London, UK

Beating the January Blues: A London Adventure*

Once the excitement of Christmas has died down, dressing up for the festive season is no longer on the cards, and you've polished off every last Quality Street choc (yes, even the gross strawberry ones), the dreaded January blues can set in. Like many other people, I've been suffering with a serious case of the "I-can't-be-bothered"s at the start of 2019 and to combat these melancholic feelings, there's really nothing better than a change of scenery. Getting out and about, exploring somewhere that you don't normally visit is a wonderful way to inject a bit of energy into a dreary January routine.

To do precisely this, I was lucky enough to be invited on a trip to London with the Oxford Bus Company, showcasing their X90 coach service. The X90 connects the fine city of Oxford with the capital, setting you back just £8 for one-way travel, with a return adult ticket costing £14. But was it worth it? I certainly thought so! The X90 isn't just your standard bus, it's a comfortable, roomy, and (most importantly) clean coach service with ample leg room, conveniently located pick-ups and regular services. The coach promises to ferry you from Oxford to London in around 2 hours and our service was very prompt: we travelled from Gloucester Green, Oxford to Marble Arch without issue. You can read more about our X90 experience later on in this post, but for now let me show you how we busted our January blues in London! Our first stop once we hit the capital was the Natural History Museum, located in Kensington, but our visit wasn't made for the reasons that you might expect...

Oxford Bus Company's X90 coach service parked at London Victoria
Natural History Museum ice skating rink

I do love a good museum visit but this time we ditched the dinosaurs and the dodos and instead headed for the temporary ice skating rink which has been in residence outside the museum since the end of October. It cost just £10 for an off-peak student ticket, which included a free coffee, so for that price we felt like we couldn't go wrong! January was actually the ideal time to go skating - we were able to turn up and book a slot without having to queue. The rink was very quiet, not overcrowded as it might have been during the pre-Christmas period, which meant that there was lots of space for unbalanced skaters such as myself to cling on to the barrier if need be! I was able to gain a lot more confidence during our 50 minutes on the ice and I didn't fall down once - result! Gliding wobbling around the rink whilst gazing up at the incredible Natural History Museum architecture was a truly wonderful experience. You are able to skate at the museum until January 20th so there's still plenty of time for you to enjoy this January blues buster! After we'd worked up an appetite, it was time to treat ourselves to something a little more luxurious...

Abbey seated behind a tier of afternoon tea treats at the Montcalm Hotel, Marble Arch

Afternoon tea is a British institution and where better to enjoy it than a five star London hotel? I was very kindly gifted a sparkling afternoon tea experience for two at the Montcalm Hotel, Marble Arch by the lovely people at PrezzyBox. The food on offer at the Montcalm was truly delectable - we were really impressed by the varied vegetarian sandwich selection, which included houmous and rocket, cucumber and mint yoghurt, and mozzarella and pesto. Real thought and effort had gone into the fillings and there was just the right amount, enough to be tasty without being stodgy. Moving up a tier to the scones, these were the highlight of the meal! The scones had obviously been freshly made with a smattering of gorgeous dried fruit. The clotted cream and jam to heap on top were of great quality too. Finally, a selection of dainty cakes rounded off the afternoon tea. The berry cheesecakes were impressively light and the brownies were dense and satisfying with a thick layer of chocolate in the middle. The only sweet that didn't really impress us was the ginger cake, which I found to be a little dry.

Tier of afternoon tea including sandwiches, scones, and cakes

The Montcalm also did not scrimp on its serving of prosecco - we were presented with enormous glasses of effervescent fizz which went down a treat! In addition, we washed down all of the delicious food with our selections from an extensive menu of different teas. I opted for a loose leaf jasmine tea, which had a beautiful floral scent and a delicate taste to match. The staff at the hotel also deserve an honourable mention, especially Vera who looked after us so well. There was no rush to end our time at the Montcalm, we were there for a good two hours and never felt pressured to leave. If you're now convinced that indulging in afternoon tea is exactly what you need to perk yourself up this January, booking via PrezzyBox will save you a packet. The sparkling afternoon tea for two that we enjoyed is available for a grand total of £39 from PrezzyBox as opposed to £38.50 per person if you book directly with the hotel - a total steal! If you're more of an adrenaline junkie, everything from driving experiences to zorbing are available on the PrezzyBox site as well. 

Afternoon tea restaurant at the Montcalm Hotel, Marble Arch

Feeling very full and having banished all thoughts of January blues, it was time to head home. Our pick-up couldn't have been more convenient. Taking the X90 is the ideal travel option for an afternoon tea experience at the Montcalm as the coach can drop you off and collect you just a five minute walk from the hotel at Marble Arch! Thanks to the great free wifi onboard the X90, I was also able to sit and upload my Instagram stories from the day during our journey home. This excellent connectivity means that the coach is great for work as well as play: I travel a great deal for my research as a PhD student and having decent internet access while I'm on the move is a huge bonus. It means that I can keep up to date with emails and access all of the documents that I need with ease. The tray tables onboard X90 coaches mean that you can work comfortably with a laptop too. Another major perk was the onboard plug sockets. As we'd been making the most of the fab photo opportunities in the capital all day, my phone was running very low on juice when it came to home-time, but I was able to recharge my battery easily on the coach. Our X90 journey very comfortable and I fully recommend the service. You can even book your own X90 trip online!

Interior of Oxford Bus Company's X90 coach
Oxford Bus Company's X90 coaches lined up at Gloucester Green

Have you been suffering with the January blues? What have you been doing to perk yourself up? Please let me know in the comments!

Until next time,

A x

*This post was sponsored by the Oxford Bus Company. The X90 coach tickets and afternoon tea experience were given free of charge by the Oxford Bus Company and PrezzyBox respectively.