So just back from a grand old time in London. Lovely sunny weather which made it even nicer. Stayed centrally in a five-star hotel no less right beside St. Paul’s Cathedral in the St. Paul’s Grange Hotel. It is beside both the Central and the District lines so very handy and just across the river over the Millennium Bridge is Southbank.

Our reason for our London trip was to see Paolo Nutini in the Royal Albert Hall on the Friday night. We spent Friday lunchtime on the banks of the Thames in Gabriel’s Wharf on London’s Southbank sitting outside the Dining Room in a funky square with a giant playground in the centre – can’t think of a nicer way to spend a Friday afternoon and just the perfect way to start our mini-break. We were enroute to the London Eye but never made it in the end – one bottle turned into two and before we knew it a lovely leisurely afternoon had been spent. That turned out to be the theme of the weekend!

We did however make it to the Royal Albert Hall and what an impressive venue that is – completely round so the devil has nowhere to hide and capacity for circa 6,000 people. Once built the Hall’s acoustic problems became immediately apparent but this was combatted in 1969 by the installation of a series of large fibreglass acoustic diffusing discs (commonly referred to as “mushrooms” or “flying saucers”) in the roof to cut down the notorious echo. It used to be said that the hall was the only place where a British composer could be sure of hearing his work twice. There were no problems though on Friday night, the sound was crystal clear. We had a stall on the 2nd tier which was a fair bit back from the stage but was an experience for sure locked into our little stall made for five felt very exclusive. Frankie was a tad disappointed but once Paolo took to the stage, disappointment turned to delight as he and the band were on form and performed hit after hit to a delighted audience. They had the strings of lightning and the brass of thunder. He played all my favs like New Shoes, Candy, Last Request and Jenny, Don’t Be Hasty. Yes, it did lack the intimacy of the Olympia where you’re so close you can almost touch the stage but it more than made up for it for the experience. We ended the night in the O Bar in Soho. Have to say Soho wouldn’t be my cup of tea but the top floor of the O Bar was like being in someone’s living room with it’s comfy sofas.

Saturday we spent the day in Notting Hill wandering round the market and browsing the antique shops and clothes shops and stopping to admire the fancy cars and beautiful pastel coloured houses. There was also the odd bit of music. It was really busy with mostly tourists soaking up the atmosphere.

And yes, all I could think about was Hugh Grant and that movie! We even came across the Travel Shop, the bookshop that they used in the movie.

We found a lovely bar across the road called E&O [apparently we had a thing for initials!] and sampled their cocktails and dim sum. It was another beautiful sunny day and of course one cocktail turned into two and once again it was almost evening when we finally left. Of course, I then decided to have my little movie moment in the bookstore much to the embarrassment of my two friends but am sure everyone does it! Don’t they?

Ok, maybe it’s just me but I blame the cocktails.

On the way back, we stopped off at the Hummingbird Bakery to pick up some dessert – their famous red velvet and chocolate cupcakes.

That night we hit Hoxton where we went to the Hoxton Lounge, a busy bar/restaurant. To be honest, nightlife is always the hardest thing to get right when you’re away as unless you know where to go you tend to venture into places that you ordinarily wouldn’t dream of going at home. We moved on to the East Village next door after wandering the streets of London for a while before back-tracking to where we originally were. East Village was truly awful – two floors of bad house music. We had one drink and returned to the Hoxton Lounge.

Sunday morning to combat a hangover I checked out the swimming pool in the hotel and also the steam room, sauna, jacuzzi and tepidarium. We ventured out to Covent Garden and again had a leisurely stroll around the markets. checking out Candy Cakes for some fab, uniquely designed cupcakes [their cupcakes would not seem out of place in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory] and some funky shops like David & Goliath with their fun T-Shirts.

We strolled on through Regent St, Bond St, Leciester Square and Oxford Circus checking out the shops and admiring how the other half live – apparently they take Sunday off from shopping as all the exclusive stores were closed. And finally it was time to head for the airport and say bye bye London we’ll be back!