What do you do when a Kiwi comes to visit the UK? Take him to all the best sights, of course! From London to York, see what weekend trips around the UK can show you while I make the most of beautiful history, architecture, and countryside when exploring my home country!
When you travel, you will talk endlessly about the many wonderful people you meet along the way. It’s pretty hard to stay in touch with them all, especially the ones that live in other countries. I’m lucky enough to not only have met some of the world’s finest people, AND stay in touch with them, but for one unassuming Kiwi I’ve managed to keep him in my life on a more significant level.
I met Kazimir whilst travelling New Zealand, and though we got along so well and had the best time together, I continued on with the plan and kept travelling. This is the hard part, because you wish you could adjust and stick around a little longer, but you have to move on at some point! We kept chatting, and once I got home, we realised that it sucked that he lived all the way in Christchurch, and me in Surrey. How could it ever work?! And then the fantasy that still feels like a dream happened: he booked a flight. We would have to wait another 4 months, and it was agony to endure, but now he’s been able to spend time exploring little old England while I attempted to show him the sights that the UK has to offer.
Starting off in the capital of London, our first week was a little chaotic, with jetlag, endless tube rides, sightseeing, work, and shuffling about the city all thrown together. As a ‘Welcome To England’ treat, I decided we would try our first experience of an Airbnb, which was was delightfully pleasant. London Airbnb’s can be understandably pricey, so at just over £100 for two nights in the lovely and relatively central area of Islington we were pretty pleased with our find!
I’m used to budget accommodation in dorms, so it was quite the treat to try out an alternative in my home city! The autonomy and privacy that you get from this method of accommodation might not suit those wishing to meet like-minded travellers, but our host was more than happy to offer any tips, and we exchanged numbers in case we needed anything. Being from the UK myself I know London pretty well, so it was more of a convenience for us more than anything at this point.
To kick off our first proper day in the city we decided to hit all the favourite sites in a long walk around the city. This was also Kazimir’s birthday, so we aimed we walked our way from Islington to Kings Cross, and made a stop at St Pancras Hotel to be treated to the most wonderfully indulgent brunch where platters of cheese and deli meats were mingling alongside an entirely edible miniature vegetable garden (I kid you not, and it was amazing).
To walk off our full tummies, we continued on reaching south of the river at Southbank, then on to Westminster (pausing at Parliament Square of course!), Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, and finally Hyde Park for well-deserved sit down to watch the world go by. We had a great time, but I think by mid-afternoon the sleepy Kiwi was feeling the effects of a 30 hour journey!
Ticking off all the best tourist spots (complete with hoards of holidaying school kids), couldn’t be complete without a visit to the Natural History Museum. A personal favourite of the museums, it reminds me of school trips, and a strange fascination with the outdoors and all the animals that go with it. Although visiting on a Saturday during school holidays might’ve been a rookie mistake, we queued politely before being greeted by Dippy the Dinosaur skeleton in order to see the exhibitions we wanted to. The life-size animal models are a particular highlight, as we marvelled at the enormous whale and learned about the life of a dolphin. A truly interactive museum, the quality of exhibits are excellent and it really is a family friendly day out sure to be enjoyed by everyone.
The day was rounded off with a rather different atmosphere as we attended the launch event for a drama podcast and sitcom called Wooden Overcoats . Just the right balance of bizarre fun, lovable characters, and witty writing we listened to a live reading of the first episode of a new series in the quirky back room of the Phoenix Artist Club at Leicester Square. Seeing the prior entertainment and being the first to hear the episode felt a privilege to be a part of the exclusive evening in great company and enjoying some great comedy!
Weekend Visit to York
For a weekend away from London we took an evening train from Kings Cross up to York, which is a surprisingly easy journey to make once you get past just how many people travel on Friday evenings.
The quaint, historical city of York is always such a joy to visit. There’s plenty to see and do, and the friendly, relaxed attitude associated with The North is always such a welcome break from manic London.
We stayed right near the centre, just off the River Ouse (where my brother lives) which was perfectly convenient for making our way around. We started our frosty weekend walking the city walls, which takes around 45 minutes if you give yourself time to stop occasionally and acknowledge the historical insights displayed along the way.
A fleeting peek inside the York Minster (you have to pay to really look around or go up the tower), and just as the weather began to turn, we headed to the National Railway Museum which is a completely free, and excellently curated space which makes for quite the day out.
There’s certainly plenty to see at the National Railway Museum, and for anyone interested in history or engineering (or both!) it’s absolutely worth a visit on a rainy day for a spot of interactive education. A quaint lunch in the “dining carriage” and after a few hours exploring inside plenty of trains (we were like big kids!) and learning all sorts about the history of the locomotive, and seeing the famous Flying Scotsman, we headed back to the centre to recover with a sit down and a cuppa.
The Stonegate Teddy Bear’s Tea Room is the essence of York: tiny winding staircases, with never ending rooms tucked away, and sloping floors all adds to the historical atmosphere, and of course delicious treats and a wide selection of hot drinks available make for a lovely weekend afternoon.
Another relaxed wander around the cobbled alleyways of York, and it was time for the most indulgent and deliciously rich, buttery pie and chips smothered in thick gravy at the Lamb and Lion (a pub, restaurant, and inn). Needless to say, we were positively stuffed with a decadent meal.
We popped to one of York’s many pubs for a chance to wash down all those carbohydrates, and enjoy reflecting on the busy day. That day also happened to be Bonfire Night, and as I understand Guy Fawkes was born in York, so there were plenty of fireworks displays around in the many park areas. For us however, it was an early night to try and rest.
A lie in and tasty breakfast and we were off home on our Megabus journey back to London. It seems crazy to just spend a couple of nights and one full day in York, as there is so so much to do and see. Being such a small city however, it is easy to get a great feel for the area, and see most of the main attractions in the small amount of time. My top recommendation for York would be to look at historical things (there’s LOADS, see Visit York for info) and eat lots of food. Seriously, there’s so many amazing places to eat out in York, whether it’s breakfast, brunch, meals, afternoon tea, snacks, vegan, vegetarian, they have a huge variety and most are independently owned. Plus you’re welcomed with a cheery northern smile!
Places to View London Skyline – London Eye & Leadenhall Building
As our UK exploration was in the cooler weeks of autumn, we chose to spend some time enjoying the evenings where the light is limited meeting friends (both British and Kiwi) in London for dinners, which was so lovely, and of course another chance to indulge in amazing food around this great city. The darker evenings also meant it was an opportunity to see London’s skyline by night, giving the most wonderfully illuminated view. While most would rather see the sites in daylight, it was a new perspective for me as a local to see it at night!
On one such occasion we were fortunate enough to attend a charity auction for Thomson Reuters, which was held at Landing 42 at the Leadenhall Building, an iconic building of the London skyline which offered us some stunning views across the city.
The delicious canapés and drinks were a bonus to be allowed to hear the stories behind some of Reuters’ most famous photographs ever taken, and to be there as they were auctioned off to a lucky bidder. We ended up having a fun, wonderful evening together appreciating talent photographers and great views.
The view from Landing 42, and examples of the works up for auction
For another date night, we met after I finished work and headed to the Southbank for the ultimate tourist activity: the London Eye! I’ve been before, but not in the evening. On such a lovely clear night we were able to see all the main icons of London throughout the 30 minute ride.
A novel experience, and it actually ended up feeling pretty romantic. The Southbank has always been a favourite spot of mine, and for a gentle stroll afterwards this evening was no exception. The start of the Christmas market stalls and seasonal decorations made for a lovely way to round off the evening, before we came home for an early night.
Staying In Chislehurst
For the majority of our time in London we’d stayed in Chislehurst with my lovely cousin. A small village in south London, Chislehurst is in a rural area near Bromley but still manages to stay within the Oyster Card zones (Zone 5 if you’re asking). Leaving the craziness of Zone 1 it suddenly feels like the stereotypical, leafy countryside of England. During the week I was off to work while Kazimir enjoyed day trips into the many amazing museums on offer. I know which I’d rather be doing! Luckily we were able to venture out and explore Chislehurst in beautiful, crisp weather to enjoy the golden leaves and historical churches around the residential area.
After spending time at my home in Surrey and a last weekend outing trip to Madrid, Kazimir’s time in Europe was coming to an end (for now!). The following few days were a chance to pause from lots of sightseeing and train rides to enjoy some quality, relaxed time together. All too soon we were back where we started where I dropped him off at the airport and bid a sad farewell. Now I can’t wait for his return visit to see even more of my home!
Where are your favourite places around the UK? Where should we head to next? Let me know your thoughts!
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