‘When a man is tired of London, he’s tired of life’
Samuel Johnson, London (1738)
Although I can’t remember the first time that Laura and I visited London, there exists a family video of us as toddlers, tottering around Covent Garden. We’re busy scattering the pigeons, bopping to the street musicians and eating ice cream. We were obviously big fans, even at the age of 2.
London is a city we’ve grown up with and one we’ll never tire of.
So, when we were invited by the London Eye to pen our very own digital love letter to the city – sharing our favourite views of it and using the very apt hashtag #EyeLoveLondon – we were excited to get involved. Who doesn’t love London? (First time buyers, hold that thought). On Valentine’s Day evening this year, the clever folk at the London Eye will be lighting the landmark up in increasingly pink hues, as more and more people submit their own love letters to the city.
You can submit your own digital love letter with an image on social media using the hashtag #EyeLoveLondon. How very romantic.
Our only hesitation with sending a digital love letter, however, was that neither of us are a lover of heights. In fact, we turn into anxious – sometimes hysterical – messes when thrust anywhere higher than 1m above ground level.
Casting my mind back, this particular affliction began on top of Tokyo’s tallest building. Looking out across the city’s sea of densely packed buildings, I felt the ground move. It was swaying, rocking and bobbing. It probably didn’t help that we had experienced a fairly large earthquake just a few days before, but I immediately launched into panic mode. Dropping to my hands and knees, and with one eye shut, I navigated my way back inside the building. I looked like I had lost my mind and to be honest, I think I probably had. After that experience, I’ve avoided heights altogether. So it goes that when I’m in London, I like to keep my feet firmly on the ground.
Irrational phobias in mind, we therefore decided to explore and create our own, floor-level, views of London. These views were those smaller, more discrete snapshots of everyday life in the city – views that continue to make us fall in love with London, regardless of its weather, house prices and tube strikes.
Here’s our guide to the most colourful and quirky spots in London – places full of colour, creativity and charm.
Notting Hill needs no introduction; it even has a BAFTA award-winning film named after it. Surprisingly, however, it was a neighbourhood that was fairly run-down until the 1980s, before its transformation into one of London’s most affluent suburbs. The draw for us, however, is less its boutique shops and swanky postcode, and instead its views of row upon row of colourful houses; London’s very own pastel coloured heaven.
Having a penchant for anything pink (remember the bright pink Pashley bike that I got for my 30th?), we were determined to go on a quest to find some of the loveliest pink houses in and around Notting Hill. It also seemed fitting given the romantic Valentine’s concept of the#EyeLoveLondon campaign. Armed with an extensive list of the neighbourhood’s quirkiest houses, we therefore set-off for an afternoon of pink house hunting.
Stepping off the tube, and after quite a number of wrong turns and small squabbles, we rounded the corner to see a tiny, tiny, pink house. Hiding behind two large vans, squashed between two towering houses, and overshadowed by scaffolding, this little pink house practically glowed against the grey London sky.
We were told after our pilgrimage to this house, that this is actually an Airbnb rental (hallelujah), meaning you can enjoy the delights of the little pink house from the inside too.
For us, this is a prime example of those unexpected, quirky views of London that make us love it so much. This small house, sat proudly amongst its much larger neighbours, brought us (and the lengthy queue of delighted Japanese tourists behind us) so much happiness.
Portobello Road (Notting Hill)
Crammed full of vibrantly coloured houses – reminiscent of seaside towns like Brighton- Portobello Road is a bustling strip of Notting Hill that never fails to make us smile. The perfect place for a weekend jaunt – hunting for bargains amongst the stalls and shops – Portobello is London’s antiques, collectables and bric-a-brac Mecca.
Again, it’s these multi-coloured views of London that we adore: stolen glimpses into nooks and crannies, piles of floral teapots and boxes of brass antiques.
For those looking for a distinctive interior to admire, whilst in addition settling down for a delicious afternoon tea, we’d highly recommend Sketch – based just off Regent Street, Mayfair. Based in a converted 18th century building, spanning two floors, this feels less like a place to grab a bite to eat and more like an entirely different world (lit up in dusky pinks).
The Gallery offers its visitors an avant-garde pink sanctuary to enjoy their tea in (our favourite room), whilst the Glade offers a magical woodland feel. We wouldn’t usually mention the toilet situation, but Sketch’s toilets are their crowning jewel. Individual, egg-shaped moulds house each toilet, whilst the multi-coloured roof makes you feel like you’ve stepped into a disco. We may never say it again, but it’s almost worth visiting this place, just to use its facilities.
One of London’s oldest department stores – the Tudor-clad Liberty -never fails to make us smile. Our favourite view of this building is from the florist’s entrance, where colourful bunches of flowers fill the doorway. We’ve stopped by this spot countless times: grabbing a bunch of flowers to brighten our day on our way back to the train station.
Home to London’s hipsters (including our best friend), Shoreditch in London’s East End offers some of the most quirkiest and colourful sights in London. Here you’ll find some of our favourite views of the city, where creativity, vibrance and culture reign.
Shoreditch is also home to plenty of cafes, bars, markets and individual shops, and is another fantastic place to spend a weekend. Our favourite place to eat by far is Dinerama. We could eat literally everything there. For any keen Instagrammers, Shoreditch is also a great place to snap some feed-worthy photos and there are plenty of street art tours to show you some of the best pieces in town.
From William Wordsworth, whose favourite view of London was the early morning scene over Westminster Bridge, to sky scraper enthusiasts who fall in love with London from high above, there are endless ways to see our incredible capital. For us, it’s the colourful, smaller views of London that we love the most. Those everyday surprises – like egg-shaped toilets or miniature pink houses – are what keep us coming back to this city.
But perhaps this year we should challenge our phobia and try to see more of London from above. It might even make us fall in love with the city all over again. The London Eye, we’re coming for you (gulp).
If you’re still looking for the perfect Valentine’s Day date, then you can book Champagne Experiences and Cupid’s Capsules at the London Eye. To find out more, take a look here. Also, don’t forget to help turn the London Eye pink this Valentine’s Day by posting your favourite view of London and using the #EyeLoveLondon. It’s going to look magical!