Of course, everyone’s heard of London, but not everyone knows St Albans. It’s a beautiful historic town just north of London, and in this Weekly Edition we visit both.
So whilst catching up with a host of friends, we get a chance to check out some of the oldest parts of England.
And by the way, St Albans is quite a bit older than London.
There’s evidence that St Albans was established in the Iron Age by the Celts, who called it Verlamion, while London (or Londinium) was a Roman settlement only 2000 years ago.
Hope you enjoy this Weekly Edition.
Jim & Christina xx
Blue skies have been following us on this trip and we couldn’t be happier. Now, as the seasons are changing, I can’t stop photographing the autumn leaves. I love watching the colours turn and St Albans is putting on a show.
In a moment of serendipity, our favourite Americans are in St Albans too!
They’re on their last stop after a trip to San Sebastian and Prague and we coordinate with our friend Charlotte for a reunion. The last time we were together was in Bronte at the start of last year. Since then, Charlotte has had the most gorgeous baby girl – what a difference a year makes!
It’s a joy to be together again.
Our reunion is full of laughs and we start at the White Hart Hotel. This building is supposed to be haunted and runs ghost tours, but they are a great bar to sit in with friends when you have so much to talk about.
Walking through town the night before, we spotted a cute cafe and have headed back there first thing in the morning. It seems our timing’s just right as it was opening day for Nkora cafe and they’re giving out free coffee.
And after some awful coffee experiences in the UK, this is one we can recommend. It looks like a cross between an Australian and Japanese cafe with a minimalist interior and appropriate sized coffee cups. (What is it with the coffee bowls over here?!)
Re-fuelled, we set out to show Anna more of beautiful St Albans.
After wandering through town, we head to the Abbey.
Even though we’ve visited St Albans a few times, this is our first time inside and it’s like a tardis. It’s said to have been a place of worship since the 8th Century and the parts of the current building date back to the 11th Century.
We happen to start chatting to a lovely reverend in the cathedral who’s very excited to show us the shrine of St Alban and tell us more of the history. When someone is passionate about a topic, it really brings it to life. These conversations are the moments that you remember when you’re travelling.
Always remember to look up when you’re travelling too!
Between the Abbey and the old Roman wall, you’ll find another building with some incredible history.
Ye Olde Fighting Cocks is a real contender for the oldest pub in Britain and it dates back to the 8th Century as well. There are supposedly tunnels that lead to the Abbey and Oliver Cromwell was said to have hitched his horse to the bar here.
This pub is an absolute must visit in St Albans – just watch your head as you walk through!
After enjoying the local culture, we wandered back to see the others and were treated to a classic British sunset.
When your friends live all over the world, you take any moment you can to catch up and we loved our time here.
Next stop is London to see one of my oldest and dearest friends, and of course the sun is still shining!
On days like this, we start to wonder if we could live in London… do you ever do that when you travel?
But then there was a tube strike, and we remembered what a packed train really looked like. We were very glad to have such a beautiful day for walking.
With a little time before meeting my friend, we turned to the Gin Queen to find out where to stop for a tipple in London. Of course she came back with a brilliant list and before long we found ourselves in the lift up to the 40th floor to visit the Duck & Waffle.
The restaurant here is open 24 hours, so is a perfect spot for travellers caught in a delay. The cocktail list is pretty fantastic as well. We decided to try some new (to us) gins while we take in the view.
I love being up high and so if there’s a rooftop bar or a restaurant with a view – I will find it!
Taking up most of the 40th floor, the Duck and Waffle catches the best of the sunrise and sunset from their windows so the view changes throughout the day.
There’s so much construction happening in this part of London and we could sit here all day watching the city.
The other thing I love about rooftop views are the big picture scenes of the city. Love seeing the trees of Finsbury Circus between the buildings.
My friend has suggested getting some culture in so we head to the British Museum for a talk on the “Future of Europe in the age of Asia”. It gives us lots to discuss over dinner.
I adore the museums in London. There are so many free galleries too and you could spend hours in here.
You might not know that Jim has a new romance. His love of burgers isn’t new but his @beerromance Instagram account is, and he’s keeping track of the best brews he comes across on his travels.
When I saw that there was a bar called the Craft Beer Co nearby we had to stop by. They have a ridiculous number of taps and bottles and Jim particularly liked The Kernel Brewery. This was a very welcome stop on a cracking hot day in London.
But our run of perfect weather had to stop, and so we had one very wet and funny day in London.
I think we’ve forgotten how to deal with this weather and still kept with our usual plan of walking everywhere via the scenic route.
It seems that everything is against us with our tourist day in London. The Bloody Tower is closed at the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace is closed, we’ve missed Westminster Abbey’s open times by 10 minutes as it closes at 1pm and Big Ben is under scaffolding!
There’s still always an opportunity for a classic tourist photo with an phone box though. My friend is looking to find a cafe nearby to warm up!
We try one last museum but the queue at the Churchill War Rooms goes around the corner and isn’t even moving. I love how the British are still living up to Churchill’s rousing call to “not flag or fail. We shall go on the end.”
We pull the plug on the museums and head back to change into dry clothes. Pretty impressed we still walked over 16k steps in the rain.
For dinner our friends take us the the Frontline Club restaurant. It’s a great space as on the ground floor of the Frontline Club, serving up seasonal modern British food. There are the most incredible images on the wall from Magnum photographers too.
The rain must have been a blip on our weather luck, as the sun comes back for our last day in London. I wanted to head to the National Portrait Gallery (one of my favourite spots – I could spend all day here!) and on the way we get a little sidetracked.
This is Psychobarn by Cornelia Parker at the Royal Academy of Arts. Modelled partly on Norman Bates’ house, it’s built like a film set.
10 points to you if you can get the art reference from our photo….!
Light plays on the exterior of the Ritz, and we bask in the sunshine in London again, asking ourselves what life would be like if we lived here again?
So with our trip almost coming to an end, we contemplate how lucky are. We couldn’t do it without our friends and family. Living across two continents is always a compromise but we make the most of every moment we’re together.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our weekly roundup post, it’s been wonderful for us to catch up with friends. We hope it may have put St Albans on your list of places to visit too!
Cheers – Jim & Christina xx