36 Hours in London


Whatever the reason, an unexpected trip to London, one of my favourite cities in the world, is a joyful occurence. Shortly arrived at my usual headquarters in Golders Green, I switch to fast speed and head to Victoria Station. The massive architecture that every time seems to show me new dimensions of power and creativity that are not easy to find in Berlin.


Talking about Berlin, another important difference with the city hosting me now is the weather. There is a common place to complain about the ‘bad’ weather in London meaning that not too many experienced the constant low temperatures in Berlin. As my short trip to London does include a lot of walking an no specific indoor activities – not even a small museum or exhibition – I use my time in between meetings enjoying the hot sun of the London spring.


The perfectly white cubicle houses in the Kensington area makes me feel a spy in a huge lego town. This feeling is amplified also by the emptiness of the streets, as it seems at this time of the day everyone is even taking a well-deserved siesta or just working hard to pay the loans for these beautiful locations.


The parks offer a more dynamic side of the London life, many offering chaise-longues and green scenery to read a book or enjoy the lunch break.


Near Buckingam Palace, tourists – like me, and maybe you too, my reader – are intensively busy to spot their photographic memories of the trip.


As for me, I am looking for some different royal views, paying a short visit at the local Ritz Hotel, whose soothing piano music makes you feel you are visiting a real palace.


I may not have enough time and peace of mind to dedicate extra time of this trip to an exhibition or a museum, but at least I have the inspiration to stop in the yards of the Burlington House. Time for another open lesson in architecture.


The view of some pleasant small Japanese cookies at Minamoto Kitchoan diversified the list of things seen and smelled in London this time. The pastel colours of the shop and the open smile of the vendors made me feel sorry for not being in the mood for some Asian purchase this time.


Every time I visit London I should see this building near Oxford Street. One day, I hope to be brave enough and discover it properly.


China Town is a place I haven’t visited in London for over 10 years. This time, I want to get lost in the emprorium of senses and colours and authentic cuisine. It is afternoon and I can easily find enough open, half-empty restaurants. When I was there the last time, in was late afternoon and we had to wait some good minutes till having our right to delicious Asian bites. DSC09282

London markets, including in Chinatown, are very well known for their diversity of tasty fresh products and I take the opportunity for some healthy supplies for my trip back to Berlin.


The simple idea to return, after realizing that I will miss so many beautiful streets and buildings and foods, makes me sad. But I keep going and taking pictures, this is my antidote to travel sadness.


As usual, I am trying to see the full half of the glass and I am making mental lists of the activities my next trip to London should include. Her Majesty’s Theater is obviously part of the plan.


The always busy Piccadilly Circus offers everything you need to make your afternoon special: classical and modern art, street music, fresh water and even a lot of people ready to talk and help tourists losts or charmed in London.


There is even a dynosaur’s metal skeleton…


The brave squirrels that cut my way in the Green Park, seems to love flowers as much as I do so it is partly forgiven for the impoliteness. Not too much impressed by humans, it offers long photo opportunities and maybe also a squirrel’s smile.DSC09318

On the other side of the river, the Golden Eye is watching silently.


And so does the Tower of London.


In the shadows of so many historical landmarks, young dancers are practising their hobby on the river’s bank. After so many hours of walking, I decide to stop for more than 10 minutes, watching the gracious steps and almost perfect coordination of the pairs.


This is the beautiful view that I left behind. Another point on my to-do-list for the next time: take a trip on the old Thames.


I have no idea why the time run away that fast, but I am feeling like going fast down the rabbit’s hole. The same hole where Alice in Wonderland got caught. The beautiful porcelain celebrating the 150-year young book reminds me the sophistication yet plaifulness of the British spirit.


The next day, I am decided to revisit and find some new places in the quiet Golders Green.


Every time I am in London I am extensively exploring the diversity of kosher restaurants. This time, I can only take a look around to see if some new things are launched – there is a new Indian restaurant that I hope it will be there for the next time. Taking the advantage of the beautiful weather, I cannot resist the invitation to have a last icecream at SoYo before saying ‘good bye’ to London. I previously reviewed this place, that did not impressed me from the point of the view of the service. Some years after, the situation did not change, but at least after waiting way too much, the icecream is good enough to make myself smiling to the sun.


That was all for this time. I am ready, but not happy, to go back to Berlin, feeling anxious about when will it be the next time to see London again. Meanwhile, I keep repeating to myself that it is up to us to make our travel dreams come true.

For more photos from London, including from previous tips, have a look at the dedicated Pinterest board: https://www.pinterest.com/ilanaontheroad/london/


Discovering London: The Royal Opera Arcade

After I visit a city more than once, I like to get lost on the streets and let myself surprised by new corners that are not necessarily in my ‘books’. It happened recently with the Royal Opera Arcade in London. ImageSituated between Haymarket and Lower Regent Street, it is the first arcade of London, inaugurated in 1818. It is considered one of the first works of Sir John Nash, the mind behind many modern constructions of the city, such as Regent Street or the Marble Arch. It survived dereliction, blitz and fire. ImageShortly after the war, the Government of New Zealand leased the site and built what is still today the New Zealand House. Nowadays, the Arcade hosts also a couple of art galleries, a flower shop or a Koh-i-Noor Diamonds representation. The entrances leading into the theatre from the arcade are no more, but the shops with the bow-fronted windows, as in the initial plans of Nash, are still maintained. ImageThe Royal Opera Arcade is situated very close to Trafalgar Square, and to a lot of traditional centers dedicated to the arts, such as Christie’s Royal Academy of Arts or the National Gallery.

Ilana at the Kew Gardens

There it is something special about the English gardens: in addition to the beauty, rich vegetation and geometry of the alleys, at the end of almost every visit, it is something new I learn about history, geography or arts. I find the German parks unexpectedly chaotic and the French ones too romantic, regardless of the occasion. The English gardens are for simple people like me in love with learning in the shortest possible time as much as possible. 

Exactly one week ago, I was visiting for the first time the Kew Gardens where I spent more than three hours admiring flowers from all over the world and learning about spices and types of trees. After every glasshouse we visited – due to the high temperatures, it was not always very easy to resist the extra heat inside and I left some places for a next time – we stopped for a little while on a bank to have a fruit snack or to rest before the next destination. The distance between places of interest could be of around 15 minutes, but especially the last Sunday, there were a lot of people around so being able to see everything takes more time than usual. 

I enjoyed the Palm House and the rich vegetation of the tropical rainforests and spent more time than usual at the Waterlily House trying to learn more about the origin of spices. The cacti area was another favourite of mine, but did not feel as I am in the middle of the desert, as a fast squirrel run from a part of the street to another and did not stop till she reached the top of the next tree. After visiting the London Aquarium the local collection of fish was a bit disappointing, but was a good opportunity to move fast forward to the next green corner. Such as the oldest Corsican pine in England, that reminded me a lot of my wonderful 1 week of hiking in Corsica a couple of summers ago.   

For more organized people and with a cleared agenda, there are many activities taking places at the Gardens, including talks and courses summer programmes, movies projected at the open-air cinema and cookery demonstrations at the Kew Palace. The Palace, the smallest of English royal palaces built in the 18 century, can be visited at no extra charge. The children will enjoy the ‘climbers and creepers’ space, an interactive area where they can wriggle through tunnels and slide down a giant pitcher plant. I will recommend a full day at the Gardens. There are also a couple of restaurants as well as enough spaces for pick nicks if you are brave enough to carry the basket with goodies with you! 

Boats are available to rent, but as usual, I rather prefer to walk on firm land than to put my non-existent navigation qualities at trial. The souvenir shop offers not only many interesting books about gardening and healthy cooking, but also beautiful flowers to buy – orchids and cacti mostly. For a complete tour of the Gardens, mini-cars are available, but I wanted rather to return in the foreseeable future than to see everything at once. Expect more Kew Gardens posts soon!


Ilana at the London Aquarium


During my trips, I love to spend a lot of time visiting Zoos and natural science museums and Aquariums. I feel it relaxing and interesting and always an opportunity to learn new things. My latest love is the London Aquarium where I’ve been at least four times this year. There it is a similar place in Berlin that I visited in my first year in Berlin, but I rarely go in that area more than once the year. I do not like too much the neighbourhood.   

The big advantage of the London Aquarium is the great location, minutes or Tube stations away from London’s big attractions. From the London Eye to the Big Ben, everything can be seen and if you look carefully, you would love the view as much as I do. 

My usual schedule of a day at the London Aquarium is to try to be there around mid-day – especially during the summer expect some waiting time and a lot of tourists, but everything goes quite fast – spend there a couple of hours – I want to be in time for the penguins’ feeding time, around 3pm. If I am lucky, I can get some special presentations, as it happened today, when I’d learned about sharks. After I have enough of observing the fish and taking pictures – without flash – of the lovely creatures, I usually stop at the Marriott for a cup of tea or a fresh juice and I continue my journey for the evening meal. Besides the interesting show of the nature, one will always have the feeling of being part of a global world, with lots of languages spoken by the tourists from all over the world. 

One of the reasons I like to go there very often is that it is always some piece of information I miss before. I love the way in which the short presentation texts are written, in a language easy enough to be understood by people without any science background. 

The price is relatively high, of around 20 pounds. There are many information for children and some special playgrounds, besides quite a bit of kitsch and touristy stuff. But one can ignore that and be pleased by the incredible colour combination of the fish or of the grace of the swimming sharks. There are life lessons that both children and adults will always enjoy. 

ImageYou can also watch The Jellyfish show on YouTube.