While on my trip to Ireland, I had the privilege of spending a few days in London. I’d only gone there once when I was a teenager, and it was only for a day. So suffice it to say, my memory of the city was strictly based on where I had lunch, Buckingham Palace, and the respite I was experiencing from trying to speak French to the French family I was spending the summer with. So I was due for a more official introduction.
And because I have the most wonderful job and the dearest of friends in London, I was able to really experience the city – seeing the touristy parts, eating in some not-so-touristy restaurants, and soaking in the BITTER COLD AND RAIN. You guys, I was not prepared to be cold and wet for days. I ended up buying scarves and sweaters, and still found my teeth chattering. But London was still so beautiful and majestic, and warm coffee in hand made me not get so wrapped up in the cold.
The people are a little bit more ‘European’ than the Irish were, in that no one chats with strangers, the city is very cosmopolitan, and everyone takes public transportation. It was cool hearing so many different languages everywhere I went, and I was reminded of why I think it is so important to see a new place through the eyes of a local, rather than a tour group. Tour groups are great for gleaning new information, but there is so much you miss without having casual drinks at a bar, leisurely dinners learning about what people are interested in and passionate about, and being on your own time to enjoy and take the city at your own pace. I found myself going back to Covent Garden three times because it was a place that felt so vibrant and full of energy. I loved having that freedom and getting swept up into the daily life of a local.
Because I went over two weekends, I stayed at AN INSANELY PERFECT hotel in east London one weekend, and at an airbnb the second weekend that was a little bit off the beaten path. It was cool getting the more posh traveler experience, but also the more realistic view of living a life in the city amongst other Brits.
One thing I love about the European (city) lifestyle is the ability to walk everywhere. My feet were sore and had blisters within hours, but it felt so good to be in the fresh air and stretch my legs constantly. However, I did miss seeing sunshine and pastel clothing. I was encouraged to leave one of my new floral-printed JCrew shirts at home, as London is not quite ready for that level of Spring acceptance yet. This was gut-wrenching.
I did get to spend a couple of hours in Harrods, one of the department stores that is known for its extravagance – originally acclaimed for selling tigers, alligators, and elephants amongst other luxury products. It was everything and more that I imagined it to be. The lines for tea in their tea rooms or for pizza at the restaurant where the cooks sing were 30 people deep in the middle of the afternoon. While I did sample perfume in the Perfumery, I only purchased chocolates from the Confectionery.
These weekends in the UK were amazing. Traveling truly is something that opens you up to so much more of the world than you ever imagined possible. And getting to have these experiences in the midst of growing friendships and knocking out some work made this an exceptional trip in every way. The blisters on my feet prove that London was a city well-walked by my feet and well-loved by my heart. I can’t wait to go back!