Welcome to London, England, where a pickle is called a gherkin, “waiting in line” is calling “queuing,” double decker busses really are legitimate means of transportation, and all the skyscrapers have clever nicknames.
This was my first trip outside of my new home in Angers, France (which you can read all about here!). I had been planning the trip for weeks. The morning before my departure, I got an e-mail saying that AirFrance cancelled my flight due to a pilot’s strike.
Enter: Frustration. I complained about my situation to one of my professors, to which she shrugged and said, “Welcome to France!” because France is evidently notorious for strikes and protests. Fortunately, I was able to completely change my itinerary the day before I left France and still make it to London as planned. Phew!
The first thing I did upon my arrival at the Heathrow airport was pick up one of these:
For £20, I was able to get myself around London via the underground system and buses for 4 days. The London underground is incredible! It was quick and the signs were well designed so that I, the confused tourist, did not get lost once.
I also owe part of this to the Citymapper app, which I truly could not recommend more for travelers. It is an app that tracks your location and gives you perfect directions to any destination via public transit.
This area near Tower Bridge was pretty awesome. The industrial buildings, which have now been converted into flats and restaurants, still hold onto names that pay homage to their historical purpose. For example, Wheat Wharf, Cayenne Court, Ginger Apartments, and Tamarind Court are names of buildings that once distributed wheat, cayenne, ginger, and tamarind.
I explored Borough Market, which is a farmers market/grocery store hybrid.
After Borough Market, I explored the surrounding area. I loved the architecture, which is an exciting mix of old and new.
Something fun about London is that nearly all of the museums are free! The Tate Modern was my favorite.
I also checked out the National Gallery, which houses some priceless art by Van Gough and Monet. When I was there, I saw some portraits of kick-ass women in history:
This is Judith. One night, she snuck into the tent of Holofernes, the leader of the Assyrian army. Judith decapitated him and then carried his head back home with her, which raised the moral of her fellow Israelites. Judith then lead her troops into battle against the Assyrians.
This is Juno, the greek goddess whose breast milk created the milky way. That baby on the right is Hercules. He didn’t get to her breast milk in time, which is why Hercules never became divine. Who knew?
London is actually quite well known for its markets. I visited another one called the Maltby Street Ropewalk. This one was much, much smaller than Borough Market – it was only the length of an alleyway – but it was impressive nonetheless.
I had this breakfast pizza made by a vendor called Phat Breads. They rolled the dough right in front of me, put on some fresh toppings, cracked an egg in the center, and then threw it into the brick oven. It was delicious – if you find yourself in the area, you must try it.
And of course, what’s a weekend in London without experiencing afternoon tea?
On my last day in London, I visited the Design Museum. For anyone who has an interest in architecture and modern design, I recommend it. The museum was filled with to-scale replicas of famous buildings. There was also an exhibit about how product design influences our daily lives.
For my last meal in London, I went to Walmer Castle. The bottom floor of the building was a traditional british pub and the top floor was a fantastic thai restaurant.
While I was visiting this authentic British pub in Britain, I thought about Baker Street Pub back home in Austin, Texas. It has a telephone booth inside and all sorts of Winston Churchill memorabilia covering the walls. When I told my friend (who was born and raised in London) about Baker Street Pub, she was pretty amused. I could see where Baker Street drew their influence; however, they way overdid it.
Other noteworthy places I went to in London:
– I had remarkable Indian food at Dishoom. The atmosphere was fantastic, the food was delicious, and the house beer was cheap and quenching.
– I went out for great cocktails at Happiness Forgets. The menu had inspiring quotes on the back, like “The perfect time for a drink is right after you finish a drink.” This bar is in located in trendy East London, so if you find yourself over there, you should check it out.
– Also in that area, I went to White Lyan, where I drank a cocktail that was similar to Moloko Vellocet from A Clockwork Orange. Next was The Whistling Shop, which was a charming bar where I had a glass of champagne complete with a fizzy absinthe tablet.
– For cheap trailer food, check out Shoreditch Food Village, where I had some pretty decent Pad Thai.
In short, I had a fantastic time in London. One weekend was not enough time to explore the city – there is so much more for me to see and I can’t wait to go back.