It was my Grandparent's 50th wedding anniversary at the beginning of March and after originally saying I wouldn't be able to attend the party, I decided to surprise them. My Dad was actually born in Essex, so everyone on my Dad's side of the family live there. Unfortunately, as we live in Edinburgh, we only get to see them once or twice a year and being in Belgium has made meeting up even more difficult so I didn't want to turn down the opportunity.
On Friday the 4th of March, I left Leuven for the Eurostar station at Brussels Midi/Zuid. My train was at 8am and it only took 2 hours for me to arrive at London St Pancras station. I hesitated over the idea of flying over from Brussels as a lot of the airports in London aren't very central and the flights were actually more expensive than the Eurostar. My cousin works in central London, so she took the day off and we decided to spend some time together when I arrived.
We met up at London Liverpool Street station (where I got my fringe cut for £3 - bargain!) and went to the Cereal Killer Cafe in Shoredich. I'm really not a cereal person, but I couldn't resist 'The Lion King' which was a cereal cocktail with Coco Caramel Shreddies, Rolos and Caramel Milk. The cafe brought back so many memories as the downstairs seating area was filled with old VCR tapes and the televisions were playing old cartoons from the 90's/early 2000's. I do think £4 was a bit expensive for a bit of cereal and milk, but this was me re-adjusting to prices in the UK and especially in London, I was trying not to freak out too much over the steep prices.
After our breakfast, we took the bus to St Paul's Cathedral. I've visited London numerous times, but I've never seen the Cathedral so it was awesome to finally get to see it. Now I realise the 'First Dates' restaurant is in this area and I'm absolutely gutted I didn't know this at the time.
We wandered around the area and went into a few shops. I managed to pick up some more Joni jeans from Topshop as there doesn't seem to be a Topshop at all in Belgium at the moment. The weather was beautiful, so instead of sitting on public transport, we decided to walk to our next destination, The Shard.
It's VERY expensive to go to the top of the Shard. You'd be looking at paying at least £20 for a ticket. My cousin researched it and you can actually go to the bars on the 31st floor free of charge. Although it wasn't a view from the 73rd floor of the tower, we managed to see a pretty beautiful view for the price of a Sprite from the bar. The views from the building really are amazing and you're even welcomed to a skyline view as you exit the toilet in the bathrooms!
After stopping at the Shard, we took the tube from London Bridge to Oxford street. We booked to have afternoon tea in a place called 'Sketch' in Mayfair. After complaining about paying £4 for cereal, it pains me to say I paid £50 for afternoon tea. Thankfully I received spending money from my parents, otherwise I would've felt myself die inside at the thought of my Erasmus grant rapidly vanishing before my eyes.
In all honesty, the experience was worth the extra money. The staff were very friendly and offered to refill our cake and sandwich stand when we had finished. After eating all we could possibly manage, the waitress came along with a big slab of caramel chocolate cake and asked if we would like extras to take away with us. We pretty much had unlimited tea, cakes and sandwiches for £50! The toilets were also incredible. Each toilet was in a space pod with your very own sink and you could do your business whilst listening to space noises - definitely my most memorable toilet experience!
After a very hectic day in London, we got the overground train from London Liverpool street to Harold Wood, where my cousin lives. She kindly drove me to my Nan and Grandad's in Basildon where I met my Dad and Sister who had arrived from Edinburgh that evening. After a hectic travelling day, I was absolutely exhausted and spent the best part of Saturday in bed fighting a cold - thank you London transport!
My Grandparent's wedding anniversary party was on the Saturday evening in their local community center. All of my English family were there and it was great to catch up with them all again. My grandparent's arranged for an Elvis impersonator to perform at their party - he entertained us for hours and it was a great night.
Sunday involved a family meal followed by saying goodbye to my Dad and Sister who headed back to Edinburgh that afternoon. I stayed at my cousin's on the Sunday night and we headed into London together on Monday, where I caught my Eurostar back to Belgium early that morning.