“Bleisure” – combining business with leisure – in London

I’ve been to London a couple of times already, however I still see myself as the typical tourist; visiting the typical shopping streets, commuting in the tubes from one tourist spot to the other, using the buses, black cabs etc..

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Post check-in at the Emirates counter in Dubai Airport T3, I made my way to the Emirates Business Class Lounge to enjoy all the facilities and take some selfies 😉

After an hour in the lounge it was time to board the flight. I always find the Emirates crew very courteous and pleasant. From the time I boarded the flight until our arrival at London Heathrow the service on the Airbus was 5* all the way. 

Coming from Dubai where it barely rains, I was actually excited to see the wet roads at LHR T3. After using the fast-track and completing the immigration formality, I proceeded to the Emirates chauffeur-drive lounge.  The lounge offers refreshments, newspapers and magazines and free wi-fi which you can use while waiting for the car.

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Apart from the occasional drizzle which ran in streamlets down the car windowpane the long drive (approx 1 1/2 hr) from the airport to the 5 star Grange St Paul’s hotel was smooth. Actually I had a very entertaining British-Ugandan driver who had some interesting stories to share, which made the long journey bearable.

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From the smiling doorman at the entrance to the lovely faces at the reception, all the staff I passed greeted me with a friendly hello.

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Impressive towering glass walled central Atrium

The well sized Executive room was tastefully decorated to give a sense of calm luxury. And the bed was wonderful with plenty of pillows. The bathroom was fitted with a bath, bathrobes and spa amenities.

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Shower facility at Ajala Spa in the hotel
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Locker rooms in the spa
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Washroom facilities in the spa

After exploring the room, the hotel facilities and finding it very satisfactory I set off with my planner to visit the two places I marked for Sunday – St Paul’s Cathedral (adjacent to the hotel) and Brick Lane Market.

On Sundays it is worship-only.  This means you are NOT allowed to explore the building, tombs, memorials and domes.  These areas are blocked off during hours of worship. I spent some time in worship while enjoying the church’s majesty, size and splendid beauty!  Since the cathedral has a no-photography rule I could only take pictures of the exterior which holds so much heritage.  The architecture is truly awe inspiring!

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The iconic dome of the Cathedral is Sir Christopher Wren’s architectural masterpiece and visitors can explore the cathedral floor, crypt and the three dome viewing galleries.

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A short walk from the Cathedral to Mansion House station and I was on the tube to Aldgate East station to explore Brick Lane market, nestled in East London’s Bangladeshi community. Brick Lane is probably the market which truly represents London’s spirit.  It is seemingly a haven for hipsters and trendsetters. Open just on Sundays, it gathers hundreds of stallholders and individuals selling everything and anything in the hippie spirit.

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This simple artwork caught my attention

From Aldgate East station walked left and took this turn into Efes restaurant to explore the area.

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East London is synonymous with street art and is an ever-changing canvas for new and established street artists.  

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Bangladeshi food shops line the streets on both sides up to the Old Truman’s Brewery. 

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There are 5 Truman Markets:

  1. Backyard Market (done)
  2. Boiler House (missed)
  3. Sunday UpMarket (done)
  4. The Tea Rooms (done)
  5. Vintage Market (done)

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Sunday UpMarket – Independent fashion, handmade jewellery, unique home accessories, vintage wares, mouth-watering street food and more.

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Always shop for a worthy cause so purchased one of these handcrafted timepieces.  These watches are created by only using dead wood so their art comes both naturally and guilt free.

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After sampling food from all the stalls I settled on this simple dish – mexican chicken, chilli beans, salsa, jalapenos, sour cream and mexican rice!

Vintage Market – this market epitomizes Brick Lane Fashion offering an affordable outlet for in-trend shopping. 

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Backyard market – Brick Lane Market’s bric-a-brac traders morph into indie clothes and accessories designers as you hit Backyard Market.

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Guide below to the best street markets of London.  From my several visits to London I have visited Camden, Covent Garden, Portobello and this time the Brick Lane market. So I have a few more markets left to visit which is on my planner for my next trip to London.

london-market-map

The next morning I was up and early all set to start my work day commencing with a sumptuous buffet breakfast (included in the room rate) in Novello restaurant. The restaurant is a large airy space with a self-service buffet and waiter service for coffee. The informal service and buffet style dining made it a nicely relaxed affair.

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The concierge at the hotel suggested I attend the parade and festivities in Trafalgar Square and Chinatown.  I took the tube from St Paul’s station to Holborn Station and onward to Leicester Square Station.  Chinatown was bustling with people of all nationalities who welcomed the Year of the Rooster with them.

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The festivities continued throughout the day at Trafalgar Square.

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Visited  Westfield Shopping Centre at Shepherd’s Bush. This huge mall features over 300 shops and restaurants that offer the perfect mix of high street and high end shopping. This is one whirlwind of a shopping experience in London!

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After all that walking built up an appetite to binge on my all time favorite chicken katsu curry and chilli garlic edamame at Wagama.

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Dined at One Canada Square, Canary Wharf the next day and spent quality time with good friends at 1 CP.

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Shopping at my all time favorite Oxford Circus followed by dinner with a friend at Busaba near Bond Street Station.

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Busaba – London’s favorite Thai eatery. The restaurant has big sharing tables with dimmed lighting and there is this lovely buzz about the place.  Since I am such a foodie, my lovely friend decided on this venue which he told me was his absolute favorite in Thai cuisine. Everything we ordered was so delicious and the guava cocktail was phenomenal!

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Following day explored the stores at another favorite spot of mine – Bond Street followed by dinner with a friend at Duck & Waffle which is located on the 40th floor of Heron Tower at Bishops Gate.

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Duck & Waffle is one of London’s iconic dining destinations. Located on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower the chic atmosphere and the panoramic view is absolutely breathtaking.

The menu developed by the group executive Chef Dan Doherty and executive Chef Tom Cenci combines traditional British cuisine and flavours from around the world with their own modern, unique interpretation.  Tables have to be booked weeks in advance but we got lucky and my friend managed to get us a table that night. This was definitely one of my best dining experience in London!! The food, the ambience, the buzz, the company – just perfect!

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Alas! all good things and experiences must come to an end eventually and it was time to say good-bye to this magical city. I’ve always loved London since it is one of the more diverse cities of the world and the fact that there is always something happening and somewhere new to explore.

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Emirates Business class lounge in LHR T3

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My journey has to begin and end with food #foodforthesoul 🙂

So until the next experience, toodle-oo…

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. Danny Sequeira says:

    Very enthralling description of the sights, smell, and food of London. Almost felt I was there. Some parts reminded me of the Arthur Bunder road.

    Like

  2. Lovely read as usual! And yet another itinerary (although partly) sorted😜. Will go after you are done with London😄

    Like

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