It’s fair to say that I thought about my 30th birthday a lot in the lead up to it. I had lots of thoughts about turning 30, but also spent quite a bit of time thinking about how best to celebrate. It seemed like a birthday worth marking in some way, but I wasn’t sure whether to have a big party or use it as an excuse to go somewhere exciting. As it was, we left it quite last minute to arrange anything but I couldn’t really have asked for a better weekend. It also reconfirmed for me that if my twenties were about working out the things I enjoy, then my thirties should be about embracing those things as that’s exactly what we spent the weekend doing.
I really like food. I don’t have a super-refined palette and I’m not sure I can give myself the title ‘foodie’ but I do really enjoy tasty food. And there is so much choice of places to try in London that I knew we’d be able to try a range of different things whilst away.
On our first night we went to Mercato Mayfair, which is basically a food hall and series of bars inside an old deconsecrated church. As a result, providing you don’t mind eating and drinking in a church the surroundings are beautiful. I’m a big fan of food halls as it’s great to have a choice of things to eat, and if you’re in a group it doesn’t restrict anyone to one type of food. As it was, we both opted for the ame thing this time, choosing pasta, followed by some delicious ice cream. It’s a fun experience and I’d definitely recommend it, but you might find it difficult to find a seat. Although on their website they say you don’t need to reserve for fewer than five people, we still struggled to find some space for the two of us so if you know when you’re going to go, I’d recommend making a booking.
We went to Rosa’s Thai as a group and it was very enjoyable. We had a group with a mix of different spice tolerances but everyone seemed to find something they enjoyed and were happy with. We went to the Carnaby Street branch which was a little bit tight on space, but it still didn’t stop us from enjoying the meal. The tapas bar opposite also looked great – we went there for a drink beforehand and everyone was commenting on how nice the food looked.
The unexpectedly good meal came from Flesh and Buns. I say unexpectedly because I generally wouldn’t opt for a Japanese restaurant but the friends we went with are into their food so I knew it would be good. The pre-theatre menu was really good value and between the four of us we picked a mix of things from across the menu allowing us to try a range of veggie and meat options, including sushi, bao buns and a rice dish. They also did S’mores for dessert which were delicious. I mainly wanted them for the experience of cooking the marshmallow over the flame, but it was really tasty (as well as a bit messy) and I discovered that I can definitely get behind flavoured marshmallows.
Our final treat before returning home were some pancakes from Where the Pancakes Are in Battersea Power Station. I had a ‘Dutchie Pancake’, which was nice (the topping was delicious) but a bit stodgy, whereas my husband went for a sweet pancake stack with pears and caramel. We also had the gingerbread hot chocolate as it was a recommended item on the menu and I can see why.
The main reason we opted to go to London was to go to the Disney100 exhibition. I’m a big fan of Disney animated films, so was excited by the prospect of the exhibition although we didn’t really know what to expect. Having been, I really enjoyed it but I would say that it is aimed at adults rather than children. Quite a few people had taken younger children who were dressed up in their favourite Disney outfits, and who seemed to get bored quite quickly given there are a lot of info boards. There are interactive elements, but quite often there was a bit of a wait to make use of them. I also know some people who went who’d expected it to be more immersive (I guess more like the Harry Potter Studio Tour). It’s definitely an exhibition rather than anything like that, but personally I really enjoyed seeing a lot of the concept art and drawings, and learning more about the storyboarding and characterisations.
I also couldn’t plan to go to London without a trip to the theatre, although the prices of tickets seem to have increased dramatically! We went to see The Play That Goes Wrong, largely on recommendation by my brother and because we’ve enjoyed the televised ‘The Goes Wrong Show’, but also because we managed to get cheaper tickets. It didn’t disappoint! Having seen the TV show I could definitely anticipate some of the jokes and what was about to go wrong, but it was really funny and I was laughing out loud throughout. Definitely different to the musical that I’d usually try and see, but I can certainly recommend it.
The other thing that I was keen to do was to go to the Fantasy exhibition at the British Library which I’m very glad that we made the time for. It was a really well curated exhibition and I’d recommend it to anyone with an interest in fantasy books, film or games. I didn’t necessarily learn anything about the genre, but it was interesting to see things like the original notes for Monty Python and the Holy Grail, or to learn that Tolkien adapted his description of Golum based on an illustration produced for a translated version. It’s also given me some more books to add to my ‘to read’ list. There’s also a free Malorie Blackman exhibition running at the moment at the British Library which I would highly recommend, regardless of whether you also plan to see the fantasy exhibition. I’m a big Malorie Blackman fan anyway, but there were some really important messages about representation in literature.
Other things that worked well for us
We stayed in a small apartment in Vauxhall as we managed to get it for much cheaper than we were expecting to pay for accommodation across a weekend in London. It worked out well for us as it was really well located, giving us good access to the tube but also to places to walk to. On our final morning we walked to Battersea Power Station, and on the day we’d arrived we walked into central London along the Thames via Southbank so we could see the London Eye, Big Ben and other sites. Although I think a few of our friends thought we were mad for the amount of walking we did do, I think it’s a great way to see more. A half hour walk gives you access to seeing so much more than a crowded but shorter tube journey. It also meant I could tick off various bookshops that I wanted to see en route between different areas.
So in summary, I ate a lot, walked a lot, went to a lot of bookshops and experienced magic at various exhibitions, as well as seeing a number of friends. It was everything I could have hoped for from my 30th birthday, and I’m looking forward to celebrating in other ways over the course of this year. Hello new decade!
How would you celebrate a ‘big birthday’?