We left off at a bit of an awkward spot,
having caught an early flight out of Amsterdam, we arrived in London with plenty of time to explore a little before we had to meet up with our Airbnb host. There was a 20 minute ride on the metro that took us into the center of town, and when we emerged onto the street, Ill be honest, it was strange because its so similar to the U.S, besides the great accents it didn’t feel all that different then any big city I had been to previously. There were busy people running all over, rows of taxis lined up for 3 blocks, and a less then pleasant big city smell. We found one of the only quite spots near the metro station to grab some breakfast and make a plan for the day. The city is huge, so we thought that it would be genius to buy some skateboards to get around. This led us on a hunt through the city to find a thrift shop that had some. As it turns out, it is harder then it appeares, but it give me a chance to really soak up the vibe of the city. It comes on slow but its very strong. London is creative, and has a lot of history, you can feel it, from the architecture to the graffiti art there are little expressions of both the people and the town that give you a welcome feeling.
Eventually we ran across Regents park, it was a Thursday so most of the people there were moms with children and elderly folks going for a walk. Zack and I did a pretty good job ruining the peace for awhile as we repeatedly jumped and ran trying to climb trees, to little success but we had a laugh.
Our Airbnb was outside of the city in an area called Willesden. That was honestly one of the coolest parts of London because it was so authentic, we spent the next few days being a tourist*, but there we felt like locals, did some laundry, got a coffee at the library, and relaxed.
Day 2: Crazy. We definitely made the most of it, we walked 16 miles that day and saw every famous site we could think of, from big ben and the London eye, to Buckingham palace, waterloo station (plus cool tunnels underneath it), and the Shard.
It was busy and exciting but nothing that you dont already know. big ben was a big ol’ clock, the London eye had a 4 hour wait so we skipped the ride, and there were so many tourists everywhere it was hard to even move. we re-grouped the plan for the next day and ended up striking travel gold on the 3rd day.
Day 3: It was fun seeing the sights, but we quickly learned the best way to enjoy this city is to take it slow, and look around. My favorite parts of the trip were things we didn’t know existed until we found them. We rented Santander** bikes and it changed the whole experience. We found speed and open space and were able to see some amazing things. Riding towards the Tower bridge Zack dove off into a random ally, and to our surprise there was an old church, built in the 1500’s, and heavily damaged in the blitz bombings of the 40’s, it had been stood in the middle of the city, tranquil, and beautiful. Overcome by vines and flowers, the walls crumbling in spots, the wood and roof had been completely removed, but still standing. Steeple stood tall, with modern buildings casting shadows over it and busy streets built around it, this church was a little oasis, a little gem in the middle of town.
A few hours later as we walked by the river Thames, we found a staircase that led to a rooftop garden with great view of the lower west end of town, we got some drinks and just soaked up the view for awhile. Finishing out the day we caught the tube over to Little Venice, which, just like it sounds, is a like a little slice of Italy, with canals running through it and restaurants and stores built up around it, it was yet another cool example of the diversity of the the city.
I could literally go on for days about London, but what really stuck to me is the hardest thing to describe, its an X factor, a feeling, and something I hope everyone can experience for themselves someday.
Next stop? We caught the midnight bus to Paris…***
Still with me? alright heres something extra for your dedication:
*Tourist- is a bit of a negative term for me, visions of large groups with many bags, stopping in the middle of every photograph, dropping food and letting their children run wild over the treasured objects that they came to see, I do my best to be a backpacker, one who appreciates, photographs, and enjoys locations while making a minimal impact. travel light, be courteous, and never stop exploring.
**Santander- hourly bikes that are rented for one way trips only, there are stations all over the city to pick up or drop off a bike. very cheap, and effective way to see the city and never wast time tryna park.
***Paris- My love, and favorite place so far, so prepare for a little longer read next time. (sorry not sorry)