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Vantra

Vantra has moved and Vitao is now closed.

Vantra offers Organic, Vegan, Gluten-Free food, juices, lots of desserts, chillout music and a good vibe.

Lunch is now a buffet from 12:00 ~ 18:00, and dinner from 18:00 is a la carte. I have yet to visit the new branch but am very keen to!
On Oxford Street, near Tottenham Court Road.

Mon – Sat – 12:00 ~ 23:00
Sun – 12:00 ~ 21:00

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London Heathrow Airport (LHR)

Heathrow Airport (LHR) is one of the busiest airports in the world. It is the main airport for long-haul flights in and out of the UK and is often a stopover route to/from Europe. Being the busiest and largest, it has the best facilities of the airports in London, and is the only one with direct access to the London Underground, making it the cheapest airport to get to.

First flights are around 05:30 and last flights around 22:30 as there is a midnight curfew, so unless things are running really behind its unlikely you will land or leave in the middle of the night. However, for a flight around 6am you may have to either take a taxi in the early hours, or the last tube the night before and simply hang around till check in.

I rarely buy food at the airport (pack your own!) and there aren’t many good vegan options at Heathrow. M&S ready meals are a good bet and most you can even take on the plane.

Getting to and from Heathrow Airport:

By Tube:
London Underground is the cheapest option option for getting to and from Heathrow Airport. The Piccadilly line runs directly from Terminals 1-3, 4, 5 (3 separate stations) through Central London and up to North East London, and will cost you about £3-4 depending where you exit (Make sure you buy an Oyster Card first). It takes about 1hour to Piccadilly Circus, and trains run frequently from 05:00 ~ 23:30 Mon – Sat, and 06:00 – 22:30 Sun. In peak hour this could be a bit of a hassle for some, with packed trains and platforms should you need to change lines. But the line starts at Heathrow so you will have a seat, and you will probably need the tube to get to your final destination anyway.

By Heathrow Express:
This is the fastest, most comfortable, but more expensive, train service. Taking you between Paddington Station and Heathrow Terminals, trains run approx every 15min between 05:00 ~ 23:30 7days a week, and take just 15min non-stop. Paddington Station is on the Bakerloo, Hammersmith & City, Circle, and District lines so it is a great Tube interchange point. Tickets are £20 single or £34 return (valid 1 month). You can simply purchase at the station, or book online at heathrowexpress.com.

By Heathrow Connect:
This service lies somewhere between the above two options. Also between Heathrow and Paddington, taking approx. 28min and trains leaving every half-hour, 05:00 ~ 23:30, a one-way ticket will cost £9.50 (£19 return). Buy at the the station or heathrowconnect.com.

By Coach:
National Express Coaches run from Heathrow to various stops around London, approx 05:30 ~ 21:30, about £6 one way. A bus to Victoria Coach station will take around 45min if you’re lucky.

By Taxi:
Taxis are the most expensive option, but if you’re in a group or family or simply prefer taxi, it may be worth it. Try going through a mini cab agent, or taking a Black Cab to avoid any dodgy drivers. A fully metered ride in a Black Cab to Central London should cost around £60. A mini cab might be able to do it for around £35-40. Do NOT listen to touts who approach you about “cheap taxis”!

By Bus:
Unless you are staying somewhere near Heathrow, I would not recommend trying to use local bus directly from the airport.

London Weather

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London has a reputation for terrible weather, but is it really that bad? Unfortunately, yes.

While the number of rainy days are less than other cities like Rome, Vancouver or Singapore, it still rains about a third of the year, and the rain lasts for long periods at a time, often just an annoying drizzle. This, combined with grey skies, make the weather seem horrible throughout much of the year.

In winter, temperatures drop below zero, but rarely lower than -8C°, with snow falling just a few times between December and February. But there is a constant dampness that makes it bitingly cold, and it honestly feels colder than a Toronto winter of -16C°. Heating is crucial a this time of the year, so if you’re looking for a place, make sure the radiators work.

It’s not quite cold enough for consistent snow, so it rains instead. This means that previously fallen snow turns to slush, or worse, a thin layer of ice, creating havoc on the streets for both pedestrians and cars. London is seriously ill-equipped to deal with this type of weather. Buses and Trains shut down (even the underground which is baffling) and Airports cancel flights. There are days when people just don’t go to work because they can’t get in or out of the city area.

There is a layer of greyness that sits over London throughout most of the year, adding to the drudgery. It just makes people angry and miserable and depressed.

If you’re lucky however, you may catch London on one of its few summery days, and watch the magic as it transforms the city. People are smiling, the parks are filled, shirts are off. People really do appreciate and make use of good weather when it comes. London is a much happier and friendlier place to be when the sun is out.

If only those days were more often.

HMS Belfast – Imperial War Museum

Get a tour of the HMS Belfast and see what life is like living on board a ship during war.

London Bridge and Monument Stations are closest. Just walk along the Thames, you can’t miss it!
£12.25 (£13.50 with donation).

Open daily
1 March – 31 October – 10:00~18:00 (last admission 17:00)
1 November – 28 February – 10:00~17:00 (last admission 16:00)
Closed 24, 25 and 26 December

The Tower of London

The Tower of London is actually a castle. Her Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress to be exact, and it’s right next to Tower Bridge.

The structure itself is impressive, and its history makes it all the more so, being formerly the royal residence, armoury, menagerie, royal mint, prison & of course home to the Crown Jewels. It also is known for the several executions carried out in the tower. You can take a free guided tour by one of the Tower’s Beefeaters (aka Yeoman Warders, the guards dressed in the iconic red uniform and black hat).

Tickets are £20.90 (including a voluntary donation of £1.90), Audio Guides £4. Note, tickets are valid for up to seven days from selected date, so know your dates if booking ahead.

Walk from Tower Hill Station.

Tues – Sat – 09:00 ~ 17:30
Sun – Mon – 10:00 ~ 17:30

(Last admission 17:00)

Tate Modern

The Tate Modern Gallery is one of the world’s busiest modern art galleries, displaying the national collection as well as international works. It’s housed in an old power station, offering huge space and a view of the Thames and St Paul’s Cathedral from the restaurant, bar, and balcony. There are often large displays in the Turbine hall, making use of the huge open space not normally possible in galleries. These works are specially commissioned roughly from October to May each year. (Unfortunately the sponsor is Unilever, a terrible company).

There are free guided tours (daily, 11.00, 12.00, 14.00, 15.00 approx 45min), multimedia guides, and play areas for children. Temporary exhibitions are usually ticketed, at around £10. Current exhibitions here.

On the South Side of the Thames, opposite St. Paul’s Cathedral, over the Millennium Bridge.

Sun – Thurs – 10:00 ~ 18:00
Fri – Saturday – 10:00 ~ 22:00

Vx / SSOV Vegan Shop

Vx (Vee Cross) is a an all-vegan boutique shop in London! They sell cupcakes from Mrs. Cupcake and Cat & the Cream, groceries, sandwiches, shoes, clothing by SSOV (The Secret Society of Vegans), books, SSOV accessories etc.

Check them out for some great stuff and not having to check anything, its all vegan!

Mon – 11:00 ~ 19:30
Tues – Sun – 10:00 ~ 18:30

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De Hems

De Hems is a great Dutch Pub in Soho, selling a huge range of beers, including Strawberry Beer on Tap. The building is old and characteristic, upstairs has sofa chairs and tables. It gets pretty busy so arrive early for a seat.
The staff are very friendly, talkative, and will happily make drink suggestions. They also do cocktails!

However with the huge range of beers on offer you may need to check which ones are vegan, and bar staff may not know this. Luckily Dutch (and German) beers are more commonly vegan than those of other countries.

Walk from Leicester Square Station, just off Shaftesbury Avenue and Chinatown.

Mon – Thurs – 10:00 ~ 00:00
Fri – Sat – 10:00 ~ 00:30
Sun – 10:00 ~ 11:00

Shaftesbury Avenue, London - De Hems - Macclesfield Street