There are some cities I imagine I could feel comfortable living in after some time, while there are others where I feel comfortable from the moment I arrive. London has always fallen into the latter category, and the more time I spend there the more comfortable it feels. For me, the height of comfort and feeling at home while traveling comes from staying in a vacation rental rather than a hotel. There’s just no better way to feel like a local and relax while on holiday! Earlier this month we discovered the Eden, a fabulous studio apartment right in the heart of central London. This week on Ciao Amalfi we’re going on holiday to London, because I just can’t resist sharing a little bit from our time there!
That’s because I’ve fallen in love with London – all over again! Having generally stayed in the Kensington neighborhood or near Bloomsbury on previous visits, the Eden’s central location between Trafalgar Square and the Thames created a whole new London experience. This studio apartment has that perfect balance between a great central location with a peaceful setting on a pretty street lined with buildings dating from the 1700s. We were two blocks from Trafalgar Square, less than a block from the Golden Jubilee Footbridges across the Thames and just a stroll from Covent Garden, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Soho and since we’re great walkers … just about all of central London! Yet the street was quiet and had a great historic feel.
No doubt the historic feel came from the neighbors who once lived on the same street. Nearby there was the house where Herman Melville lived in 1849, just a couple of years before Moby Dick was published. From those bay windows you can catch a glimpse of the Thames, and I imagined Melville sitting in those windows looking out over the river while writing Redburn, White-Jacket or perhaps even the opening chapters to Moby Dick. Just up the street is the house where Benjamin Franklin lived for 16 years leading up to the beginning of the Revolutionary War. It is now the Benjamin Franklin House, a museum dedicated to Franklin’s life and legacy. It also happens to be the only surviving Franklin house in the world! What a surprise to find such a piece of American history practically next door in London!
From the Eden we walked one day through St. James, shopped at Fortum & Mason on Piccadilly, ooohed and ahhed at the Christmas lights on Regent Street, stopped in Liberty–my favorite store in the world–saw the Rolling Stones Christmas lights on Carnaby Street and walked all the way down Oxford Street under the Marmite sponsored holiday lights. Rather shopped and walked out, we headed to the nearest bus stop and easily found a bus direct back to Trafalgar Square. It was very handy to stay so close to such an important transport hub on Tube and bus lines!
Just about every day when we stepped out of the Eden, we couldn’t resist walking out onto the Golden Jubilee Footbridges that are on either side of the Hungerford Bridge. They connect Charing Cross with Southbank and are a great spot for enjoy views up and down the river – without any traffic! The London Eye is just across the Thames from where we were staying at the Eden, and it was fun to watch it slowing make its circle and cameras flashing.
The view from the Golden Jubilee Footbridges was even more magical at night with the lights of the London Eye stretching across the river and the lights of Westminster and Big Ben shining in the distance. The Eden would be a fabulous place to stay to see the New Year’s Eve fireworks over the Thames from the London Eye. Just minutes from the river viewing spots or all the fun at Trafalgar Square … and you could be home in a couple of minutes and not have to worry about traffic or crowds. Yes … must do that some day!
It was great to be in London just before the holidays with all the Christmas lights, holiday windows and such a festive atmosphere. One of the reasons we fell in love with the Eden’s location a little more every day was because we were able to experience so much just walking distance away! Holiday lights on Regent Street and Oxford Street, Christmas shopping at Covent Garden, ice skating at the Somerset House on the Strand or walking across the Thames to the Southbank Christmas Market for mulled wine.
I had never stayed so close to the Thames as we did at the Eden. My husband and I both love being near water, and it really changed the way we experienced London. One bright and crisp morning while walking through the Victoria Embankment Gardens, just around the corner from the apartment, my husband spotted a small booth advertising boat tours. We walked over and noticed one was leaving for Tower Bridge in just a couple of minutes. Following our instincts we bought tickets and ran down the dock to board. I’m so glad we did as it turned out to be one of the best London experiences I’ve ever had!
We enjoyed fabulous views of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, the Shard, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge. The boat stopped at St. Catherine’s Dock near Tower Bridge and we spent some time walking around the Tower of London and watching people ice skate on the rink set up beside the 1,000-year old walls.
On the return the boat stopped near Big Ben in Westminster and we had a good walk around the area, stopped in a traditional pub for lunch and enjoyed sightseeing in the area. It was a Sunday afternoon so we couldn’t visit Westminster Abbey (no tourist visiting hours on Sunday), but we did enjoy seeing it from the outside.
From Westminster it was a pleasant stroll down Whitehall past Downing Street to Trafalgar Square where we spent the rest of an afternoon exploring the collections at the National Gallery. When we left the National Gallery we stopped to look over Trafalgar Square from above. In the distance we could see Big Ben in the sunset light. That’s when I realized I had fallen in love with London again. The same London … but a very different part of it thanks to our stay at the Eden! I don’t usually take photos of where we stay, but I couldn’t resist at the Eden. The interior was decorated with a contemporary decor that complemented the modern kitchen and features. (Ahhh … let’s just say underfloor heating…) Take a look!
I loved the leather chairs in the living room, especially the one on the right. The rug was a super soft and neutral grey color, it’s just my camera that made it look two tone. The kitchen was beautiful! I enjoyed making our cappuccino in the mornings, and we ate at home several nights simply because the apartment was so comfortable.
Although a studio space by design, the Eden has frosted glass sliding doors that can be opened in three different ways or closed to separate the living and dining area from the bedroom. This was a great feature in a compact space, especially since my husband is always up later than me.
Staying in a new neighborhood in London we walked down new streets each day, experienced the atmosphere and life in different areas and enjoyed feeling at home at the Eden. That’s really what it felt like … a hidden little home right in the center of London! We enjoyed strolling to see West End on a busy Friday night, looking at the Christmas tree in Covent Garden in the quiet piazza late one night and seeing the difference on a sunny Sunday morning when the shops and cafes were packed. London is such an intense and rich city, and it was a pleasure to discover so much more of it during our recent visit!
What do you love most about London? Please do share – I look forward to hearing!