Okay, this is a slightly longwinded opening but here goes! Travelex entrusted me with a challenge- what would I do with $150 (Aussie) dollars in London for a day? Weh-heh-ell! The first thing that sprung to mind was eat. Eat all of the things and walk all of the cobbled paths in this fair city. But then, real life jumps up and utters a Professor Umbridge style *hem-hem*
My best friend Ismay left London this week. It was in the pipeline for a little while, but her departure date was confirmed all of a sudden once someone was able to take over her old flat. A weekend plan of rambling around London all day suddenly had to be pushed aside and a midweek evening was all we had left to hang out and make the most of it. Two outstanding items on the London bucket list- visit The Shard and Sky Garden.
We’ve been BFF’s since we were gangly expat kids riding our bikes up and down the street after school, in Brunei. We went through all the typical rites of passage as teenagers; the sleepovers, dodgy fashion, school exams…and then we earned our adult stripes together here in London. In short- she’s never been that far away from me.
However, life as a third culture kid prepares you for one thing; the never ending cycle of saying goodbye to your friends, when their parents were transferred to another far away land. Its never really goodbye, but more of a see you later.
So, I asked her “What do you want to do on your last night?”
And that was how we found ourselves up in the sky…literally. Our first stop of the evening would be for a drink at Gong, the Shangri La Hotel bar on the 52nd floor of The Shard building.
With my $150 budget (which is about £76) we decided earlier to forgo the View at The Shard tickets and to instead enjoy the same dramatic view from the comfort of a cosy window seat and a cocktail. The bar is so high up your ears pop in the elevator on the way up.
When you walk into the first lobby (yes, first!) of The Shangri La Hotel, you’re escorted to the elevator where you ride up to the 35th floor of the main hotel. From there, you take the next elevator up, up, up into the Gong Bar. We didn’t have a reservation but arrived early enough that we were seated within 10 minutes by a very glamorous hostess.
I ordered a Romeo and Juliet- Dodd’s gin, raspberry puree, Earl Grey tea, and a splash of citrus-Ismay the Bermondsey Bubbles- Jensen’s Bermondsey Dry gin, rose liquor, creole bitters, topped with champagne. Our bar snacks were kept topped up (very, very important! other bars take note!)
When it came to paying the bill, I used my Travelex Cash Passport. You use it just like a normal debit card, and pay with a pin number. Travelex sends you the card, you register it online, and top it up with money as and when you need to. Very handy for travellers and much easier for you to control your expenses!
With our evening tipple downed, we headed onwards into The City, towards the Walkie Talkie building. With a last minute reservation at Fenchurch Grill, we crossed the river and made our way to the second lovely view of the night- The Sky Garden.
We had a delicious meal- the Fenchurch Grill does fish really well. I had crab beignets with my cod. CRAB. BEIGNETS. We were so stuffed, we skipped dessert and chose to wander around the vast atrium instead.
I dont know. If this was any other ordinary night of the week, there’d be more laughter, but it was tinged with a little sadness. I knooooow Dublin isn’t far, but there’s just something really weird knowing that, whoa. This is it, the end of an era.
As home time approached, we gave each other a quick hug goodbye, and a typical “See you later!” I made my way to the tube station. Her black cab headed South. I had that sad feeling in my belly, the same one that appeared every time I had to say goodbye to a loved one growing up abroad.
I got home, into my PJ’s, and like most nights, scrolled through Twitter before bedtime. And then, I nearly spat my water out reading that Amber Rose tweet to Kanye West. I started typing furiously into Whatsapp to Ismay and it twigged. You are never too far away to enjoy a well placed eggplant and pointy finger emoji message to your best friend….
Thank you Travelex for contributing towards our last London adventure!