This Londoner's Top-Rated Summer Activities
The warm weather is officially gone but what better way to say goodbye than to reminisce about all the good times. Plus it's never too early to start planning for 2020!
From where I sit under a thick blanket, looking out at another grey morning, I can feel that all too familiar cold breeze blow through the cracks of our top floor windows. "It's over," I think with each gust. O-V-E-R. Summer, I mean. And as I come to terms with this harsh reality I can't help but feel a little down. Anyone else got the post-summertime blues? Now, I could easily give in to the sinking dread that winter is coming, but I'm thinking a fun summery post is just the ticket to lift all of our spirits.
Here, I've selected my Top 5 favourite adventures from 2019 and highlighted the best day trips and date nights to share with you all. I swear I've got everything covered from sporting events and historical locations to good eats and even better photo ops. Add these warm-weather activities to your checklists so you too can go big next summer. Notepads at the ready.
1) Spend a Sunny Day in Bath
Catch an early train from Paddington Station and an hour and a half later you can find yourself in beautiful, historic Bath Spa. The streets are quaint, the buildings grand but the word I would use to describe this city is ... gorgeous. In terms of activities, there is plenty to see and do starting with the Roman baths of course. You'll explore a labyrinth of ancient ruins impeccably preserved and learn all about Roman culture in 70AD. It's mind-blowing their ingenuity, religious beliefs, social habits, all of it. FYI no need to book tickets in advance (unless you really want to), we went to the baths on a Saturday afternoon and waited maybe 5 minutes to get inside.
Next, I implore you to simply walk Bath's winding streets to soak in the Georgian architecture at it's absolute finest. As you stroll, make it a point to find the Royal Crescent, shop-lined Pulteney Bridge and the curved homes within the Circus. Two items I wish we could have done but ran out of time for were the top of Bath Abbey and the Jane Austen Centre. Unfortunately, there was no convincing Kalo to step foot in a museum on such a sunny, warm day. Also, when (not if) we go back, I'd love to take a boat tour along the River Avon or through the city's narrow waterways. Who is up for a boat picnic? Basically, the best advice I can give you is get walking and get lost.
Finally, we have to address where you can get some amazing brews and bites. My blog is called HUNGRY FOR LIFE after all. Kalo and I accidentally, but very happily found ourselves in Bath on World Gin Day and man oh man what a great day it was. The Canary Gin Bar is a must-visit in my book. There you can sip on gins of all different flavours but I'm telling you the rhubarb is where it is at. We also stumbled upon two fun pubs, the Boater, which has fantastic views of the river, and the Raven, known for their handmade pies. Unfortunately, we didn't make it to any restaurants but Sotto Sotto, Clayton's Kitchen and the Scallop Shell were and still are on the top of my list. Please pay close attention to this next part, are you ready for my most important tip? Do yourself a favour by stopping at The Oven to get a pizza (or two, or three) for your train ride home. Best decision Kalo and I made that day, besides going to Bath in the first place. You are welcome.
2) See a Show at the Globe
Is there anything better than a warm summer night? I'm glad you asked, why yes there is. How about a warm summer night spent at an open-air theatre then strolling along the south bank of the Thames? If you're into all that, then head to Shakespeare's Globe for a fun evening out. No joke, from the moment you walk into the circular, thatch-roofed theatre, you feel as though you've travelled back in time and entered a very special place ... the home to Britain's greatest stories ever told. (I know it's not the original venue but it's still pretty dang inspiring)
I highly recommend the Merry Wives of Windsor, an incredibly funny, witty, smart and rebellious show. You may recognise some of the cast including, Bryony Hannah from Call the Midwives, Sarah Finigan and Pearce Quigley. Overall, the lavish language, actor/audience interaction and plot surprises kept me on my toes for 2+ hours or maybe it was the fact that I made us purchase tickets in the standing-only section. Ouch! My lower back hurts just remembering that night but I have to say it was worth a little discomfort to be at the edge of the stage where all the action takes place. As they say, when at the Globe do as Shakespeare would do. Well, no one says that but you get my point. Last but not least, be sure to stop in at the Anchor Bankside pub (where Shakespeare himself used to get ready for his performances) for a few pints before or after the show. Great riverside views.
3) Attend Opening Day at Wimbledon
Wimbledon is probably the most sought after summer event in the UK but getting tickets is extremely exclusive and in my opinion complicated as hell. Thank God for Kalo because we were lucky enough to attend day 1 of the tournament by applying for the annual lottery months and months in advance. I promise it's worth all the planning and here's why.
You won't visit a more stunning venue in your life! The courts are beautifully manicured, the flower beds are magnificent and the grounds are pristine. As many of you know I'm not a huge sports gal but who gives a flying you know what when you're in such a charming place. I sat on the lawn, drinking prosecco, happy as a cricket and thought to myself "it doesn't get much better than this." And guess what, the tennis matches were thrilling! So take it from me, don't let not being a fan deter you from attending. Here's the link for everyone to apply for a 2020 ballot.
Now, what is my favourite part of attending any sporting event? Duh it's the game-day grub. Wimbledon is one classy joint but they still have all the good stuff that's sure as hell not good for you. Burgers, sausages and fries were among my top picks, but everywhere I looked people were enjoying luxurious picnics. I definitely missed the boat on that one but mark my words there's always next year. And a little inside scoop, don't bother with the traditional strawberries and cream. For those that are unfamiliar, think sliced strawberries topped with the liquid cream you'd put in your coffee and served at room temperature. No sweetened, whipped cream, no macerated strawberries. WTF. I gave it a try because it is Wimbledon's signature dish but HFL fam I'm telling you don't waste your beer money ;)
4) Have a Beach Party in Whitstable
If you haven't heard of Whitstable I suggest you start googling ASAP. It's a quirky fishing town located about an hour outside of London. Imagine pebble beaches, colourful huts, small shops and there's even a castle on the cliffs. No lie, I told Kalo on the train ride home, "how fun would it be if we got a group together, rented a beach house next summer and spent our weekends in Whitstable?" Any takers?
Also, known for its oysters, Whitstable hosts a festival each year, which sounds like it would be a blast if one happens to like eating slimy goobers. Don't get me wrong, I really want to try them! It's like this ... I know in my food-loving heart that the briny flavours, fresh lemon and spicy sauce would make for a great bite but I simply chicken out every time. This past summer, at the Lobster Shack, Kalo tried every peer pressure tactic in the book but to no avail. A delectable lobster roll ended up on my plate instead. I challenge you all to be braver than I am and if the day ever comes that I try an oyster, I promise that you'll be the first people I tell.
Last on my list of Whitstable favourites is the Old Neptune pub, situated literally on the beach with plenty of outdoor seating and the best local beers. I can't wait to see all your photos sitting at "The Neppy" sipping on a Whitstable Bay Blonde Lager. Think of me. Tag me. Invite me to come with you.
5) Go to King George's Weekend at Ascot Racecourse
The most sophisticated and elegant activity we did last summer was take my parents to the Ascot Racecourse to celebrate my Dad's 60th birthday. He's really into horse betting and the stakes don't get much higher than at the Ascot. Not only are there extremely competitive races but there are great food stalls, live music, plenty of bars and above all amazing people watching. The hats, you guys! The hats were all breath-taking and everyone is dressed to the nines. It's a day of luxury so please, I beg you, if you have family coming into town next year make it a point to go to the races. Plus who doesn't love an excuse to wear a giant hat?
The track is a little over an hour train ride from Waterloo Station. No biggie. And if you can swing it, opt for tickets in the King Edward Enclosure. In this area, it's way less crowded because it's on a private, restricted level. You also are granted special access to the entire venue including the parade ring, lawn and winner circle. Pro tip, get there early to really take advantage of your badge by exploring every nook and cranny. It's important to find what we called a "hub of operation" close to the bar. I highly recommend watching some of the races down on the lawn near the finish line. The excitement is unreal when you're up close and personal with the horses. Then be sure to stay for the after-party to let the crowds clear out. Hope to see you all there next year!
There you have it, my Top 5 favourite memories from summer and items that I hope you add to your agendas. Each activity is different but each centres around enjoying the sunshine, broadening horizons and being with the people you love most. Fall, here I come.