Day 1 in London: Victoria and Oxford Circus

Many of you who read this post already know your way around London (I’m sure of it).  But if not, don’t be embarrassed because the last time I was here, I was 20.  Thus, the ginormous amount of preparation that went into the logistics of transportation took a lot of time, mainly because the fact remains that my boyfriend and I were heading to a foreign country, in which maps and directions are helpful, but walking around with them is so not chic :-)

Getting from Heathrow to anywhere in Central London

There are many, many options to get anywhere but I looked at comfort vs. price vs. fastest way to our hotel.  After all, it was after midnight (UK time) when we arrived.  I found that our best option was to purchase  “Return tickets” on Heathrow Express (68 pounds for two people + FREE WI-FI!).  In 15 minutes, you get from Heathrow to Paddington Station (cue Sherlock Holmes and as a side note, there is a hotel called Park Plaza Sherlock Holmes).  (For architecture buffs, once you get past all of the trains, the station itself is so beautiful.  It’s what you come to expect from an old train station.)

Inside of Heathrow Express – it’s so futuristic looking and so nice!

Once we got to the station, we could have taken the Underground (tube) but it seems this place comes alive almost every night, which means big suitcases, plus two tired travelers, equals an unpleasant experience.  So, we took a taxi.  If you are heading to Victoria, it’s a little under 17 pounds.  (Hint: If you took a taxi from Heathrow to Victoria and then back again, it would have been 77 pounds each way so, so far, we spent 85 pounds total.)

The ride there was sort of surreal.  So many beautiful mansions in the middle of the town, Lamborghini, Ferrari, Aston Martin and Bentley dealerships with store front displays, as though you might be walking by a clothing boutique; a ton of chic restaurants, a ton of chic, upscale people walking around town (many of them in Louboutins), walking  from bar to bar; and hotels with people dressed in tuxes, pouring out of them.  THEN there were the store fronts for Christian Dior, Lanvin and the list goes on… for MILES.  It’s the sort of upscale life most dream to live and few are privileged to, and I sat in that Taxi with huge eyes and a huge grin, so excited to be here.

When we got to our hotel (Park Plaza Victoria), we were met with a very chic lobby… and a bar that was open until 2am.  Since we were just shy of 1am, we decided to have a drink before grabbing some dinner (note: EVERYTHING is open late!).  Given the time difference, we didn’t fall asleep until 3:30am.

Using the Tube… for Work

Yeah… anyone in DC, or any area with a subway system of sorts, is rolling their eyes at me right now.  Well, I work from home and even when I didn’t I was always lucky enough to work outside of DC and be able to drive.  (Writers’ note: I would rather drive and be able to listen to music in my own car, than be packed into a hot, crowded metro any day!)  SO, when the time came for me to use the tube to get to Oxford Circus, I was a little freaked out.  It’s a different process here.  They have these brilliant things called Oyster Cards (much like SmartTrip cards) but if you aren’t staying for a long length of time, or won’t be using it that much, you have to wait in line at the ticket offices to get your fare card.  What makes it easy: You tell them where you are going and if you are returning and they give you the amount – no guessing.  But what fascinates me… the SPEED at which people get to the trains.  In DC, you get mowed over from time to time and in some cases, you get a quick apology.  Here, it’s every man for him/herself.  People always seem to be in a bigger hurry to get in and out of the tube than any other transit system I’ve seen, so far, in the world.  Still, I made it and was quite proud of myself for the self-navigation :-)

Oxford Circus – Better than Georgetown Shopping

Oxford Circus has one long road, called Oxford Rd. that stretches for miles.  Imagine my delight when I get off the tube and see Zara, Uniqlo, Top Shop, H&M, and the list goes on (both Pippa and Kate have been seen around there, shopping).  It’s also lined with little cafes and a Starbucks every third block.  It’s brilliant.  What’s interesting – the fashion style changes from town to town.  The people were less well-dressed and more “punkish” but the closer you got to where my office was, it was definitely more business attire.  What was also interesting – no one wears sunglasses – ever.  I commented on this to one of my co-workers – I wear them outside all the time (okay, I’m obsessed with not having eye wrinkles but still).

So anyway… I’m walking down Great Titchfield to get to the office and there it is on the corner – a big, shiny boutique named Reiss.  Yes, the frenzy that Princess Kate caused with her love of this boutique, is now staring me right in the face.  Unluckily (but not for my credit card), I was late to work and needed to keep moving (I do have to come back tomorrow).

Celebrity Run-ins

By lunch, I’m so excited to be working in a different office, with a team I never get to see so imagine my immense excitement when our office location is explained to me.  It’s located in what is called “Media Village“.  This area is named for all of the radio stations and TV stations in the area – including BBC.  I was told that celebrities are constantly coming in and out of this one building, as we are on our way to lunch (which by the way, The Villandry is a GREAT place for lunch!).  No sooner was this shared, than we round the corner and there are a pack of photogs waiting to snap the celebrity coming out.  After doing some digging online, I found out it was Rihanna!!!    Honestly, if I lived here, this is how I’d spend my lunch everyday – waiting to see who arrived/left.

Nightlife

As I’m leaving work for the day (it’s a little after 5pm), every few yards there is another pub, restaurant or other establishment, that serves alcohol, with people spilling out to the curb.  People absolutely, 100%, love their happy hours.  According to my coworker, the nicer the weather gets, the more people you will see out and about.  Maybe it’s because London is bigger, but I’ve never seen so many people – it puts DC to shame.

When I arrived back at the hotel, my boyfriend and I decided to head to Brown’s Bar and Brasserie.  It’s located next to the most magnificent Microsoft Building (at Cardinal Place)  I’ve ever seen and underneath this glass overhang that houses so many different restaurants and shops.

Browns, like many restaurants in DC, is an upscale place, known for its  international beer/cider collection and its really great British food.   It was here I had, what I’d consider, the “champagne of ciders”.  It’s called Rekorderlig and it’s from Sweden – served over ice, it’s amazing.