Getting dressed for a dinner date when you have no idea where you’re going can be a little tricky, am I right, ladies? I hate being overdressed or underdressed, but will err on the side of over if necessary. I like to consider my shoe options depending on the distance we will need to travel on foot, and my bag options depending on how long I’ll need to carry it for. I don’t really care for putting slap on my face, but I do put some effort into what I wear, even if it’s often done in haste.
So with twenty minutes to spare, the novelty of surprise wore off, the suspense was killing me, and I finally asked a certain someone for a hint as to where we were dining that night. Next thing I knew, Fred Astaire was belting out ‘Puttin’ On the Ritz’ from our front room and I just had to double check I had got the right end of the stick. Mistakingly thinking you’re being swept off to The Ritz when you’re actually going… well, anywhere else… is a disappointment I wouldn’t even wish upon my most treasured arch nemesis. But I wasn’t mistaken; it was a dress and heels kinda night…
As we were nearing the end of a 45 minute taxi ride which probably should’ve taken 30, had it not been for the road closure, backtracking, and detour, I thought, ‘jeez, we go to great lengths for dinner’. The taxi was the final piece of the puzzle too; months before that there was the restaurant reservation, hotel and train bookings, and the actual journey from London to Bristol the day before. When we eventually arrived at the restaurant, the driver was in a state of disbelief because our destination looked like any other country pub, and not the Michelin star restaurant we were describing.
However we know that not all pubs are created equal, and we assured our driver that The Pony and Trap was one of the exceptional ones. It first came onto our radar during last year’s Great British Menu – one of the few tv shows we actually watch and one of my favourites for providing dining out inspiration across the UK. As soon as I saw Josh Eggleton plate up a pie that wasn’t really a pie and a dessert that paid homage to the Calendar Girls, I decided his restaurant was one I wanted to visit. The chef himself was confident (maybe even portrayed as a little cocky through crafty editing?) and his food equally so, which was enough to convince us.
For ever so long, you were the city of my dreams. Thousands of miles away, in a beautiful faraway land at the bottom of the world, I would imagine myself getting lost in your immense grid of streets. I would be sashaying across Manhattan with the same carefree attitude as the Blair Waldorfs and Carrie Bradshaws of the world, having leisurely lunches at upscale restaurants, grabbing snacks at cute corner bakeries, and indulging in gigantic slices of pizza at the end of a long night out. That New York life was for me, I thought.
When we finally met, it was love at first sight. I might as well have bought the t-shirt and been the walking ‘I Heart NY’ cliche, because I did. I thought you were the one and I was ready to ditch my outbound flight, but I must confess, I’m glad I didn’t. My next stop was London, the city which has truly captured my heart. So New York, while you never failed to excite me in our short time together, I realised that what we had was a lusty holiday romance… what I have with London is for the long haul. It is here where my hungry heart and belly has been sated and feels most at home.
Exhaustion has overtaken my body and brain. Three weeks into a new job after having been a lady of leisure since Christmas, the 9 – 5.30-ish grind sandwiched between one hour commutes is a shock to the system. I’d be lying if I said there hasn’t been at least five minutes in every day where I’ve yearned to have my funemployment lifestyle back… No morning alarms, cups of tea in bed while I indulged in my morning dose of social media, then the rest of the day to do as I pleased; living the dream!
January was reserved for holiday mode while the start of February was all about blog makeover mode, but by the time mid February rolled round the reality sunk in – there were no wads of cash in our mattress, no big lottery wins, and no wealthy spinster aunt had come out of the woodwork to declare me her sole heir. It was time to start looking for a new job, which in London, is almost a part time job in itself.
Like 90% of the Antipodean expats in London, we can talk your ear off about our jaunts to the continent. You want itinerary ideas? We’ve got them. You want restaurant recommendations? We can make you hungry. You want to hear some horror stories? We can make you laugh. But ask us about the UK and many of us might be silenced.
Most of us end up in London, in spite of the crowds and cost of living, because we can move here fairly easily and it gives us the incredible freedom to duck off to Spain or France or wherever within the same day. Too seduced with those options, many of us forget about exploring England. A certain someone and I have been guilty of using England as the fall back option when it comes to holiday planning but I’m pleased we have ventured outside of the M25 a few times; even more so when I think about how well we’ve eaten on these trips.
I’m ashamed to admit that for a second year running, Chinese New Year has somehow managed to slip my radar! If a friend hadn’t asked me what I had planned for it, I wouldn’t have known it was just around the corner… while we’re at it, which charming animal are we celebrating again?! This is quite an embarrassing confession considering I’ve celebrated this for as long as I can remember.
Five year old me was probably most excited about getting dressed up in a new outfit, most likely an attention grabbing red number, to ring in the new year. Ten year old me would have been eagerly anticipating the feasts my parents would put on, inviting all the aunties and uncles, both real ones and pretend ones (those of you from Asian families will know what I mean) for an evening of indulgence. Fifteen year old me would have definitely been hanging out for the little red envelopes filled with cold hard cash for that nice little shopping spree or day out with friends.
If you’re planning a trip to old London-town, especially for the first time, you’ll have no doubt turned to trusty Tripadvisor or Lonely Planet just to get some ideas on what to do and see. And, if you’re anything like me on my first visit, you were more than a little overwhelmed with what popped up. There are well over a thousand ‘things to do’ listed on Tripadvisor, with over five hundred being ‘sights and landmarks’ while around three hundred are museums. Woah. I know I shouldn’t be stunned by those numbers as I know there is an almost neverending array of things to do here but still, woah.
With so many options, I was left scratching my head a little when Travelex asked me to come up with my ultimate ‘day out in London’. They gave me a handy Multi-Currency Cash Passport, $150 of my home currency (or the currency of our twangier neighbours) which converted to around £80, and told me to go wild!