: The Feast

As I mentioned in my day before prep, I did not do enough planning to ensure that things actually went smoothly on the day of our Friendsgiving. In fact, I did not plan the timings of the cooking at all, which proved to be a very stress-inducing mistake.

Sean and I ordered our turkey from Whole Foods. We also delegated most of the dishes by making our dinner a pot luck. We literally only had to make three dishes and I was still a stressful mess. I joked that Friendsgiving would be impossible because we only have one oven, but counter space ended up being the real issue! Sean and I both come from houses with massive islands in the kitchen and plenty more counter space along the sides; in our house, we have literally one sliver of space that we have to use for all cutting, mixing, and storing during the cooking process. It resulted in a huge mess.

[The aftermath of the stuffing incident]

While Sean ran out to do some necessary errands (pick up the turkey), I was stuck at home alone with the cooking. I started on the stuffing, thinking it would take the longest, but being the overeager hostess I am, got started without reading the directions in full. I had to scramble to chop the onion and make the broth while trying not to burn the bacon that was frying on the stove.To say I was frustrated would be a massive understatement. When I finally got the stuffing in the oven, I was so relieved!

I read through all of the instructions for the baked brie and pumpkin pie, and prepared everything I could without Sean returning with some necessary ingredients. I set everything to the side, so everything went much smoother than the stuffing (aside from a pie crust mishap!). Upon Sean’s return, he was immediately sent out for more stuff

When Hope arrived, we broke out the wine. She took over the kitchen while I set the table and prepared the house. I was so happy that I ended up loving the centerpiece, and the plastic/paper table settings ended up looking pretty nice!

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We didn’t struggle for oven space until we had to heat up the turkey. Whole Foods gave it to us completely cold, so we had to put it back in the oven to reheat. While the turkey was in the oven, everybody started arriving with all of the other stuff that needed to be reheated. We tried to entertain everyone with appetizers and cocktails until the food was reheated and the turkey carved.

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Sean concentrated so much on carving the turkey and it ended up turning out so well (thanks YouTube!). We all sat down, shared what we were thankful for, and dug in.

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It was so nice having so many people crammed into our living room (never thought we would be able to make that work) laughing and getting to know each other. Also – who knew we had so many friends!? We went through five or six bottles of wine, a couple bottles of prosecco, sixteen whiskey cocktails, and a bottle of the mamajuana drink we were gifted in the Dominican Republic. We were all quite jolly!

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I still think that Sean secretly hoped our dinner would fail so I wouldn’t be tempted to host more, but it was such a great time. So here’s to many many more!

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Friendsgiving: The Week Before

I intended to do a lot to plan Friendsgiving this past weekend, but did not get out of bed on Saturday, which really did not help the whole process. However, I did manage to get some things done which will hopefully help get everything prepared next week!

Errands: Food

“American food” is hard to find in London. Basic Thanksgiving things such as canned pumpkin and fried onions are not so easy to come by in normal grocery stores. Thankfully, Partridges has a little Thanksgiving section in the front of the store which has it all. I stopped there over the weekend to get the important ingredients (and the things I am not 100% sure I can find elsewhere) so we do not have any emergency food runs over the weekend.

Errands: Decorations & Table Settings

I have been trying to find items to help create a fall-themed centrepiece for awhile no, with little luck. I ordered some acorns from Amazon, but cannot find the other items I need. While I picked up the table runner, tablecloths, and napkins this weekend, I still do not have the rest of the centrepiece. I’m weighing this one as extremely important since it will bring nice life to our folding tables, so have become quite stressed. Who knows – I might end up picking sticks and leaves up outside and including them!

I stopped at Peter Jones to pick up the table runner and a few other things, and obviously got sidetracked and bought other things I did not need. Specifically, a polar bear mug (see below). I couldn’t resist…I mean look at that thing!

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Cleaning the House

This is the prep that I completely failed at this weekend. I did some laundry, and washed all the dishes, but could not be bothered to do a full deep clean. The house needs a good sweep and wipe down before we have fourteen people over, so I need to prioritize that this week.