Fitness never really takes a holiday.

Don’t get me wrong, I do indulge a bit when I’m away from home. After all, what’s the point of going to some place like London without enjoying the local food and flavor?

But habits are habits. I still pay attention to my step count each day. I try to drink plenty of water. I start the day with a good breakfast (and a cup of tea).  However, I didn’t spend any time in the gym or doing workouts in the hotel room. Vacation should be about getting a little rest.  I gave my muscles and mind a much-needed break.

Make no mistake; I didn’t sit still to do this. There is too much to see to spend it lounging about! I took in all sorts of sites, easily getting at least 10,000 steps a day. The best way to do this is to skip the double decker bus tours and take in the sites on foot. My husband and I like the Rick Steves guides for self guided walking tours but there are companies who offer guided walking tours as well. If you really want to get the double decker bus ride then get an Oyster card and take the public transit version (for a much better price). If you prefer some wheels try the Barclay’s Bike for Hire station to rent a bike for as little or as long as you need.

So what did I see during all of this walking? Of course I did the usual: Buckingham Palace, Tower of London and Piccadilly Circus were all on our list. But here are some other places to visit (on foot of course) you might not be aware of:

  • St. Paul’s Cathedral was beautiful. It was less crowded the Westminster Abbey and I think I enjoyed it more. Make sure you climb to the Golden Gallery. It’s 528 steps to the top, making it  a good way to get your heart rate up, and the views are magnificent. By the way, it also means it is 528 steps down.
  • Take a tour of the heart of the business district and visit a building called the Gherkin. It does indeed look like a giant pickle. The Lloyd’s of London building nearby is also quiet fascinating. If you’re a Harry Potter fan keep walking until you reach Lindenhall Market aka Diagon Alley.
  • Check out Fleet Street and visit the Twinings’ tea shop for tea tastings. I’ll admit I don’t drink a lot of Twinings at home since I am a loose tea fan. But this is a great example of how brands can be different from one country to another. Here, at the home of the original Twinings shop, there are a huge variety of teas both in bags and loose. If you’re unsure what you might like they will brew up any of their teas to try at the tea bar.
  • Redefine natural healing at Chelsea Physic Gardens. From their web site, the gardens “were founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries for its apprentices to study the medicinal qualities of plants. It became one of the most important centres of botany and plant exchange in the world”. Many modern medicines have their roots in plants like those in this garden. The edible plants section was quite fascinating. For the first time I saw chickpeas, quinoa and edamame in their most natural state.

I was worried about how we would do as vegetarians in London. British cuisine is known for it’s fish and chips and meat pies so I wondered what their vegetarian restaurants would have to offer. Surprise! They were better than the vegetarian restaurants we visited in NYC – hands down.

  • On our first night in the city we visited London’s only all vegetarian pub called the Coach and Horse. I had their “tofush” and chips with a side of peas. It was a fine introduction to local flavor and I felt like I was right at home in the cheerful, “Everyone Knows Your Name” atmosphere.
  • Mid week we sought out Indian food at a restaurant called Diwana Bhel Poori House. They are known for their inexpensive lunch buffet but I found their dinner menu very reasonable as well. The cuisine was different than what we are used to in the States. Their menu was focused on dosas – lentil based crepes – vs rice with the various dishes. With so many choices (the entire menu is meat FREE!) it took us a while to settle on our dosas – mine was a curried vegetable while Brian’s was a paneer and spinach filling Both came with various chutneys, including an amazing coconut one. I’ve got to figure out how to copy that (or where to buy it).
  • The last night in London we checked out a vegetarian institution not far from our hotel called Mildred’s. It was tiny and packed but this is often the hallmark of a really good food find. We were not disappointed. My butterbean and sweet potato stew was divine! Brian’s linguine with mascarpone sauce rivaled any Italian restaurant we’ve visited. Mildred’s goes to the top 5 of my vegetarian restaurant list.

6 days isn’t enough to see and do it all. I know we missed Kew Gardens and the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. We didn’t have any Ethiopian food. I didn’t have time to explore all the fantastic tea and clothing shops (although I tried). That’s okay. It gives me something to look forward to for next time. What about you? What would you do in London? What have a I missed that I need to add to that next time list?

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