Friday, 24 October 2014

London, England

I've actually been to London once before.  It was a stop over on my way to Africa in January 2008.  I hated it.  First of all, I was extremely jet-lagged.  Second of all, I was an emotional wreck- leaving your boyfriend and family behind for three months is a big deal when you're 18.  My (maybe) eight hours of time in London in 2008 was spent following around a few of my friends that I had met through the program, in the pouring rain, carrying my pillow (travel rookie mistake).  I remember sitting on the tube, not impressed with how wet I was from the rain, and feeling so tired I felt that I could puke.  Looking back, I was just an immature young girl not realizing how lucky I was to have the opportunity to stop in London, England- one of the most visited cities in the entire world.  

I am pleased to say that this time around (six and a half years later), I experienced this city in an entirely different light.  I didn't really "count" my stop-over as a legitimate trip to London, so I went in to this weekend trip with excitement.  I was excited to see the famous sights for the "first" time and to immerse myself in the hustle and bustle with my partner in crime by my side.  From Cambridge, it only takes 50 minutes to get to Kings Cross, if you catch the direct train.  So we packed some food and a change of clothes, and off we went.

We spent Saturday taking in the sights of London.  Covent Market, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Tower Bridge, and the South Bank.  You can see all of these in one day by foot, if you're up for walking.  The city was buzzing with people. By the time we reached the South Bank, it was so packed with people, we could barely move.  As we passed by the London Eye, all I could think of was to keep moving and get out of the crowds... needless to say, we enjoyed taking it all in but were ready to be done with the crowds.  

That evening we met up with some friends from Canada for a big Thanksgiving meal!  Zack's former house mates from University are now living and working as teachers in London.  It's always nice to see familiar faces, and they let us crash on their pull out couch that night which was very kind.  

And then there was Sunday.  My favourite day.  I may have gone a little picture-taking crazy.  On Sunday we explored East London: vibrant, multi-cultural, and hip.  Originally, East London was the slums.  This is where "Jack the Ripper" apparently roamed the streets at night, killing local prostitutes and establishing an eeriness about the area.  Now, you can find huge markets, street art, and some of the best international food!  We found ourselves in the middle of a huge Sunday market where you can find anything from cheap clothing, street food, and more bits and bobs (I know, that's a very English thing to say... bits and bobs. haha I love it).  I'm not sure how some of these vendors make any money selling dress shirts for 5 pounds each, or where most of this stuff even comes from, but it's definitely an experience taking a walk through.  We found a burgandy coloured tie for Zack that had bicycles on it, so we bought it.  One pound.  I kind of felt like I was stealing.  We then walked through a more established and clean covered market called Spitafields Market.  Beautiful, beautiful things in here.  Hand made clothing, pottery, jewellery and a variety of organic foods.  Next stop was Brick Lane.  This street was happening!  Though there were a lot of people, it had a different vibe than walking past the London Eye through rushing and pushy tourists.  Here, you can find loads of International restaurants and food vendors and creative art shops.  We had fun exploring the international food market and ended up having Ethiopian food for lunch.  On top of all of this, the sun was shining, which isn't particularly common for London, England. 

I left London this time around with a much better taste in my mouth.  And the best part is, we live only an hour away!  I'm sure we'll be back again to do even more exploring.

This is in the Covent Market.  In one of the restuarant courtyards, there was a Spanish Paella being cooked.  Reminded us of when we were in the Dominican Republic where we ate a lot of Paella!
Westminster Abbey
A view of Buckingham Palace from across the park.
The London Eye.
The interesting things you see along the South Bank.  
East London markets.
Our Ethiopian lunch.
Street art (above) and a creative coffee vendor (below).
Brick lane.  In some instances, I felt like I was stepping back in time.
No, I wasn't stalking this man.  He was just walking in front of us and I thought he completed the photo nicely.
Scenes of Harry Potter were filmed here.
This photo kills me every time.  This location was being used for filming... all the people you see here (except Zack) are extras for whatever they were filming.  We were kindly told to keep moving, and I love the expression on Zack's face- even though it's blurry.
South Bank.  Always something to see.

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