My cousin, her husband, and kids have been living in London for the last 10 years. The rest of us cousins in the states have always talked about visiting her, and we finally made a trip out there in November, 2007. It was a short, 4 day period, but we packed a hell of a lot in. We absolutely loved London, and definitely want to return to experience all that we missed out on.

My cousin was nice enough to let all 6 of us stay in her house in Putney. Putney is a charming town that’s only 30 minutes from the city. The neighborhoods that we walked through in Putney were so quaint and unique. The houses have rich history and detail, and they aren’t cookie cutters like you see in the states. My cousin’s house in particular was definitely a site. There is such amazing attention to detail throughout the house. My favorite detail in the house was the molding, with each room having a different pattern of molding. I almost felt like I was in an art gallery. Along with the exquisite details of the house, my cousin has great taste, and she complimented the luxury with absolute comfort.

On the day of our arrival to Putney, we walked over to her son’s private school to pick them up. That was a fun little field trip. The boys looked so adorable dressed up in their uniforms, and were so happy (and a bit embarassed) to see us. The school was definitely very prestigious. Those boys are learning so much more at their young age, than we ever did. The older one (at 6 I believe), is actually learning how to cook…already!!!! And the younger one is quite the entertainer, already doing performances at school. They are both so intelligent and so cute with their british tongues. That evening, we just stayed in Putney, and my cousin cooked us a fabulous dinner. She’s an amazing cook. We had a great time eating, drinking and bonding. The night ended in front of the fireplace with some port wine, truffles, and cheese. Perfection! My cousin knows how to entertain!

I would have been happy just staying in Putney alone. It has its own little city with pubs and restaurants. But, having traveled this far, we had to go to Proper London. So, on our first full day, we walked over to the Putney bus station, got our day pass for the double decker, and boarded. We had no idea where we were going, but just went. It was a blast!

We ended up in the historical Parliamentary area first. They also call their area the “mall” as we do in DC. Also, I thought it looked very similar to our mall. I almost felt as though I was walking down Constitution Avenue. London’s “mall” is definitely more massive though, with beautiful fields of green. We saw the “Eye”, and other historical buildings. It was neat to see Buckingham Palace. Although, I am embarrassed to admit that none of us recognized it. It just looked a little “dinky” (for lack of a better word), than what we always saw in the papers and on TV. Even more embarrassing is that one of us (NOT ME) actually asked a stranger “What is that building”. The stranger was not amused and responded rather coldly. Oh well…we deserved it :)

Anyways, after we were done with history, we walked over to the more happening areas of the city. We just walked, and walked, for what seemed like ever. The city is loaded with tons of shopping, restaurants, and bars…even on a larger scale than NY. And Harrod’s is everywhere. I guess our Macy’s would be London’s Harrod’s. But Harrod’s is a hundred times more massive. We found cute alleys, ended up in a couple of pubs for some Chandy’s (London’s mix of beer and lemonade), ate some yummy treats, and just got lost. We did literally get lost, but that allowed us to see more of the city. We finally made our way home, and had dinner in a delicious South Indian restaurant in Putney. London does Indian food justice!

The next morning, my cousin planned an outing for us to go to Portobello Road and Notting Hill. Portobello Road was probably my favorite part of the trip. It’s an enormous marketplace with vintage clothing, jewelry, furniture…you name it! They also had an incredible farmer’s market the day we went. All the food looked delicious, and the local produce, so fresh. Anyone that says that London doesn’t have good food has never been. We ended up buying a couple homemade vegetable tarts to have as an evening appetizer. We got a mushroom tart and a root vegetable tart. Trust me, you have never tasted tarts like these. After Portobello Road, we walked through Notting Hill and ended up at a Pub there. Notting Hill was absolutely gorgeous. The architecture is just beautiful. I really was amazed at how everything I saw in London (Putney, the city, the parliament, Notting Hill) all had their own character and style. Every area was so different and held its own. I was also surprised at the ambiance of the pubs we visited. Pubs in London are almost a family, civilized outing. Even my cousin’s sons came with us. You don’t go there to get “sloshed”, but instead to just relax and bond amongst friends/family in a warm/welcoming environment. And the beers are great! That evening, we went back to Putney, had some of the tarts, cocktails, and ordered pizza. The pizza was fabulous! After that, my cousin had arranged for us to go to an exclusive lounge in the city. We got all dressed up and tried to blend in with London’s “It” crowd. The fun never ends!

The 3rd day of our trip, we took it easy. All of us really wanted to check out Waitrose, London’s main supermarket. So, we went on a little shopping spree there. We bought all sorts of chips, chocolates, cookies that they don’t sell in the states. We also bought cordials. London’s big on cordials, which is a concentrated, flavored syrup that you can use to flavor water or even prosecco. Obviously, I prefer flavoring the latter, so I bought a strawberry/mint flavor. Later that day, we went to yet another pub along the water in Putney. I can’t get over how their pubs are so warm and welcoming. That night we ordered some carryout. Half of us ordered Thai, and the other half ordered Fish & Chips. I was in the fish & chips group. You can’t go to London and not have it! It was delicious!

Day 4, and it’s time to leave :( All of us were so sad. My cousin sent us off with a huge, hearty pasta lunch. We all had such an amazing time, and can’t wait to go back! Although, I hope my cousin is still living there if we go. One major point that I failed to mention, is that everything in London is super expensive. The exchange between the dollar and pound is horrible, and we literally paid double for everything. She really saved our finances and was an incredible host. I can't thank them enough! Don't let the exchange rate deter you. Everyone should splurge once in a while, expecially on a memorable experience. London is worth visiting, and only a 6 hour flight away. It has its own beauty and character that really sets it apart from the rest of Europe.

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