20 Top Tips and Things to Do & See When in London

After spending a day in London as a tourist there was a lot of little things I wanted to add into that post, but it was starting to get a bit long. Since I have moved to the UK I have visited London several times for various reasons and there are things I have learned and experienced that I feel like I can write an informed post of tips, tricks, and other things to see/do there.

There isn't any order to these just things I started to type up as I thought of them during the writing of my London tourist post. If you have anything to add please leave a comment below! I'm always looking for little things that make exploring and experiencing a city easier and more efficient!

Enough rambling here is ....

  1. Book tickets a head of time for shows and things you want to see. 
  2. Spend one day getting lost. (If you have more then one day.)
  3. See the city from above as well as below (Sky Garden (free) or London Eye (not free) or The Gherkin (not sure))
  4. Bring a waterproof jacket/coat with a hood. No one really wants to be messing around with an umbrella, the wind usually breaks them anyway. Waterproof bags are also useful. One that folds up in your bag is useful now that all plastic bags cost 5p. Summers can be warm, bring sun screen! 
  5. Walk - a lot of the famous touristy things to see are within walking distance of each other. 
  6. A comfy pair of shoes and 
  7. Comfy socks, with an extra pair in your bag in case you step in a puddle. 
  8. Keep a water bottle with you. 
  9. General tip for eating out - ask for tap water it's free. 
  10. There are some great restaurants in London, but if you happen to grab a McDonald's because of time and convenience don't beat yourself up over it. 
  11. Bag - roomy without being too big, preferably one that goes across your body for safety and saves you from losing it. Or a backpack that can be secured in front. 
  12. Museums are free - donate odd change if you have any to keep them free! 
  13. Some (not all) toilets cost 20p so keep some change on you in case of an emergency. 
  14. Research - before you leave have a look at what’s going on. Different seasons have different events. e.g. Natural History Museum has an ice skating rink in the winter. 
  15. See a show in the West End. 
  16. Ride the tube - let it take you where you want to go or where you hadn’t expected!
  17. Check out Big Ben - he’s a bell inside a clock, but he’s cool. 
  18. Oyster Card, it’s the cheapest and easiest way to get around London. Don’t be scared of the underground, it’s super easy once you get the hang of it! Like I said let it take you where you need to go! 
  19. Tips on Souvenirs - books and guide books will add weight, take down the isbn number and order the book once you get home - from experience you will never look at the guidebook again and no one back home wants to see it. Might sound harsh, but true. Find something small and inexpensive like magnets/postcards/mugs/possible t-shirt or something useful like a rain coat!
  20. If traveling in a group if possible take a day to yourself to do what you want to do!


Treat Petite February

This isn't Cakeyboi or The Baking Explorer, but it is Treat Petite! I'm super excited to be guest hosting this month as Cakeyboi settles into his new accommodation. 

If you are new to this blogging challenge it's pretty straight forward - any sweet treat that is little or petite. So, no cakes or pies and such - only little things like cupcakes, truffles, macarons, cookies, cake pops and so on! If you have any questions regarding this ask any of us and for inspiration check out last month's round up over on The Baking Explorer

The theme is: Like It, Love It, Gotta Have It. 

Basically something that you like, love, and just have to have! For example: I like peanut butter, I love peanut butter cups, and I just gotta have one! (I just gave myself a brilliant idea!) Basically anything that you like or love or gotta have! 

Here are the rules/requirements to enter:

  • Add your petite treat to the Linky at the bottom of this post by the 25th of the month, midnight at the latest.
  • Post your bake onto your blog and link back to Cakeyboi and The Baking Explorer, and me United Cakedom just for this month, stating who is hosting this month.
  • Follow Cakeyboi and The Baking Explorer blogs on Google + (see sidebar links), if you haven’t already.
  • If you tweet use  #treatpetite and mention @MrCakeyboi and @BakingExplorer and me too! @unitedcakedom – we will retweet 
  • Add the new challenge logo to the post and ‘Treat Petite’ as a label to the post
  • Use any recipe as long as the source is noted
  • If you like, add your photo to the ‘Treat Petite’ Pinterest board (request access from me – Cakeyboi)
  • Feel free to enter old posts as long as you update the post and meet all the requirements above!
  • If you have any questions at all, please email Cakeyboi or The Baking Explorer.


The Pastry Challenge Round-Up

This is going to be the last Pastry Challenge round-up for a while. It's something Jen and I started last year as an attempt to explore pastry a bit more. I speak for myself when I say I've not done the best in doing so, with pastry usually taking a back seat to cakes, cookies, and brownies most months.

Jen made some big changes last year one of them was moving down to Dorset to help run her parents green grocers and from what I gather she's loving it! Follow her on twitter and instagram as she shares some of the stuff she's getting up to down there!

It's hopefully not the end, we had a good run and enjoyed seeing everyone's amazing entries! There are many other blogging challenges to enter and partake in!

To keep up with weekly and monthly food challenges a few lovely bloggers started The Food Blog Diary where all these challenges are listed and updated often.

Hopefully we will be back on that list! But until then thank you to all those who have taken part in our blogger challenge and if you are ever baking with pastry please tag me in your tweets or instagram posts I will happily like and share when I can!

We had two great entries last month the first from - Pastry Workshop: Creating Sweets with Character Olguta shows us how to make the perfect Choux Pastry!

and The Lawyer's Cookbook share with us her Ham and Arugula Shortcrust Rolls! They would make lunch an event or a great picnic treat! 


My Day as a Tourist in London! #TravelexTourist

One of the best things about being an expat (expatriate) is still getting to play the tourist. I have been asked before, from fellow Americans, what there is to do in various cities around the UK. Of course the most popular being London.

Answering that question is hard there are three things that need to be taken into consideration. 1. How much time are you spending in London? 2. Do you have any specific interests? and 3. How many people and age groups?

If someone is not into art then I wouldn’t send them to the art museums, but I would point them in the direction of the science or history museum! If you have children with you I would suggest the same, who doesn’t want to see dinosaurs? London can be tailored to anyone! That’s how much stuff there is to do in London.

Travelex asked me to spend a day in London as a tourist with a budget of $150 (American dollars). On the day of exchange it equalled £114.53. Could I manage a day in London, on my own, with that budget? Let's find out!

Shakespeare’s Globe 

£15 adult entry + £6 gift shop

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is an open theatre and has mostly a summer season aka the Wonder Season which runs from April 30th - October 16th. So, I was unable to see a performance, but the exhibition is open all year long (see dates on the website). It was very informative and entertaining, my tour guide was funny and knew everything there was to know about Shakespeare and the history of the current globe theatre. For more information visit the website linked above! Before I left I picked myself up a couple of magnets with Shakespeare quotes.

Instead of going right next door to the Tate Modern, I took the tube from Blackfriars to Monument, (tube stations are named for a reason - Black Friar Pub and the Monument to the Great Fire of London are both right near the tube stations) in search of the Sky Garden. If you don't book a (free) ticket there are weekday walk-in tickets. They are available from 10am to 11:30am and from 2pm to 4:30pm and are given out on a first come first serve basis, so I wanted to get there before 2! I was early so I stopped to get coffee and cake. Also an excuse to get out of the rain!

Konditor & Cook 

(The Gherkin) - £9.45

This bakery has been on my “to visit” list for ages, because they have a cake called the curly wurly cake (nothing to do with Cadbury) that is suppose to be amazing! It was pretty amazing. Soft and dense dark chocolate cake covered in just enough vanilla frosting. Paired with a latte it was just what I needed after walking through the rain! The above cost also includes a take away fudge brownie that I shared with my partner when I got back.

The Sky Garden

Free (need ID)

The Sky Garden is a rival for the London Eye. Having been on the London Eye a few times, I would say that the Sky Garden is by far superior. There is no cost, you’re free to roam around, and there are places to relax, eat, and visit! The gardens are full of pleasant smelling vibrant green plants. Did I mention the view is amazing! You can literally see all of London, it was a cloudy day for me so I bet I could have seen further if it was a clear day! The observation deck was closed due to the rain, but I don’t think I would have wanted to go out there with it all wet and slippery…….

Tate Modern

Free + £5.50 gift shop

Is my favorite museum in London. There was a time I could walk into the Tate and tell you all about the artists and their time periods, but that time was when I was fresh out of college where I studied art. Also, the current exhibits are a lot more modern artists as in the last couple decades. Which I really enjoyed seeing and experiencing. I would gladly spend a whole day in the Tate! I bought another magnet and a couple of buttons for my girls.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Evensong - Free

There are many churches and chapels in London, but St. Paul’s is probably the most popular. It does sit on Ludgate Hill, which is the highest point in London. It has a deep rooted history in London having been built in 1708 and it still runs as a functioning church with daily services. Services which are open to the public aka who ever wants to attend. Tours are available, but I find the best way to experience St. Paul’s is through the Evensong. A beautiful choral service that is a great place to sit and relax after a day of sightseeing.

Burger & Lobster 

Dinner - £35.16

I was really hungry when I walked into Burger and Lobster! I had researched restaurants near St. Paul’s and Burger & Lobster isn’t right next door it’s near by. It’s also something I don’t have in the town I live. For £20 you can have a burger with bacon and cheese, a lobster, or a lobster roll; served with fries and a salad. Drinks and dessert not included. I had the lobster roll in a brioche bun that was delicious, I cleaned my whole plate and then had a lemon cheesecake for dessert. Although I wouldn’t have called it a cheesecake. It was more lemon mousse like with crumbs and a lemon jelly/jello like substance at the bottom. It was good; tart and refreshing after a rich meal is just want you need!

That was the end of my day, if I had been a proper tourist or a Londoner, not someone who had to get back to “reality” I would have seen a show, but I had a train to catch and if I had stayed for a show I would have missed my last train back!

The Verdict: With a jam packed day of mostly free events I still spent £71.11, with £43.42 leftover. The majority of what I spent was on food. As I mentioned before everyone’s priorities or interests are different. I find food, when exploring a city, is a must and something I’d always happily spend a little bit more on. Note that I did not include travel into my total spending. Because I traveled in I bought an all-day off-peak travel card prior to arriving in London. For tube/bus travel I highly recommend getting a hold of an Oyster Card, it’s the cheapest and easiest way to get around London.

Final Thoughts: I went to London with a vague plan and nothing pre-booked. Which is a great way to spend a day in London wondering around, however if there are things you want to do plan ahead. A lot of websites offer discounts if you book online, this may keep you to a time schedule, but will save money. I had a great day out and would love to do it again .... with all new things to see and do!

notes: In association with Travelex UK & Travelex USA  - #TravelexTourist and their connecting with your favorite bloggers campaign. All opinions are my own, the only compensation was what was put on the Multi-Currency Cash Passport card on the day. It was super easy to use and a great no stress way to convert and carry money abroad. Please see my contact/policy page for further information.

Follow me @unitedcakedom on Twitter and Instagram for more images and news about my day. There is also a short video on my YouTube Channel check it out! To find other bloggers and how they spent their day search #TravelexTourist


Fruit & Yogurt Parfaits

For me breakfast is a thing for the weekends. It’s hard to wake up and want food right away or I should say it’s hard to wake up and want to cook right away. If I had a personal chef and breakfast was waiting for me as I got out of bed then it’s be a different story. But that’s not the story and breakfast is on me.

If there is an easy way for breakfast I will take it. When I was a teenager and started driving my sister and I to school, every once in a while we’d sneak through the McDonald’s drive through for a breakfast burrito (different then the ones here in the UK) and a fruit parfait. Maybe not the best of combinations, but hey I was a teenager and food didn’t seem to “stick” like it does now.

It was or is literally a layer of yogurt, strawberries and blueberries, topped with more yogurt and granola. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Since they don’t sell them here in the UK I thought I’d make it myself. Also, it is Breakfast Week! A campaign dedicated to educating the nation and celebrating breakfast, it is the most important meal of the day! Too many people skip breakfast, myself included some days....

I really hate busy as an excuse, everyone is busy, it’s what you choose to make priority and breakfast should be a priority. How would anything get done if you didn’t have the energy to do it? I am trying to make breakfast a priority and these parfaits make a good start!

They make a great breakfast because fruit and yogurt are, depending on the choice of yogurt, good for you. Plus they can be made the night before and can keep in the fridge for 1-2 nights if properly covered and ingredients were well in date when made.

Fruit & Yogurt Parfait

makes 2 (easily doubled)

8 tablespoons of yogurt, your choice (I used Arla Skyr Icelandic Style Yogurt, Honey)
3-5 strawberries, quartered
2 handfuls or 150g blueberries
baked muesli (recipe follows)

Layer two tablespoons of yogurt in each glass/container. Then add the layer of fruit and top with two more tablespoons of yogurt and the granola! or muesli. Enjoy or wrap tightly with clingfilm and save until the following day.

baked muesli

45g muesli of your choice
20g butter, melted
1 tablespoon of honey

Heat oven to 180C. Mix the muesli and melted butter, honey together. Spread on a prepared baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes, stirring once or twice. Leave to cool completely before breaking up and dividing between each parfait.

notes: Shake Up Your Wake Up - all about how you can get involved with Breakfast Week! I was not asked to mention or promote this campagain, I just agree and like it! I entered this into Brilliant Breakfast linky! Aria Skyr Icelandic Style Yogurt is in no way associated with this blog post or my blog, I mention it because it is what I used. I chose it because it is low in fat and sugar, but high in protein, which can help keep hunger pains at bay. Please see my contact/policy page above for more information!


Olive Oil Orange Bundt Cake

Once in a while one creates something that you know will be re-created time and time again. In a book titled Baked Explorations by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito there exists a cake titled Mom’s Olive Oil Orange Bundt. It wasn’t originally Renato’s mom’s cake, but a French neighbor who passed along the recipe.

Then they put it in their book to share with the rest of the world or the parts of the world who read their book.

I myself was sitting around one Saturday and I decided I wanted a cake. More specifically an uncomplicated cake. Nothing fancy and show-offy just a deliciously plain cake. After looking through one of my many baking books I took this book off the shelf and found Mom’s Olive Oil Orange Bundt.

It was a matter of two things that made me settle on this cake 1. I had oranges in my fridge that were looking a bit sad, plus other cakes required me to go to the store which I didn’t want to do, which bring us right to number 2. it suited my uncomplicated need. With minimum ingredients and little effort this is one of the best cakes I have ever made.

Going full circle, there is a reason this cake has been passed around from neighbor (who knows where the neighbor acquired it) to son to us, it’s that good. The passing around of the recipe is testimony enough for it, there are no other words. I hope one day my girls will call it Mom’s Olive Oil Orange Bundt with the mom in reference to myself and then they make it and pass it along too.

Olive Oil Orange Bundt 

3 cups all purpose flour (plain flour)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs, separated
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup plain buttermilk
3/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
freshly grated zest of 2 oranges
1 teaspoon vanilla paste
confectioners' sugar (icing sugar) for dusting

Heat the oven to 350F/180C - prep the bundt pan with a little of the oil spreading around with your hand and dust lightly with flour or use a cake spray.

First mix the flour, baking powder, and salt together and set aside.
Using a standing mixer (paddle attachment) beat the egg yolks until they are lighter and thicker, then slowly add the sugar, I did this one tablespoon at a time, until it’s completely combined. Add the buttermilk and olive oil and beat until combined. Mix in the orange zest and vanilla. Beat in half of the flour mixture, scrap down the sides and the bottom before beating in the rest until combined.

In another bowl beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold in one large spoon full of the egg whites into the batter. Gently and patiently! Continue to fold in the egg whites large spoon full by large spoon full. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, rotating the bundt pan halfway through. Use the skewer test to insure cake is baked through. Leave to cool in the pan until the bundt pan is cool enough to touch. Gently loosen the sides before placing a plate over the bundt and turn the cake out onto the plate. Leave to cool completely before sifting the icing sugar over the top! Enjoy!

notes: Cups are no longer hard to find in the UK and to keep the simplicity of the recipe I used cups! I bought my copy of Baked Explorations years ago - all opinions are my own please see my contact/policy page above for more information!


Build Your Own Sandwich by Vicki Smallwood {book review}

Some 4th Earl of Sandwich, England is considered to be the creator of a sandwich. When he was busy gambling all night long, he’d get the munchies and instruct his servants to bring him meat in between two slices of bread. That way he could continue gambling and eat; no forks and knives needed!

The idea wasn’t new, it had been around for decades, century’s probably at the time. It was just that his boys teased him enough about his favourite late night snack they dubbed it a sandwich.

When I’m making sandwiches at home I never get any more adventurous then a ham, cheese, or peanut butter and jelly sandwich. When I go out for food and it’s sandwich time I am more adventures with flavours and textures and such.

There is no logical reason for that and that’s why I was pretty excited about Build Your Own Sandwich: More than 6,000 sandwich combos by Vicki Smallwood.

6,000 combos you say? How is that possible you ask? Well, by literally dividing the page into four sections and listing each section as bread, topping, filling, and sauce you can random flip through the pages and come up with lots of different combos! As in the pictures below!

This is usually the part in my review where I list all the recipes I’d like to try out at home, but that’s not so easy with this book so I am going to tell you my top 3 combos that I want to try out.

My Top 3 Sandwich Combos: 

  1. Ciabatta (5); Sprouts, Spring Onions, & Chilli (50); Corned Beef & Swiss Cheese (31); Sweet & Sour Onion Spread (44) 
  2. Brioche (41); Button Mushrooms & Onions (34); Flash-fried Steak (35); Mustard Mayo & Chives (12) 
  3. Pretzel Fingers (73); Griddled Tomato Slices (62); You-Choose Cheese (107); Chorizo Jam (156) 

There are many vegetarian suggestions as well, which is always a welcome change to the sandwich! That’s me, a non-vegetarian, saying that of course! Overall this is a fun and inspirational cookbook! If you or someone you know is looking to make their lunch or late night snack, like the late Earl of Sandwich, more exciting then I couldn’t recommend this book more!

note: I was sent a copy of Build Your Own Sandwich by Vicki Smallwood to review by the publishers. No other compensation was given; all opinions and views are my own. For ore information please see my contact/policy page! My interpretation of the history of the sandwich is exactly that, my interpretation! It’s based on information I read here.


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