Ahhhh London London London. Where do I even begin?? This city is amazing. This is the first place I've been where I feel like I could actually move here and enjoy it. It's incredible! It's beautiful, of course, but the people are fantastic! No matter where I go or dumb questions I ask, I encounter the most amazing people. I just woke up on my fourth day here and there is still so much I want to see and do. I actually have a really bad cold that seems to be getting worse so I am taking it easy today. I have been non stop since I got here so maybe I'll just check out the British museum since its right across the street from my hostel. But to explain to you properly about my London experience would take foreverrrr. I will try to do my best.
The day I arrived, while leaving the airport, I was clearly lost trying to look for the train station. This old British man, with long hairs growing out of his nose, started laughing and asked if I needed help. I said yes and that I was trying to get to London, bus or train ( I had landed in Gatwick, outside of London). He motioned for me to follow him and he rode the elevator with me, got out and directed me exactly where to go. This wasn't necessary for him to do but I did appreciate it very much. And I thought that if everyone in London was as nice as him, I'd be set. I also talked with an airport employee who was very friendly and recommended that if I'm in London, I should see Phantom of the Opera, which I have been dying to see back at home anyways. I also remember my grandmother telling me that if I decide to see a show, I have to look for the discount stores that sell theater tickets for half price. So guess who scouted out the store and has a half price ticket for Phantom tomorrow night? That's right, this girl right here! London, we were off to a great start.
The night that I arrived, I walked aimlessly, as I tend to do now, from Holborn to Piccadilly Circus just to check things out. It was so crowded but so awesome! I was looking at all the restaurant menus as I went to find the best deal on fish n chips. I came across O'Neils, an Irish pub, that also had Guinness. I was sold. I went in, ordered my meal and found a table in the corner. It was a great atmosphere, people young and old, great music, and rugby playing on the big screen. The bartender came over to my table and started talking to me about where I was from, what I was doing, etc. We talked for quite awhile and he encouraged me that I was doing something great with my life. Terry, my buddy at Oneil's, hasn't traveled much and has never been to America. I told him my travel experience so far and he made me feel at home, thousands of miles away. After the best fish n chips of my life (Guinness battered) and two Guinness, Terry told me to come back before I leave so he could hear about my London experience. I got back to the hostel where I met my two fabulous Irish roommates, Mia and Róisín (pronounced row-sheen)! They were great from the start and we made plans to meet up this upcoming week while I am in Dublin. They want to give me the proper Irish tour. I can't wait!
The next day, I took the underground, a geniously made subway station that takes you anywhere and the locals call it the "tube", to see the Bank of England, Royal Trade, St. Paul's Cathedral (I haven't seen the inside yet so I'm going back), the Museum of London, London Bridge (not to be confused with the Tower Bridge!), many other cathedrals (like Southwark, the first gothic cathedral and one where Shakespeare spent a lot of time), the Monument (311 stair monument constructed after the Great Fire of London. Yeah, I went to the top), and then the highlight of my day: the Borough Market!!! Wow!! I stumbled upon this by mistake as it was closing up and I was still blown away! An outdoor market with fresh meats, cheeses, baked goods, olive oils, juices, produce, olives GALORE! I didn't know where to start so I got a mug of muddled wine (red wine, orange juice and spices served hot. Tastes like warm sangria) and an arugula salad with prosciutto, fresh mozzarella, melon and olive oil. My camera also died and I decided I would HAVE to go back the next day. Everything I saw that day was breathtaking, rich and unbelievable. I couldn't wait to rest up and go out again the next day... But I didn't rest up.
I got back to the hostel and the staff was holding a party in the basement kitchen and then a pub crawl. It was there that I met my two Canadian friends, Josh and Mitch, and my now boyfriend for the week, Kamil (pronounced Camille). Haha, yeah you read that right and he is adorable. He is from Poland and he likes to talk to me in Dutch. Crazy. We all went out, my Irish roommates too, to a local club and had a blast. I got about 5 hours of sleep before I got up to wander around again.
I went straight back to the Borough Market first thing. It was even better this time since they had just opened and were cooking the food in massive iron kettles/woks. The atmosphere was amazing and the energy of the people was exciting. People there love food as much as I do! I couldn't believe I almost missed this; I only found it after I convinced myself walking across the London bridge was going to be worth it even though I was exhausted. I almost didn't. Thank God I did. Then, at the market, I met Liam. Liam is from Liverpool but has lived in London for 25 years. Right off the bat, he looked at me and told me I was bundled up all wrong and that my scarf had to go under my jacket to keep me insolated. And then I had to button every button. He wanted to know where my gloves and hat were and laughed when I told him I forgot them back at the hostel. He wanted to know all about me, since my American accent gave me away. I explained my story and how I really had a passion for food. Liam told me to never stop dreaming. And to never be afraid to dream big, that the most unreal of dreams come true. I told him I was living my dream right now and he smiled. The way he looked at me felt as if someone I knew from home was talking to me. His eyes were so familiar and his language told me it wasn't a random Londoner, but a friend from home. He made me pull out my map and told me to walk along the River Thomas between the London Bridge and Waterloo Bridge because it was a beautiful walk. He then wished me luck and I was venturing off.
I actually went straight to the Tower of London (unreal and historical, but definitely a tourist trap), and then to the Tower Bridge. Around sunset, although exhausted and getting sicker by the minute (damn cold), I decided to treat myself: I took Thames walkway and walked along the River Thomas. I watched the sun go down as I crossed the Millennium Bridge and enjoyed the smell of freshly toffeed peanuts and the sound of street guitarists. I then went to the top of Tate Museum to see the spectacular view Liam told me about, and I made my way back down and continued walking just to see Big Ben from a distance. UNBELIEVABLE. The beauty through the eyes of a local. I decided I needed a big meal, so I went to go see Terry!
I told Terry all of what I saw and I ate, again, a big plate of fish n chips and drank another 20oz glass of Guinness. Ahhhh, so good. I told Terry I would be back again for my last Guinness at O'Neils. Went back to the hostel, saw my Polish boyfriend and called it a night. :) and now here I am. Sick. And annoyed that I won't get better. It's hard to travel and drain yourself everyday while being sick. :/ I want to go out and see everything but I know I shouldn't exhaust myself. London is more than words and I still have 3 more days. I don't want to leave.
The thing that I'm learning most about Europe is that the history is so rich and old! There are things here that date back to Roman times (London wall, Tower of London)! That stuff doesn't exist in America. It's crazy and for the 3758291 time, BEAUTIFUL! Its blowing my mind. My mind is blown. I'm very fortunate to be able to see it first hand and experience the world because it's so much bigger than America, the only country I know. I'm dreaming big and living the dream at the same time.