Can you have a ‘proper’ day out in west London for £20? Of course, and you don't have to stay in Hillingdon to do it. The same provisos we gave in east London for £20 apply — expensive spirits, sushi platters and large cuts of steak are out. But there’s still plenty of free museums, beautiful parks and reasonably priced pizza to be found…
We begin the day in Ealing Broadway. The weather sucks, but we've always felt that the solution to any challenge is to slowly ramp up your blood caffeine levels until you’re fully able to transcend all of your challenges. So let's start there.
Artisan Coffee School, caffeine and salmon (£6.70)
We begin our day with a strong coffee and a light breakfast at Artisan Coffee School. Located squarely on New Broadway, a sign out front claims 'WE'LL TEACH YOU TO PULL'. Well, if you insist.
We opt for a salmon roll, which is pretty good — with generous cream cheese that provides full coverage of the bread (though a little more salmon would not have gone awry), and an espresso, of course, which is impressively light, floral and powerful.
Caffeine and optimism seething through our veins, a spot of window shopping at Broadway Circle follows. Less than 5 minutes in (…and one retail chain too many), we decide to knock this one on the head, beginning the march eastward. Our eventual destination? Central London.
Christ the Saviour Church, avenging angels (50p)
We don't get very far before noticing that Christ the Saviour is open, offering us the opportunity to absorb a little culture, and the smell of incense.
There are sword wielding angels, stained glass, biblical Frescos and Sir Gilbert Scott's handiwork. We light a candle and deposit 50p into the wall. An old man stands beneath the central stain glass window, shaking arms outstretched, head bowed. He appears to be having a biblical moment himself. As far as impromptu Church visits go, this is alright.
Ealing Park, mainly wet grass (free)
We've probably picked the wrong day for it, but Ealing Park turns out to be a bit of a letdown. There's not much to do, it's too wet and grey to hang out on the grass, and they've torn up the middle. On the flipside, we ‘meet’ a tree with its very own plaque. Turns out that this tree was hanging out when our grandparents were younger than we are now. A strange feeling, that.
Ah well, let's see if Acton Park is any more exciting, shall we?
Acton park, climbing on things (free)
Yes it is. Things are flowering in Acton Park, and its wet enough that we get the climbing frame all to ourselves. As far as climbing frames go, its very rustic and wooden, like much of what surrounds it.
We're not sure of the context, but there are various cool paintings and sculptures scattered about the place. After spending a solid 30 minutes climbing and enjoying wooden owl carvings, we head off towards Shepherd's Bush.
Sammy’s, a £2 pizza
Once you've put a few miles behind you in the rain, the idea of some stringy cheese and starchy carbs doesn't seem like a bad idea. How fortunate then, that we walk past Sammy's on Uxbridge Road. A 7" pizza for £2? We have the budget and the stomach space, so why not?
The guys at Sammy's keep the place about 15 degrees (centigrade) higher than the surrounding area. This is fine in the dead of winter, but not fine in May after having hiked a few miles. Claims that the pizza will be ready in 10 minutes are a lie.
Still, as far as budget takeaway pizzas go, it's not bad at all. It's got that satisfying greasy dough that you'll get at Pizza Hut, though it's a little less generous with the cheese. Is this what Americans call a 'personal pizza'?
Defector's Weld, Guinness and vinyl (£2.60)
In centre of the venn diagram where 'drinking man' and 'vinyl collector' overlap we have Defector's Weld. Under the careful stewardship of Young's, you can expect unconventional, music themed décor and somewhat conventional beers.
We opt for a half of Guinness, which is consumed at an accelerated pace as we take in the various murals and vinyl glued to the walls.
Shepherd's Bush Market - wet, mostly dead
This is a bit of a non-starter. We go in looking for some kind of street food but find emptiness. Emptiness, cut-price handbags and fresh produce. Seems the rain has cleared almost everybody out. There's a Chinese place offering 5 spring rolls for £1 at the Goldhawk Road entrance, but we're not that into it. Oh well, off we go.
In search of a cultural experience beyond our pop culture understanding, we cross the line into Kensington and Chelsea. Can we keep to the budget here of all places? Challenge accepted.
The Design Museum - more coffee, some granola (£5)
A visit to The Design Museum's 'new' location was long overdue, and finally, here we are. We're initially worried by a huge queue snaking onto the forecourt, but happy to discover that this is just the line for an exhibition, not the museum itself (which is free).
As you'd imagine, the entire museum celebrates design — from the architecture of the building itself to its various exhibits, covering domains from political posters to electronic product design and road signage. It’s great.
Neither hungry or thirsty, we decide to spend some of our money at the café — a low key affair located on the ground floor. £5 gets us an Americano and a granola ‘bar’ (more accurately a granola flapjack). The coffee's not bad, the granola, a little overpriced.
Holland Park, Kyoto Garden (free)
There's nobody to play giant chess in the rain with, so we visit the Kyoto Garden. If we were a bit more mellow we may have been able to have our own zen moment here, but we settle for watching the koi and listening to the rain falling on the water, which is all very pleasant.
Oree - chorizo stick? (£1.80)
Marching ever eastward down Kensington High Street, we notice Oree, and something they call a ‘chorizo stick’. As suspected, it’s not an entire chorizo encased in pastry (…not for £1.80 it isn’t).
Instead, you get pastry with embedded chorizo fragments. It's a bit tough, though the solid paprika-tinged heaviness of the chorizo comes through nicely. Would we buy it again? No — but it was worth a go.
Whole Foods (£1.60), and the V&A (free)
Budget nearly spent, and still on Kensington High Street, we wander into Whole Foods. What can you get for under £2 here? How about a nice cup of tea? A matcha with 'bring your own mug' discount comes in at a 'mere' £1.60.
We decide to add cinnamon and chocolate sprinkles, partly as an experiment, and partly to ‘get the most for our money’. In retrospect, this is a terrible idea — chocolate sprinkles and cinnamon don't work for green tea in the same way as they work for milky coffee. Lesson learned.
The budget is now all used up, so we decide to take the scenic (and free) route to Victoria station, down Exhibition Road. This walk allows us to examine the exterior of the V&A. The building was damaged quite heavily during the bombing in the second world war, but they decided to leave much of it as it was, battle scars and all.
And the total is...
Great success. Museums have been appreciated, new foods have been discovered, memories have been made, and we got our 32,800 steps in. Time to go home and ice our legs, and tot up our total, which comes in a smattering over budget at £20.20.