Yes, London is expensive, if only because of the poor Canadian exchange rate. So, I’m going to try and give you prices of things where I can, because that is always a concern when traveling. When we were there in June, our basic rule of thumb with any purchase was to double the price. For example, if something was 10 pounds, it would be $20 Canadian. That isn’t exactly what the exchange was, but it was close and easy math on the go. When doing this, it is always better to round up than down to avoid disappointment when the bills come after you get home.
Without going into a lot of specifics, we found the the average glass of wine or a pint of beer was 4-5 pounds, bottle of wine was 15-20 pounds and a bottle of sparkling wine started at around 23 pounds.
Our first night in London, we ate at an Italian restaurant called The Spaghetti House, on Duke Street (near Oxford Street and the department store Selfridges). The food was very good and average priced. Greg and I shared an appetizer, we each got an entree and shared a bottle of wine and dessert. In the end, our bill was around 65 pounds, which was about $120 Canadian.
Around town, there are lots of grab and go places, like Pret A Manger where you can get decent, healthier food options. Also, places like Tesco (local grocer) have grab and go items like prepared sandwiches, drink and snack starting at 3 pounds!
On our last night, we met up with friends who happened to be in London, as well. We wanted to splurge and decided on Mr. Chow; a famous restaurant known for its celebrity clients, old-school service and delicious Chinese food. The food was very good, but we found the service to be aloof and pretentious. Also, the bill came to about 365 pounds. Given the exchange, we found it was not value for the money spent. Sorry, Mr. Chow, no hard feelings but we won’t be back.
The Monkey Puzzle –
I couldn’t go on any further without mentioning this place. The Monkey Puzzle is a cute, family run pub in Paddington (near Paddington Station). We ended up going there after one of my longest childhood friends, Andrea, agreed to travel two hours by train into London to meet us for lunch. In our effort to find a place to grab a “quick bite” and catch up on the past twenty plus years of not seeing each other, we stumbled upon The Monkey Puzzle. Well, that lunch turned into dinner and a few too many bottles of bubbles and pints of beer. After 9 hours we bid adieu to The Monkey Puzzle.
To the staff of The Monkey Puzzle, thank you for your gracious hospitality. To Andrea, it was awesome seeing you. It will be a memory Greg and I will not forget.
Is Paradise too strong a word? I don’t think so. Ladies, and gents, if you are looking for anything you will find it in London.
Now, I know I mentioned the poor exchange rate, but I found a deal! I have loved my purses and shoes and for years I have been dreaming about a particular Louis Vuitton purse to add to my collection. For those of you who love Louis, it’s the Delightful MM.
Leading up to our trip, I did some research on what this bag would cost in London vs. in Canada. Long story short, I got the purse & a make-up bag and I was able to save about $700 Canadian by buying it in London!
How is this possible? Well, right off the bat, it was priced lower in London, even with the Pound exchange rate. Also, as a non-resident, I was able to claim a percentage of the VAT.
What is VAT? VAT stands for Value Added Tax. This is a 20% tax that is applied to all goods and services, of which, a percentage can be reclaimed by non-residents on certain items. My bag was one of those items! Plus, Harrods has a VAT office on the 2nd floor where they are able to process the paper work in order to reclaim the VAT your entitled to.
**Good Tip – When your shopping make sure to ask the vendor for a VAT 407 form. For those items that qualify for a VAT refund, the vendor should be able to provide you with the appropriate form. To get your VAT refund, you can either claim it at the airport or mail it. Keep all your receipts and ensure that you don’t pack those items your seeking a VAT refund, as the customs officer at the airport (in London) can ask to see them. For more official information, click here.
Now, I got my new Louis at Harrods. I had always heard of the legendary Harrods, but c’mon! This is a shopping dream! Harrods is not a department store, its an experience unto itself. The fabulous architecture is only complimented by the stunning interiors, outstanding service and multitude of selection.
While at Harrods, we had lunch at Pizzeria & Canti Prosecco Bar. This is one of many dining options in Harrods where we had one of the best stone baked oven pizzas. We shared a simple margarita pizza, that was done to perfection, a rocket (what Londoners call arugula) salad and a bottle of Rose Prosecco… delicious! To give you a further sense on meal pricing, this cost about 60 pounds.
One final London post to go… and it’s a GOOD one! Especially, if you are a Downton Abby fan!!!