A Morning Spent Exploring King’s Cross, London

A Morning Spent Exploring King’s Cross, London

It’s no secret that I love London. Despite working there Monday to Friday, I will always jump at the chance to spend some of my downtime there. Wandering the streets of the City is one of our favourite things to do; nipping down side roads and alleyways to find out where they lead and what treasures they hide. It’s been a while since we last spent a day exploring the City, so when I was challenged to explore King’s Cross and find out what it had to offer, it seemed like the perfect opportunity!

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Last London Date Night In My 20s ft Thistle Hotel Barbican

Last London Date Night In My 20s ft Thistle Hotel Barbican

I’ve said it before and I’m sure I’ll say it another few thousand times in my lifetime, but I LOVE LONDON.

 

Despite living most of my life in Essex, my heart has always belonged to the great City I was born in and to the streets my ancestors walked along in centuries long passed by. (Weirdly, back in the 1800s, relatives of mine actually lived on the same small London road I now work on, although the building they called home was long since lost to the war).

 

Thankfully, Ben feels the exact same way about The Big Smoke and despite us both working there, of a weekend we can often be found walking its streets, retracing steps on routes we know so well and rediscovering new nooks, crannies and alleyways we’ve never seen before.

 

So, when I was offered the opportunity to stay in London for the night and review the Thistle Hotel Barbican just prior to my 30th birthday, it seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to have a final London date night whilst I was in my 20s…

 

It was a lovely warm and sunny August Friday evening and I more or less skipped out of the office as I was so excited about the night that lay ahead.

 

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After checking in with the front desk (who were really friendly and made me feel so welcome!) I headed up to the room. Me being typical me, I managed to get confused and ended up having to ask a staff member to help me find my room – I’m honestly the worst at finding my way around places. I’ve been known to get lost in department stores! However, once being pointed in the right direction, I swiped my keycard and let myself in.

 

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Immediately upon entering you walk into the bedroom area which has a huge bed (Ben and I were miles apart while we slept!) as well as a desk with mirror above – perfect for doing my make-up as it had plenty of plug sockets directly underneath it so I could charge my phone and straighten my hair all without moving an inch.

 

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From the bedroom you walked along a wall of wardrobes to this little study and seating area which had another desk area, a second TV, a sofa and a little tub chair with side table.

 

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The bottle of champagne waiting for us upon arrival was a nice surprise too – I sent a photo of it to Ben as I was so touched and he replied immediately telling me not to drink it before he got there. As if I would…

 

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Then we have the bathroom – and what a beauty of a bathroom it was! Good size bath with shower over, his-n-hers sinks with mirrors above, high quality tiled flooring and walls, and an assortment of complementary items (which I didn’t actually try and I’m kicking myself for now!)

 

Having explored the room and taken the obligatory photos, I switched on my Spotify and started getting ready for the night ahead while I waited for Ben to arrive.

 

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I opted for my ripped faux-leather trousers and ox-blood vest top from Lily Lulu Fashion, my Matalan leopard print earrings (which I’ve had for nearly 10 years now!) and a slick of Rockalily lipstick, my absolute favourite.

 

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Once boyo had arrived, we poured ourselves a glass of bubbly and set about celebrating our final London date night before I turned the big 3-0.

 

Something I have to point out here, because I think it’s a pretty important point, is that the location of this hotel is surprisingly good. When I looked at it on the map I thought it may be a little out of the way, but we walked from here to The Oxo Tower on the Southbank for dinner and it didn’t take too long at all, and I was wearing heels! It’s also only a short stroll from nearly tube access, so you can easily find your way around the City whilst using this hotel as your base.

 

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After an evening of good food, fine wine and great company, we had a wander around the streets of London after dark before heading back to the room and collapsing into the giant bed. We were exhausted! I had planned to make use of their bath as I never find time to chill out and relax in a sea of bubbles at home but I was too tired to even do that!

 

The following morning we were up bright and early as we had an engagement party to get to for 1pm, so we ventured down to the restaurant for a cooked breakfast.

 

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I’ll be honest, I’m always a little wary of food when it’s served buffet style rather than being cooked in the kitchen, as it can often be a little ‘lifeless’ after having sat under heat lamps waiting for someone to claim it, but this was actually really nice! The staff were also really helpful and the dining room was spotless too, which is always nice to see.

 

All in all, I can’t fault our stay here. The room was comfortable and clean, the staff were friendly and helpful, and after a peek into the spa area it seems there were plenty of excellent facilities on offer for those staying there.

 

Thank you for having us Thistle Hotels, we loved it!

 

 

Penny xx

 

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* Our stay here was provided free of charge for review purposes but, as always, all comments and opinions are my completely honest and my own (and Ben’s!) *

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Sleeping In A Prison Cell – Clink 78

Sleeping In A Prison Cell – Clink 78

As part of our London Date Weekend Ben and I were treated by the lovely people at Clink 78 to a stay in one of their converted prison cells. I’d heard about these rooms before and loving anything a little bit different and quirky, I placed it firmly on my To Do list, so having the opportunity to stay there was very exciting.

 

The first thing I want to say is that if the idea of a hostel turns you off, please carry on reading – Clink 78 didn’t feel at all like a hostel to me. Although I was excited about staying there, having never stayed in a hostel before I was a little worried – I like having my own space and the thought of having communal areas with other people played on my mind a little. I had images floating around my head from Holidays-Gone-Bad-style TV programmes, but thankfully all my fretting was unwarranted.

 

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Externally, the building is hugely impressive. An old court house (hence the old prison cells) it has a rich and varied history having seen band The Clash trialled for shooting a racing pigeon, and even having the one and only Charles Dickens working within it’s walls as a scribe – quite an impressive claim I think you’ll agree!

 

As soon as I walked through the (security coded) doors into the reception, all my hostel-related fears were banished. The space was light, clean and airy with communal seating areas where people could gather to pass the time, and doors leading off to various other areas that residents could make use of – an internet room, dining area, showers and toilets (which were spotlessly clean I have to add!)

 

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The roof of the reception space is domed with beautiful decorative glass, and quotes about travelling and making friends run around the top of the walls.

After checking in (which was really quick and easy with seamless customer service from the staff) we ventured underground to find our room for the night.

 

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As soon as we walked downstairs I was blown away. Although this particular section of the hostel has had the old prison cell doors removed, you can still clearly see the old personality of the building and how it was utilised in it’s former life. I’m a great believer that if a building is converted, some shadow of it’s past should remain. Clink 78 have done this perfectly, adjusting the way this section of the building is used, but the instant you step into the space you can feel it’s history.

 

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Having ventured down to our room we were greeted with an original prison door with all the original fittings (although obviously these are no longer functional for security reasons – access is via keycard). After pulling open the huge, heavy metal door we were greeted with a prison cell as you would expect it to look, although it was definitely smaller than I imagined. Inside there were two bunk beds, a shelf and the old toilet (which has now been repurposed into an uplit table).

 

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This is the view as you lay on the bottom bunk (which was very comfortable, I have to say).

 

As I lay in this exact position, I thought about the size of the room, the tiny window through which there was no view, and the solitude if you were there alone, unable to walk out of your own free will, and when the lights are turned off at night. Although I was here to review the room as a place to stay for leisure, I was very aware that this was a real prison cell at some point, and the thought of spending a long period of time, locked up for the majority of hours of the day, in a space of this size with none of my creature comforts or the people I love, well, it was quite sobering.

 

With a variety of room styles available, Clink 78 can provide accommodation for anything for single parties to large groups which can be housed in their dorms. The accommodation was clean, tidy and the staff were extremely helpful. With prices starting from just £13 per bed, per night, or a stay in a prison cell from £50 per night, I definitely recommend this as somewhere worth staying in London. Just a short walk from King’s Cross it’s ideal for venturing around the City and is somewhere truly special and unique.

 

Check out their website and be sure to add this venue to your To Do list – I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!

 

 

What do you think about spending a night in an old prison cell? Yay or Nay?

 

Penny xx

 

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* In Association with Clink 78 *

Sleeping In A Prison Cell – Clink 78

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London Date Weekend

London Date Weekend

If you know anything about me, then you’ll know how much I love London. I’ve always felt drawn to the City and just being within it’s “walls” makes my soul happy, so the fact that Ben is also a big fan of the place is great for me, as it means he’s happy to spend a day wandering around, exploring and just taking in our surroundings there. In fact, one of our first dates was spent aimlessly walking it’s streets while the sun beat down on us – we got so lucky with the weather that day, it was just glorious.

 

So, when I was offered the chance to review a few London venues, I thought it made sense to have ourselves a little London Date Weekend, so we did! And what a weekend we had!

 

Unfortunately, this time round the weather gods weren’t so good to us and as we left my house to walk to the station it was raining – I was definitely not dressed for the weather and all the time I spent straightening my hair turned out to be a waste – I was damp through!

 

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Me being the absolute brainbox that I am, I somehow managed to lose my umbrella by leaving it on the train, so when we arrived in London and began our walk to our lodgings for the night, we continued to get rained on. Cue curly hair for Penny.

 

We were spending the night at Clink 78, a hostel which is converted from an old court house. A separate dedicated post about this will be going online in the coming week but we spent the evening in one of the old prison cells and it was absolutely brilliant!

 

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As we arrived at the hostel with a little time to spare, we decided to kill a little time by taking shelter from the rain in a pub just across the road. It was one of those good old fashioned British pubs where it’s full of regulars who go in there all the time and all know each other.

 

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The other brilliant thing about this pub was that I bought a pint and a large glass of white wine and it only cost me £6.10! I’d usually pay more than that just for the wine in London!

 

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After our bargain drinks we jumped on the tube and headed over to Covent Garden for a spot of lunch at Shake Shack. I’d been invited to the launch night of their new Westfield Stratford branch but couldn’t make it, so I was very excited to see if all the rave reviews I’d been hearing were right. (Keep an eye out for a dedicated post on this in the next few days too!)

 

After lunch here we nipped to Riley’s Sports Bar just near Trafalgar Square to watch the football. With multiple screens showing an array of different sports and games there is something for everyone here and the place was packed. As soon as the game was over we rushed back to Clink 78 to get changed as I’d booked us in to The Corinthia for dinner that evening.

 

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I hadn’t been to The Corinthia before, but as it’s a 5-star place I knew it was going to be nice, I just didn’t realise how nice – it’s absolutely stunning and is like walking into another world. This right here is how the other half live it seems!

 

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As we were a little early for our table, we settled ourselves in the bar and ordered a cocktail. The barman was really helpful and it was a pleasure to watch him making the drinks – you can really tell the difference between someone who is trained in the art and someone who just knocks up a few of Sex On The Beach’s on a weekend.

 

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This meal was a deal I’d found on Bookatable so I was fully expecting to get a reduced service to reflect the low cost we were paying, but this wasn’t the case at all. There was a good selection on the menu to choose from and the staff were attentive, polite and helpful. Then, something beautiful happened…

 

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A flight of champagne. A glass each of three different types of champagne. You should have seen the joy on my face! Each of the glasses came with a little paper label around it’s stem telling you what you were drinking.

 

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I know this is really silly, but for someone like me who doesn’t live this kind of lifestyle, something like this is really exciting and adds that little bit of magic to the night.

 

Now, on to the food. I’m not even going to try describing it because I can’t, but have a look at this little lot…

 

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Starters

 

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Main Courses

 

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Dessert

 

All three courses were incredible and the portions were large enough that by the time it got to halfway through the dessert I didn’t think I could manage another bite for fear of exploding.

 

After dinner, both full to the brim, we decided a little night-time walk would be a good idea to burn off some calories. As I said earlier, I am completely in love with London, but the beauty of London at night is breathtaking.

 

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We wandered past the Houses of Parliament…

 

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… down past Buckingham Palace…

 

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… through St James’ Park (which was pitch black – no lights at all!) …

 

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… and spotted this strange non-moving figure in a window of a building near Downing Street. We assume it’s either a mannequin or a spy…

 

The next morning we left the hostel bright and early to go and find some breakfast and, as we always seem to do, we headed for the South Bank.

 

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Located just a little further down from the London Eye there is a little bank of restaurants, so we nipped into Giraffe.

 

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I opted for burger and chips with a side of onion rings – my second dose of burger and chips in one weekend, but it was good!

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Drinks-wise I went for a lovely lemonade with mint leaves whilst Ben went for a mango, banana and strawberry smoothie.

 

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I had to laugh when I saw the ‘swizzler stick’ that came with his drink! So masculine!

 

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A quick dash across the bridge and through Trafalgar Square and we were heading along Regents Street to ICEBAR LONDON.

 

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A separate blog post will follow all about our time spent here too but, as always, I really enjoyed it. I think this was the 3rd or 4th time I’d been there but was Ben’s first time, so it was really nice to see his reaction to it. Because of the lighting inside it’s not too easy to take photos, but I managed to take a few so will share all of these with you too in another blog post following soon.

 

Overall I had a brilliant weekend. It was so nice to spend some time in my favourite place in the world with someone who is very special to me, making memories and laughing pretty much non-stop. I can honestly say that when I returned to work after this weekend of fun and frolics I had a serious case of the Back To Work Blues!

 

Keep checking back over the coming week to read about my reviews of Clink 78, Shake Shack and ICEBAR LONDON. You can also be updated on new updates via my Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Bloglovin’ or by putting your email address into the subscription sign-up box on the right-hand side of this blog.

 

 

Have you ever visited any of these venues?

 

Penny xx

 

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* In Collaboration with PR/Brand *

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City Marque’s Serviced London Apartment

As you know, K and I are pretty busy people which means that we don’t get a huge amount of time together, therefore when we do get some quality time, it really means a lot to me.
I was lucky enough to be chosen by City Marque to take part in their ‘100 Bloggers, 100 Nights’ campaign which, as the name suggests, allowed 100 bloggers across the country to stay in one of their serviced apartments for a night.  As we had something to do in London the following day, it seemed like a perfect excuse to treat K to a night away from home!
We were allocated a studio apartment in their City location which is slap-bang opposite Liverpool Street Station – a very convenient place to be when you’re in London!
The apartment building itself is very discreet so it took us a couple of minutes to find, but entry is simple with a personal security code allocated to you for access through the main door, then a second code to get you into your apartment.  These codes are different for every person and are changed all the time, so it’s very secure.
Upon entering the room, we were greeted with some little touches that made it feel special – our towels shaped into swans with little heart-shaped chocolates, plus there was a box of Belgian chocolates on the table.  Lovely!
The apartment itself was compact but modern, clean and offering all the facilities you could hope for.  As it’s an apartment, it’s fully kitted out with kitchen appliances and tools, so you can cook for yourself if you want to, plus a TV, Wifi, dining table, iron, sofa … it’s like a little mini home.  In fact, I said to K that if I had to live in a studio flat, I would be happy living there.
To make the most of the space, the bed folded up into the wall behind the sofa and the bedding was stored in a tall cupboard next to it.  When the bed is down, the sofa fits nicely underneath it and you have storage shelves either side which – huge bonus – had plug sockets in them so you can charge your phone overnight.  Little things like this make me happy!
We settled down in the apartment and shared a bottle of bubbly while we watched the rugby and I got ready to go out for dinner.  The only mirror in the apartment was in the bathroom which was a bit of a pain as obviously there was no plug socket in there, nor was there one in the hallway, so I had to sit on the floor and use the barely-there reflection of the oven door to straighten my hair.  There’s a few places in the apartment that a mirror could have been put and this would definitely be an improvement I’d recommend they made.
After going for dinner and wandering around London for 45-minutes we went back to our room to watch Match Of The Day and rest our heads for the night.  The bed had an orthapaedic mattress so was quite hard, but I prefer a hard surface to sleep on than a soft one and while it might not be to everyone’s taste, it has to be considered that this is a quality mattress to have.
Overall, I enjoyed our night in the City Marque City of London Apartment and when you consider it costs £92 for a night and budget hotels in a similar location will set you back at least £140 (prices correct as at today) then this is a MASSIVE bargain.  Your own little apartment, with kitchen and all, for considerably less than other hotels nearby!
Next time I have an overnight stay in London, I will definitely be staying with City Marque.
LilliesandLove xx
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* This stay was provided free of charge but, as always, opinions are 100% my own (and K’s!) *

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A Penny For Them uses affiliate links occasionally. Affiliate links means that sometimes if you click through to a website and register or purchase something, I get a commission from that sale at no extra cost to you. However, rest assured that all opinions and reviews are 100% honest, open and entirely my own.