The London Lunch

It’s cold out. Really cold—it feels like -29°C (-20°F) with the windchill. All I want is to be able to go outside and not feel my nose hairs freeze. Is that too much to ask?

On days like today, memories of summer feel a bit like a fever dream. Did that really happen? Will it ever come back? I start to crave sunshine, fresh air, leisurely strolls, and heat. I know I’m not alone. So how about a post on picnicking to remind us that winter doesn’t last forever?

I love a good picnic lunch, especially when traveling. It’s even better when you can go to a market to find fresh goodies and then grab a spot with a beautiful vista to relax and eat. A bit of bread, fruit, meats, and, if possible, some wine can make me just as happy as a fancy multi-course restaurant meal. 

westminsterandthames

Picnicking doesn’t have to farm-to-table fresh to be good, though. When S and I were in London, we knew that we’d have to watch our spending with meals. Sticker shock is very real there for just about everything. We spent one day walking through the city, with no real purpose other than seeing stuff. I had a map app on my phone that showed us nearby attractions, so we let that guide us and didn't make any concrete plans. 

Around lunchtime, we found ourselves standing in front of Big Ben. As we were squinting into the sun, looking at the beautiful clock tower, the hunger started. It was as if my stomach was saying “Oh, look at the time. Lunch. Now.”

bigbensilhouette

I took note, but we kept walking and decided to keep an eye out for somewhere to eat. We went past the Palace of Westminster, detoured into a little park overlooking the Thames, went to Westminster Abbey, and just continued our wandering along back streets until my stomach piped up and reminded me that it was now past lunchtime. Things were going to get hangry soon. 

 Big Ben says it's 20 past hungry.

Big Ben says it's 20 past hungry.

No one really likes hangry me, so we got more serious about food.

We hadn’t really seen a good place to stop and eat, though. Then I had a brilliant idea. Just in front of Big Ben is Westminster station with a very small Tesco (a British grocery chain) Express. Surely they would have something for us to eat. And that little park behind Palace of Westminster, Victoria Tower Gardens? It would be perfect for a picnic. In fact, we saw a bunch of people having lunch on the grass. We also saw people napping, a photoshoot, and someone working out.  

 
 The Thames from Victoria Tower Gardens

The Thames from Victoria Tower Gardens

We walked back to the Tesco and found out that not only do they have food, they have a lunch deal: £3 for a main, drink, and snack. A deal! 

We quickly learned that we while we thought we had discovered something great, just about everyone else in London already knew about it. A good chunk of them were in line in front of us. It snaked through the tiny store and out the front door. 

The line moved quickly, though. Everything that was part of the £3 lunch deal was marked clearly and there were lots of choices. Before we knew it, we both had a wrap, chips and drink in-hand.

 Victoria Tower and the view from our picnic spot. Apparently its a decent sort for half-naked nap, too!

Victoria Tower and the view from our picnic spot. Apparently its a decent sort for half-naked nap, too!

We made our way back to Victoria Tower Gardens and picked a prime people-watching spot under a shady tree. It was like we found this perfect, quiet little haven with a lovely view in the midst of the London craziness. It wasn’t our most expensive meal, our healthiest meal, or even our tastiest meal. But it was, by far, my favourite meal in London.