Recently, I spent the weekend in London so that I could reunite with some friends from my Year Abroad. And while I was ridiculously excited to see them, I wasn’t that enthusiastic about being in London. I’ve visited a few times and, very naïvely, I thought I had already experienced all that the capital had to offer.
Little did I know that this trip was exactly what I needed. Sure, I have visited many of the big tourist attractions and must-see photo opportunities, but that isn’t what it’s really about. As I (finally) realised, the excitement of London is that there is an entire world to explore squeezed in to one city.
Let me tell you about how my trip to Londres somehow felt like a trip across the world (and through time…)
The reunion of an English couple, a Norwegian, an American, a Colombian, and a whole bunch of Spanish (and Galician!) people is a rather ‘international gathering’ as it is. Throw in the fact that we all met when studying in Florianópolis, Brazil, and the fact that many of us hadn’t seen each other since- and just by reuniting it enevitably already feels like you’ve travelled half the world.
It was so special to be able to see them again but in the UK, and some in particular have such an enthusiasm for life, which made it such a fun experience. The only complaint was that it was short (but sweet), it went so fast and I’m already looking forward to the next reunion.
Thanks to my eagerness to plan well in advance, I managed to bag us a megabus from Birmingham to London for only £1.50 (that’s the total, for a return, for two people, booking fee included…I know!!)
which left us feeling like we had loads of money to spend on our favourite activity: eating!
In reality of course, we definitely weren’t prepared for how much eating out in London actually costs. My purse (and overdraft) are now chronically malnourished, but myself, on the other hand, I am very satisfied! As it turns out, spending all of your dollar on a delicious range of world restaurants is kind of difficult to regret… I’m still reminiscing on the wonderful memories of some of those meals.
It all started with an innocent Italian pasta dish at Bella Italia, then the next day it was some classic Spanish tapas at Jamón Jamón, Camden. And as we got more adventurous, we had yummy Thai food at Tuk Tuk Noodle Bar in Soho.
The perfect end to our week of indulgence, though, was most definitely our dinner on the last night at Halepi. We had never been to a Greek taverna restaurant before, and it did not disappoint! (Apart from a few moody waiters) Just thinking back to that hummus, pitta, halloumi, chicken kebabs, and Turkish delight now still makes my mouth water.
I have a theory, and if it ever turns out to be true, I’d like to be credited: “Hispanic people possess the ability to weird a magnetic force field that allows them to locate and attract other Hispanic people” (Hunt, 2017).
Seriously, in Brazil, the Spanish people we lived with seemed to gather all of the other Hispanic people in the area to them, and their group could grow exponentially larger. The same thing happened here in London, even walking through Camden Town they would somehow just stumble across other Spanish people in the street and start talking to them.
What has this got to do with drinks I hear you asking, well…
What happens when you allow a group of Spanish people and a Colombian to plan your night out? They, of course, use their magnetic radars to seek out the single most densely Hispanic populated location in the entire city.
Who would’ve thought that, deep in the heart of Camden, there is a Cuban club, packed full of Spanish and Central/Latin Americans, which plays all of the Regaetton music a girl could ask for! In the blink of an eye we were transported to London’s secret Hispanic world, and it was absolutely brilliant! (I really hope a place like this exists somewhere in Birmingham, if so I desperately need to discover it ASAP)
My only complaint was that the club closed too early, but no worries, a few drinks in the nearby Brazilian bar sorted that out.
Speaking of Brazil, and on the theme of being reunited with parts of my year abroad, I was surprised and delighted to discover that there was a Brazilian store only a few minutes stroll from our hotel.
Tucked away inside Queensway market, Casa Brasil was absolutely brimming with all of the little things I miss from my time in Floripa. Standing their chatting in Portuguese with the shop owner wile buying paçoquitas and Antarctica beer was like being back there just for a moment, it was such a nice experience as it usually all feels so distant now.
You can’t visit London without going to a museum. And when the Spanish group suggested the British Museum, I couldn’t believe that I had never been therefore; what a fascinating place it is. Not to mention a huge labyrinth!
Exhibitions transported us back through many ages, but my particular favourite was the Egyptian collection. I was practically frozen on the spot whilst looking at some of the mummified bodies that lived thousands of years ago, they were preserved so perfectly that I found it almost chilling. I also loved that I got to see the Rosetta Stone; very important for any budding linguist!
La La Land
To add to the already very long list of things we got up to, I just had to quickly mention that we went to see La La Land at the cinema, and oh. my. gosh.
I really wasn’t expecting it to live up to the hype but, wow! That film was a whole journey in itself (through time, space, and emotion) … perhaps it deserves an article all of its own?
Sight-Seeing, the Speedy Way
Last but not least, although we had experienced the world within the city, I can’t not mention the fact that we still managed to squeeze in a little visit to a few of the classic tourist spots (again); Marble Arch, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Big Ben, and Hyde Park.
Except, rather than traipsing around or taking an open-minded bus, we chose the speedy, alternative method; a sight-seeing jog! I was due a 10km run, so we decided to do it all around the centre of London. It sounds crazy I know but it was a great experience and it definitely helped to burn off some of those restaurant calories! 😉
I’ll leave you with some cheesy tourist photos of us enjoying the capital, please leave a comment and let me know if you have ever visited London, or perhaps you’ve had a similar exploration experience in another place? I always love to hear what you think!
[Photo credits: Bella Italia © Trip Advisor, Jamón Jamón © Coolplaces.co.uk, Tuk Tuk Noodle Bar © Eatsoho.co.uk, Halepi © Daily Mail, The Cuban © Thecuban.co.uk, British Museum © Londonist.com, La La Land © The Independent]