“I will not believe it until I see it.” These were my words when I first learnt I will be going on a trip to Europe partly sponsored by Cox & Kings and G Adventures. My mundane life was getting to me. My friend Roxanne Bamboat and I went to the depths of the internet looking for contests (yes, hate me) that could take us away even for a few days to a place we’d never seen before. I found out about this contest run by Cox & Kings where 12 people would be sent anywhere in the world. Clearly it was a long shot but that didn’t stop me from participating. After a few rounds of voting and interviews with the judges, I was chosen as one of the winners. The day I learned my travel destination was the day Roxanne’s name was announced as a winner for a trip to Portugal (a different contest run by Portugal Tourism Board).
My trip was to take me from London to Paris to Interlaken to Milan to Rome in eight days. Even for a person who hasn’t travelled to Europe it was quite clear it would be a rushed trip. So I decided to extend my trip. I managed to squeeze in 36 hours in London, three nights in Naples and another three nights in Rome.
First stop was London. My 1 am flight from Bombay took me to London via Zurich. It was a perfect 11 and a half hour flight where I got a good night’s rest and I landed in London at 8 am on a Sunday. I was to meet my friend Shaheen Bhatt who was staying at the Courthouse Hotel at Great Marlborough Street at the time. It’s very close to Piccadilly Circus station and centrally located and stone’s throw away from the best spots to shop and eat. Here are the things Shaheen and I did in the 36 hours we had in the beautiful city and maybe you could try it too when you visit:
- Get a quick bite at Pret A Manger and walk around to get accustomed to the weather. I loved the Berry Granola Yogurt Pret Pot.
- Take the tube to Green Park to see the Buckingham Palace and walk through St. James’s Park.
- Go to the Parliament Square for some sightseeing.
- Eat lunch at Chipotle and try the Burrito Bowl with pork.
- Drink at Whyte & Brown, a beer and chicken restaurant at Kingly Court, Carnaby. Kingly Court is a beautiful three-storey building with al fresco dining options and plenty of shops.
- Drink beer at The Porterhouse, Maiden Lane in Covent Garden. The old English pub has 12 different levels and gets pretty crowded if you don’t get there early. Try their Oyster Stout with a good ol’ steak. We ended up staying there for the rest of the evening because of the number of beer options they had. We tried Leffe Bruin, Porterhouse Red, and Desperado (which became my favourite go-to beer in Europe, eventually).
- Eat at Bone Daddies Ramen Bar at 31 Peter St after drinks. Even on a Sunday night they serve food until late. We tried and highly recommend the Mushroom Ramen with egg, bok choy, and mushroom butter if you’re a vegetarian and a slow cooked Tonkotsu Ramen with chashu pork with 20 hour pork bone broth with some Kernal Pale Ale of course.
- Get to Borough Market on Monday morning and drink coffee at Monmouth Coffee. For £11 you can even get some scones, butter, jam and croissants with your cuppa at the community table.
- Cross the street and get a Chorizo Sandwich from Brindisa.
- Pick up a pretzel and munch on it while you walk around. Eat samples at the various stalls inside because there is so much food you can try.
- Eat fresh oysters if you haven’t tried them.
- Take a walk through Covent Garden to see street performances and maybe grab a beer at a local pub.
- Find a spot at Leicester Square, London’s cinema hub, and eat a scoop of Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream. If you have the time, catch a show at one of the many theaters in the area.
- Take the tube to Camdem Town to see a very different kind of London culture. You’ll see several shops several punk clothing, souvenirs, and some really cool stuff. I picked up a tshirt with LED equalizers print which lights up to music.
- Get a drink and something to eat at one of the many multi-ethnic food stalls in Camden Town. You’ll find Italian arancinis to Indian curries here and everything is cooked right in front of you.
- Head to Hyde Park with a six pack and sit under a tree while you drink your beer. You could also have a little picnic if you have the time.