Rainy but alive
Melting pot, it’s an expression that indicates a country or situation in which a blending of races takes place; if you’ve ever been to London, you know that this expression defines it perfectly: how many languages have you heard while strolling around?
When my boss didn’t accept my resignation letter and convinced me to stay in China with that good proposal, I started to plan some more trips in Asia: Tokyo with my girl friends at the beginning of March, Kuala Lumpur on my own for the Chinese public holiday at the beginning of April and thinking about Cambodia for May the 1st. Yep, wanted to tick my bucket list…
Then I went back to Italy because of the pandemic (do you remember that? It’s all in Forced Holidays).
While I was home, in February I got the first “your flight has been canceled” e-mail; no
Later my boss told me not to go back to Nanjing, March was getting over and I was still home; no
I didn’t buy any flight ticket to Cambodia yet but I did book free-cancellation hostels that I had to cancel; no
As you know I am affected by wanderlust so I was feeling very “sick”… I needed to travel somewhere! My friend Fabrizia (yes, the one I was dreaming Australia with) was living in London; I had been in London with the school when I was 16 years old: we stayed one week in a college in Windsor for intensive English classes; we did not visit London the way I am used to visit a city so it was still on my list; plus, it was a good chance to spend some time with Fabrizia. Considered this, all of a sudden I bought a very cheap ticket with Ryanair and spent four days with my friend in the rainy London.
Did I say “the rainy London”? Yes. Guess what: it was raining when I landed in London and I didn’t have an umbrella because I left it in Nanjing, so I asked Fabrizia to bring one when she’d pick me up.
Since Fabrizia had been living there for more than a year already, I admit that I did not make too much effort to plan my schedule, I just made little research and for most of the things I listened to her advises; one of those was: “take the National Express to Stratford, I pick you up there”.
What I found very convenient in London is that you don’t need to take any cash at all because you can literally pay everything by card, in fact I don’t even know how the English pounds look like.
I found the National Express stand right away, swiped my card to purchase a ticket (Stansted Airport – London Stratford, 14£) and looked for the right bus outside the airport. Gotten to Stratford it was still raining and Fabrizia welcomed me with the revelation that the wind broke her umbrella… good bye hair styling!
We entered the subway station and I swiped my card again to purchase an Oyster, the very recommended metro card that you can charge with the amount of money you will need and eventually get the refund at the end of your trip (note: I purchased the Oyster only for zone 1 and 2 which are the most touristic ones; check in advance what’s the most convenient option to you).
Funny fact: the weekend I arrived to London was the same weekend in which a huge storm was hitting northern Europe, so the rainy London was never so rainy and windy as in the first two days I was there – luckily Fabrizia let me borrow one of her hats.
Anyway the very first night, braving the wind, we walked to some of the main points of interest: London Eye, Parliament, a Big Ben under renovation; wind kept blowing but with no fear we got to Buckingham Palace, walking towards Piccadilly. Here, after trying all kind of M&M’s in that huge store, we took the subway to have dinner in the Mercato Metropolitano: we were spoiled for choice, in the end we decided to have a super tasty and juicy burger.
After dinner, we went for a drink in an extra-luxury hotel, The Ned: jazz music, business men, dressed-up ladies and super fancy toilets (I have been told that it’s the same hotel brand of the one where Chuck Bass of Gossip Girl‘s used to live – I wasn’t big fan of the show).
Day 2: Camden. I loved it! The school didn’t take us here so this was the very first time for me and I was fascinated. Chaotic shops on both sides of the street: tattoos, piercing, candies, shoes, souvenirs… all the shops super decorated. We got to the outdoor market where we wanted to eat something and, of course, our lunch was ruined by the rain (bummer) – I am sure that with good weather it’s a great place to hang out with friends.
On my list there was also the Tower Bridge that we visited that same day – thanks Marco (Fabrizia’s flatmate) for the great patience you had to take us a thousand photos.
We had been out the whole day and were quite tired; we went home for dinner because we had the brilliant idea to book breakfast at 8.30 for the morning after: day 2 was over.
Little recommendation: when you plan your trip to London and find any breakfast or brunch or afternoon tea you are interested in, check if reservation is required and book it in advance in order not to be forced later to wake up at 6.30 because the only available spot is at 8.30.
Exactly, on day 3 we woke up very early but it was worth it: breakfast in Duck & Waffle, 40th floor of the Heron tower and … drum rolls… it was an amazing sunny morning! This means that the view was fantastic. After breakfast, a little stroll around Shoreditch to digest before buying some sunglasses in the Brick Lane Vintage Market. Tireless and unstoppable we walked to Covent Garden and by following Fabrizia through some little alley, I could finally see with my eyes the famous-maybe-not-so-famous Neal’s Yard: I read about this hidden gem while making my lazy research about London, but I don’t know if everybody knows about it or if it is not that commercial yet.
We had lunch in Carnaby Street in an Italian restaurant; no, I am not that kind of Italian who eats only Italian food abroad, in fact I try to avoid Italian restaurants abroad but we were too tired to take a decision and Fabrizia knew that place already – not the best, but acceptable (mostly if you haven’t been home for a while).
Last day in town: lazy morning – not a big deal, in the end I was there to spend some time with Fabrizia – lunch in Nothing Hill and afternoon tea in Covent Garden (note: the afternoon tea can totally substitute the dinner – maybe this is why my English friends ask “do you fancy a tea tonight?” when planning a dinner out).
Are four days enough in London? Maybe not but I had been there already and even if I didn’t visit the city as a grown up, I did visit all the main touristic attractions back then. This time was mostly a good escape from the depression caused by three cancelled trips and a great occasion to stay with my dear friend.
Will I go to London again? Not in the close future, but “never say never”.
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I’ll read ya!