My first trip to London in 2020 filled with fitness, friends and lots and lots of brunch
This is a funny one, 2020 has been such a weird year. I cannot believe it is coming to the end of October and we are still in the covid-19 pandemic. Covid-19 has stopped us from travelling, or has made it much more tricky to explore different places. With 2 weeks quarantines in many countries when you go abroad, it has made it difficult for me to decide to go on holiday abroad. However in September (a week before the 2nd wave precautions came in) I decided to go to London for a long awaited trip which I would treat as my ’holiday’ this year.
Those who know me will know I love to go visit my friends who live in London. Usually making a trip about every 2-3 months before the pandemic hit. I love to stay and catch up with different friends each trip; plus it gives me the opportunity to go to some of my favorite or new fitness classes in one of the studios which is not accessible to me here in small town Cheltenham.
At the beginning of the year I had booked coach tickets to go to London in late February/early March. The pandemic then hit and coaches got cancelled. National express kindly amended my journey for this time round. I was thinking about getting the train as I believed it would be safer, however I felt very safe on the coach to London. I left early Thursday afternoon where there were only about 10 people on the coach. We were all spaces out and asked to sit on the window seat. Temperature checks were taken before entering the coach and everyone has to wear their mask through four the journey. The toilet could be used (thankfully, again those who know me know I need to pee a lot!) and was clean with soap provided. On this coach journey, it was probably the longest time I’ve ever had to wear an mask however after a while it hardly bothered me and I could happily sit, listen to my music and fall asleep with it on.
On arriving into Victoria coach station I had like usual booked to do a Barry’s Bootcamp class at their SW1 location just located round the corner from the station. Walking up through Eccleston Yards as I approached the studio, that familiar feeling felt like home. I missed it so much. Entering with a mask, the staff were just as nice even if they were shielded by plastic screens and again they took a temperature check. Changing rooms and showers were open (even though the showers said they wouldn’t be open on the website) they however cannot provide you with a shower or sweat towel due to the Covid (they can now) , which was fine a I had brought my own.
During class, everyone is allocated one Treadmill and one floor spot each so there is no sharing. Also every other treadmill and Floor space is used so you are well socially distanced. There is 15 minutes between each class where the room is thoroughly cleaned. The cleanliness at Barrys has always been top notch and now they have special spray cleaners to all spray down the room. Knowing that the cleanliness at Barry’s even before Covid hit was on point really puts my trust into them.
OK so enough about the Covid procedures how was the work out? It was a Thursday so it was Ass and Abs class. I usually travel up on a Friday which is full body day. It was nice to do something different, using a mixture of weight and resistant bands on the floor. I haven’t ever done a class at Barrys using the bands so it was nice to try and really feel that ass burn. I was a little apprehensive about going to class as I hadn't done any running for about 3 months. It’s strange, I started lockdown by almost running every day outside in the countryside where my parents lived, however when I moved back into my house in Cheltenham I took more to doing aerobic exercises (aka dancing round my living room) and doing HIIT workouts plus yoga. I also started to walk everywhere. either way I hadn’t done any sort of running interval training in a very long time.
Looking back at my times doing Barrys Bootcamp, I have got myself up to sprinting on the treadmills at 12mph, but this was definitely not going to happen today. I took it easy and actually surprised myself, getting up to 10mph plus actually doing the inclines as instructed (I hate an incline and have a tendency to cheat). Classes are now 50 minutes instead of 1 hour to allow adequate cleaning and to make sure people don’t stay contained in the same place for a long period of time. when class finished, I was actually so surprised by my fitness and that I managed it and could have actually gone a little faster on my treadmill runs. It was a great workout to start my trip to London with. I grabbed my post workout shake, Matcha made in heaven and made my was to Parsons Green to see my good friend Sarah Smith (aka Smithy)
I saw Smithy a couple of months ago when she briefly came back to Cheltenham to visit her parents. However it was so nice to see her again in London. I usually stay one night with her and her boyfriend James where we can have a proper catch up and have some dinner together. However with it being Thursday and both of them working from home, Smithy and I decided to go out for dinner, so she could have a change of scenery and we could have a proper catch up with our full attention on each others words. We went for a short walk to this fairly new Lebanese restaurant on the New Kings Road called 'Eat Beirut' where we ordered lots of vegetarian meze bits and ate the biggest balls of falafel I have ever had! I had 2 and definitely couldn't eat another falafel ball after that! Smithy recently completed her Yoga Teacher Training and has started teaching around Parsons Green. I have know her since we were at Sixth Form (over 10 years ago) and I really feel our journeys together have shaped us into the people we are today. I love the fact that we have similar interests and outlooks on life.
After dinner I headed off to Finsbury Park where I was staying with my friends Chinny and Dani. Usually when I travel to London, I stay overnight he with different friends as it lets me spend more time with them, however with the COVID-19, it seemed safer and made more sense for me to just stay at one place and to see my friends out and about instead of going into many peoples houses. This did mean I got to really catch up with Chinny and Dani which was well needed as I hadn’t visited them in London since last year! I have been good friends with both of them since the beginning of 1st year of University (10 years ago) so I cherished the quality time we would get to spend together. That said, since I arrived Thursday night, both of them had to work from home on Friday so I made plans to go to a yoga class and to have brunch with my friend Gemma.
I met Gemma over in Goa during my 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training and we meet up and do a yoga class together occasionally when I come to London. Our teacher on our YTT, Alan was actually teaching in London at Digme Fitness studios so we booked in to do his class. Digme Fitness recently took over the Another Space Studio in Covent garden, which is where we went previously to do yoga. When we both entered, we had this weird of deja-vu. It was only when they told us it used to be Another Space it made sense. It was a lunch time class and there were only 4 people booked in including us, however it was nice to be taught by Alan and to give the more challenging postures a go. The class was only 45 minutes which was a little short for me, but the right amount for the others. I was expecting to have worked harder, but I think because of the length of the class, my practice didn't feel complete and also maybe because during lockdown my own practice has become quite strong. Anyway it was nice to do class together with our teacher, it was very different to doing 90 minute classes in the heat in Goa. Afterwards Gemma and I went for brunch at Avobar in Covent Garden. We went there last time, but it is a lovely setting and has great food. We are both big fans of brunch foods and again to have the time together to catch up.
Friday evening was spent with Chinny and Dani. I returned back to their flat from Covent Garden and they had just finished work, ready for Friday evening! We thought it was best not to travel which gave me and them the opportunity to go to a bar which they wanted to try out in Finsbury Park before having dinner at this amazing Indian place called Jai Krishna, where you can bring your own booze. The food was really cheap and authentic, great all round. Based on Indian street food, I love this type of food and it reminded me of being back in Goa. I love the nostalgic feelings I get when I get to go to yoga and then eat Indian food in the same day, reminding me of times on my Yoga Teacher Training (and the weather was warm too!). Having this time with Chinny and Dani gave me time to talk about everything that had been going on this year and how I had recently just quit my job at the gym, which I was unfairly treated at and how I now felt much happier, in control and confident in my own life. To have my friends agree and reaffirm my decisions is so reassuring and I am grateful to have them as my friends.
After a lovely Friday evening, Saturday I had planned to go to a yoga class at Psycle. During lockdown, a girl who I later became friends with through Instagram, Hannah, introduced (or influenced you could say) me to these Power Yoga flows on Psycle's IGTV taken by a Yoga teacher called Chris. When lockdown had ease, Hannah and I had agreed to meet up when I was next in London and to go to Chris’ class in real life and for brunch afterwards.
Unfortunately Hannah had hurt her back and was unable to do any yoga or weight bearing physical activity. I decided to still go to class myself and meet Hannah later for brunch. I was really looking forward to class as I have loved doing Chris’ yoga online. His classes are a good challenging level and has really helped me progress to build a strong Yoga practice. The other participants and I were waiting for Class to start when a member of staff announced that Chris was not able to make it and that Psycle where really sorry and would give us an extra credit as compensation. I was gutted however understood there was nothing they could do and it was nice of them to give us an extra credit to be used another time. I came to class wearing my Birkenstocks (since yoga is a barefoot thing) meaning I didn't have trainers to participate in different class going on at the same time. Also due to covid-19 with reduced number of spaces for class, they were all fully booked anyway. I had taken a photo and posted on my story beforehand about how excited I was to take Chris' class and tagged him in it. He later messaged me apologizing which was very sweet and I hope to take his class at some point soon in the future. This meant I had some time to kill before seeing Hannah who had a chiropractor appointment on Harley Street nearby. Since I was on Oxford Street, this was a great opportunity for me to go shopping! (talk about Aparigraha right?)
I haven't been shopping properly in a long time and over the years, spending most of my time wearing activewear I kind of forgot how to dress or how to go clothes shopping. After brunch Dani, came to meet me on Oxford Street as she had to return something to H&M and we spent some time browsing in Topshop. With the Covid-19 at this moment in time, we were able to still shop socially distanced with masks on and it actually felt quite normal. There was quite a bit of sale on which was great and it was so nice to go shopping with a friend tp ask for someone else's opinion on things (since I have no idea how to dress anymore). Changing rooms were closed meaning we had to just buy clothes and Dani kindly said that she would return anything that I didn't want when we tried it on at home.
Once Hannah had finished her chiropractor appointment, she took me to a restaurant for Brunch called Scarlett Green which is part of the Daisy Green Australian restaurant chain. It was the exact type of place I love to go for brunch with a great menu. It was busy but socially distanced with many tables enjoying bottomless brunch. It was such a odd experience seeing so many people, mostly girls, fully dressed up like on a night out enjoying brunch and drinking and taking photos. Scarlett Green seemed to be a top location for Instagrammers, decked out with beautiful interiors as a background drop for their photos. I remember going downstairs to the toilet and seeing girls queuing up to have their photo taken (in the bathroom) by the palm tree feature wall. It reminded me of being back in some cafes and restaurants in Bali, don't get me wrong I also love to indulge in the 'getting that Instagram shot' culture, yet it is strange seeing it on such a huge level. How times have changed with us millennials.
This was the second time I had met Hannah, the first time being when I spotted her at Soul Circus Yoga Festival in 2019 and sheepily went up to her and introduced myself as one of her followers on Instagram (weird I know). Anyway over the year of following each other we got to know each other a bit through Instagram and again it was nice to actually sit down, meet in real life and chat. Hannah has quite a following on Instagram and is really into health and fitness. Her posts and content are relatable and she gives her honest opinion on things which I really like. During brunch we got to talk about Instagram and how we had a mutual liking for each others accounts and posts finding them relatable and inspirational. Its so nice to connect with someone with similar interests and outlooks on it all. Also to be able to ask all those questions about influencer culture etc. to someone who actually is part of it. Hannah isn't a 'full time influencer' she has a job working at Lorna Jane Activewear and Instagram is just a side project. She explained to me how there are some influencers out there where 'influencing' is their main job, and when brands approach them, because they have to pay the bills, sometimes they cannot turn down an opportunity even if they don't truly believe or rate the product. Hannah is against this and happily turns down opportunities, only deciding to partner with brands and companies which she believes in and wants to promote, which is the way it really should be. Meeting up with Hannah was such an experience for me and I got to learn so much about Instagram and influencer culture, something I have always been interested in, especially on the health and fitness side of things.
Returning back to Finsbury Park from Oxford Circus, the underground was much busier now it was the afternoon. It was harder to keep a distance and at points felt like how the underground usually was during 'normal' times which wasn't great. Once back and a quick change into new clothes. Dani and I went for a little walk round a reservoir and wetland area nearby which she had never explored. We found out that you could actually go swimming in the reservoir and also rent paddleboards also. Back at their flat in the late afternoon, Dani let me use her room to do my yoga practice as I didn't get to do yoga class at Psycle that day and was itching to find some grounding.
For dinner, Chinny, Dani, Emily (Chinny's mum) and I made homemade linguine from scratch using a pasta machine. I have never ever made pasta before and it was such a fun thing to do! Those who know me, know I love cooking and making things from scratch so this was right up my street. Chinny made some homemade pesto we we chopped and roasted some vegetables. Serving our homemade linguine with salad, it was a delicious meal, made with teamwork, love and lots of laughter. The rest of the evening was spent doing face masks, foots masks and manicures, relaxing and having some self care.
My final day in London, Chinny and Dani had agreed to come to my favorite class and concept at 1Rebel, ReShape. I had bought 4 sessions with 1Rebel before we went into lockdown and had to use my sessions up, so they were happy to buy a session off me. It was so nice to also share with them my favorite concept at one of my favorite gyms, I was super excited! Class was taken by the 1Rebel instructor Bryony who I had been following on Instagram for a while and had taken some of her classes through the 1Rebel IGTV during lockdown. Being able to take her class in real life was something I was looking forward to.
Like Barrys, 1Rebel have a thorough studio cleaning procedure before and after class. Every other treadmill was used and the same with floor spaces during class. 1Rebel has gone the extra mile (no pun intended) by having protective screening around each treadmill which I really liked. so when you run, you’re definitely not going to get any sweat flying onto you from someone else.
Bryony was a great instructor, her cues were on point instructing both the floor and treads perfectly at the same time and she was very motivating. She even said my name a couple of time and personally motivated me to push a little further!
Even though this class was 45 minutes, it was much more challenging that the Barrys class I did a couple of days previous. The treadmills at 1Rebel are in kmph (confusing I know) but I got myself up to 18kmph, with Bryony's motivational help! Chinny and Dani enjoyed class also, but we all found it tough and properly felt worked out! You know you’ve worked hard when even after your shower you are still slightly shaking and ready to refuel (I was so tempted to get a shake to quieten down the post workout shakes)
To finish my trip off, after 1 rebel, Dani and I popped round the corner to Beanie Green (part of the daisy green collection again) to refuel with my final brunch in London! The sun came out and we sat outside on the balcony enjoying our final moments together over Avo toast.
So that was my first (and possibly only) trip to London this year. I cherished this trip dearly being able to spend quality time with friends, explore, take some of my favorite fitness and yoga classes, eat delicious food and just enjoy and do the things I love. Hoping covid-19 sorts itself out soon as London has just gone into tier 2, but when the time is right, I cannot wait to return!