TL;DR London highlights, including a walk along Embankment, a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich, biological oddities in the Grant Museum of Zoology, pottery at the Contemporary Ceramics Centre, more cheese at Leadenhall and finally finding London’s smallest statue.

What’s Up London?

The Big Smoke. Nodnol. Londinium. The capital of the United Kingdom. A hectic mash-up, where big business, high-class art, ancient history, urban fashion, aristocracy and international cultures all meet and mingle freely. It’s a festival of human awesomeness disguised as a city. Famous wordsmith Samuel Johnson managed to put it succinctly: ‘When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford’. Too true.

The view from Southbank over to St Paul's Cathedral

Dramatic clouds over St Paul’s Cathedral

One area of London that manages to encapsulate its vibe is the ever-brilliant Southbank. It’s fab if you want to check out an exhibition, street entertainment, theatre performances, go skateboarding, grab something to munch from a street food truck, play on the beach, go for a stroll or just read a book. I took a little time to catch up with a novel in the open air before heading out for the day. A riverside park bench is a nice spot for reflection, catching snippets of people’s conversations and feeling calm watching the river traffic float by. Sometimes an hour’s pause is just what is needed before embracing the melee.

Hit me with the carb stick

Before I was completely ready for the day, I needed to fuel up. Nestled in a side street off trendy Wardour Street, The Melt Room is nirvana for hipsters in need of a cheese toastie. I, of course, fit that category perfectly and felt compelled to check out the pimped up cheese on toasts. The quirky menu ignited my taste buds with a plethora of suave choices. I dallied between the most popular melt, The Classic, a special blend of cheese on sourdough or going full on carb overload Mac and Cheese. Yep, this joint is offering a fancy cheesy pasta sandwich.

I wanted something a bit different but not quite on that calorific level, so I plumped for the pulled pork shoulder with ale and apple chutney and mustard. In a flash, it appeared, quicker than most traditional fast food establishments.

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Grilled cheese sandwich from The Melt

Nom nom nom nom nom!

For a lunchtime comfort food fix it was great! The bread was well browned and the filling was flavoursome. There was a nice measure of meat, and healthy smothering of cheese cut through with an accent of sweet and sour from the chutney. The fries were great, but I think the truffle cheese fries would have been the right choice to knock my socks off. I will try them next visit, along with the Nutella and mascarpone melt for ‘dessert’.

In the meantime, I’ll need to prepare by partaking in pre-sarnie exercise! If you are passing through and need a good, solid cheesy hit, The Melt Room does a pretty awesome spin on a traditional comfort food staple.

Let’s go to a different kind of zoo

My next treat was the Grant Museum of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy, a little star of London’s antiquity collections. It’s full of interesting artifacts, including skeletons of extinct species to jars of pickled animals and microscopic specimens. It’s fairly small but packed full of dead things, from huge elephant skulls and dugongs right down to the slides of the jaws of a green sawfly in the beautiful Micarium.

Slides in the Grant Museum of Zoology's Micarium

Fascinating slides in the Grant Museum of Zoology’s Micarium

The museum is a holler back to the ghoulish olden days, slightly macabre, incredibly low-tech, with most of the exhibits securely housed in glass display cabinets. The special element of the visit was the very helpful and jolly staff, which really invigorated the experience. There are plenty of events happening at the museum, including murder mystery evenings and drawing classes. I’m glad there are no sleepovers, spending a night there I could just imagine a classic Ray Harryhausen style movie scene, where all of these skeletal creatures suddenly come back to life!

I got the chance to hear an awesome lunchtime talk; this one, in particular, was about flies. Dr. Erica McAllister was the host, who gave a fascinating and funny insight into the life of a ‘flycatcher’. Her field trips have taken her all over the world and she was really keen to get us all to appreciate and even fall in love with these creatures that we normally consider as dirty pests. As part of the lecture, we found out that without flies we wouldn’t have chocolate and that the best way to swat one is by closing in very slowly. Swatting is for amateurs. Excellent facts!

Dr. McAllister educating the audience on her research

Dr. Erica McAllister loves talking about her research subjects – flies!

Erica’s work is incredibly important as her studies on mosquitoes help to create strategies to prevent diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. She has also contributed her expertise to murder investigations! All in all, it was a very entertaining couple of hours that just flew by. (Sorry)

Ceramic-ally Challenged

After all that gore and sliced brains, I felt balance need to be restored by going to look at some pretty things. I wandered down to the Contemporary Ceramics Centre for a little perusal of beautiful British pottery. There is usually an exhibition on, and I happened to drop by when there was a stunning show of bottles, vases, and plates. The pieces were really outstanding, and not that badly priced either! There were lots of other specimens from potters around the UK, and I was very tempted to get behind the wheel myself. I enjoyed this super cute and unique gallery, well worth popping into.

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If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

Vases on display at the Contemporary Ceramics Centre London

Gorgeously glazed jardinieres

More cheese? Yes please!

I was starting to get a little peckish so I headed over to Leadenhall Market to purchase some top-notch cheeses. Luckily, Cheese at Leadenhall was there to service my needs. I was wowed by their top selections, and given a great choice of three kinds of British cheeses. First up was a mature Winchester, which began with a mellow taste to start with, threw in some crunchy spots, and ended with a nice strong whack. Imagine a cross between Gouda, Parmesan, and extra strong cheddar, that’s the Old Winchester.

Next, I was introduced to a banging blue, the Barkham Blue, which unusually for blue cheeses is made from milk from Channel Island breed cows. No wonder it has such an intense creamy taste! It was like the mould had reached its peak in life, died and went to heaven in your mouth. I’ve definitely put this at the top of the list of things that simply make you smile and mmmm. To round things off I was given the delightful Waterloo to taste. Another cheese that is made using Guernsey milk, this squidgy semi-soft slice of pillowy heaven had a very subtle flavor. The mellow dense mass of thick gooey yumminess was the perfect compliment to both the hard, punchy Winchester and the deep, rich, Barkham Blue.

Look at this piece of paradise:

Fridge full of heavenly goodies

What a choice!

The shop doubles up as a little bar, with some tables outside for lunch and dinner. They also do several tours, if you want to try pairing cheese with wine, beer or port.

Mini Mouses

After wowing my taste buds I wanted to seek out one final piece of London magic. On a listed building there is a tiny public sculpture, which, it seems, is pretty hard to spot. It took me quite some time, making a good appearance as the idiot in the street staring at a building, and it was only with guidance from the nice guy at Cheese at Leadenhall that I finally eyed the prize.

No one quite knows why the mice are there, and I quite like that. Imagination can take over and come up with all sorts of stories as to why these little fellows exist. I like that fact that they focus on the prize in their hands, perhaps sharing a piece of stolen Old Winchester from around the corner, whilst the humans continue to rush by every day, most of them unaware of their presence.

What started as a day of solo reflection as the world passed by me, ended with a great catch up with a dear friend, washing down the incredible Cheese at Leadenhall goodies with a delicious bottle of red. Now that’s one way to love London!

Cheese and wine

The best way to round off the day!

Check out my reviews of other nice places to visit in London, like Tooting or taking an art walk. Perhaps you fancy checking out my posts on the United Kingdom, including hipster Liverpool, Grand Ol’ York,  and party city Newcastle-Upon-Tyne.

Like this post? Subscribe to the Soulful Travel newsletter for Annie’s packing checklist plus travel related advice, news, competitions and more. Sign up here.
If you need travel advice, request a free 30 minute coaching session. In the chat Annie will help you choose a destination, create your itinerary and review safety precautions. Or she can discuss how you can incorporate more travel into your life by saving, making money, travelling for free or being paid to travel.

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