In the moments before I boarded my flight to London, I wrote the following in my travel journal: “I’m spending a week in London and Italy, then a month in Paris, and if I’m being completely honest, I’m terrified. Excited, but also terrified.” My nervousness didn’t subside when the plane left the tarmac, and it was definitely still plaguing me above the Atlantic Ocean. As I schlepped sixty pounds of luggage onto and off the Tube, then down a sketchy street in East London, my excitement was building, but my fears weren’t diminishing proportionally.
So after I settled in, I rode the subway back to the middle of the city, and I got off at Westminster. I walked to the stairs and climbed toward the exit, and when I got to street level, I stopped. At that moment, I completely forgot that I was thousands of miles away from literally everyone I knew. This is the first picture I took in Europe:
There’s something truly incredible about emerging from a dirty underground station to finding something monumental or ancient or pristine or beautiful staring back at you. Since I first saw Big Ben about a week ago, I’ve experienced that stand-there-mouth-open-blinking-like-an-American amazement several times. I can’t quite describe it accurately, but then again, I’m glad no one told me about it.
The London Eye
I spent most of my time in London walking around aimlessly, which is a travel technique that I highly recommend. At one point, I almost thought I was lost, but then I followed a sidewalk to an open gate, beyond* which was a beautiful park, which I walked through to find Buckingham Palace. I set a loose structure and to-do list for my day, but spent the majority of time going where I felt like going. At one point, I ended up at the Tate Modern; when it closed, I read a book on the museum’s lawn on the bank of the River Thames for an hour.
*Originally I typed “beyonce.” My mind’s auto-correct clearly prioritizes the words I use more frequently.
These are the things I ate:
Strawberries from a stand at Portobello Market. Portobello Market is a market (doy) in Notting Hill. Lots of fresh produce stands, vintage stuff, and kitschy tourist things.
A Posh Sausage Sandwich (sausage, smoked applewood cheese, portobello mushroom, and red onion chutney) from The Breakfast Club. Meat, y’all. I ate it. It was alright, but nothing to write home about. Still don’t dig it, but I’m trying to eat whatever I want here. Lesson learned: I don’t want any more sausage.
Fish and chips from Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. This pub (built in the 13th century!) was really awesome–it’s set up like a winding cellar with dining areas on the way down. The fish and chips were overpriced and bland, but I ordered it over more intriguing menu items because I figured I had to have the fish-and-chips experience. I didn’t. Alas.
I hunted down some street art by Banksy. This was in a sketch alley about a block away from Savile Row.
The First Kitchen’s London Travel Tips:
- Portobello Market: go there.
- Wander: across the River Thames, to the London Eye, back across the river, through Whitehall Garden, to Buckingham Palace.
- The Tate Modern is one of London’s many museums you can visit for free. Take advantage of that. They have a Kandinsky, a Dali, and a Judd, just to name a few.
- Eat where I ate, but eat what sounds good, not what you think a tourist should eat.
- Don’t take EasyBus.
From a secondhand bookstore in Notting Hill. I dropped 20€ on books before I realized that I had to tote them around all day.