My first week in London was a whirlwind and involved going out as often as possible. The second week was one of chaos and adjustment. Grocery store visits were limited to two as I had built up a supply, went out often and bought takeaways. Even if I just need one thing at the store I somehow still spend 30 minutes wandering around in case there might be something new that catches my eye.
I tried out two restaurants: Fire & Stone (pizza place in Covent Garden) and TGI Fridays (American diner near Piccadilly Circus). A tip for those who want to order soft drinks at a restaurant, don’t do it! It doesn’t taste nice because it’s from a dispenser instead of a can. While I don’t mind paying 50 bucks for a Coke, it should then taste like a Coke. I have really been missing going out on dates with my bf and the food back home. Price aside I don’t particularly think the food here is anything special.
My weekday outing was to the Camden Centre which stays open late on a Wednesday. After a very far train ride and long walk to get there, I couldn’t look around because they were closed for a private event. Annoyed doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. That was only the beginning of a disastrous evening as I burnt my hand pouring noodles and my adaptor broke. It sounds silly but it was enough to make me feel lonely and homesick.
On Friday night I visited my first London pub, The Lukin with my friend Michelle. I loved the name, the vibe and cool crowd of people. Something interesting I learnt is that since the pub is in a business and residential area they are only allowed to be open till 11pm on a weekday and are closed on a weekend. I haven’t ever been much of a drinks person but I have come to realize that is probably a function of who I went out with. When you hang out with people you get along well with it doesn’t really matter what you do because you know that you will always have a good time.
I still haven’t mustered the energy to get anywhere on a weekend before 12. A quick stop at Knightsbridge in an attempt to find Harrods was foiled when it started raining. I popped into a few shops but still didn’t find any clothes that I wanted to buy! As I am both OCD and a planner I knew that it was going to rain so arranged to meet up with Michelle at Ripley’s Believe it or not.
We first had a chicken wing and chicken fajitas lunch at the very American TGI Friday’s. Service in South Africa is amazing compared to what you get at an average London restaurant. I’m not sure if it is because they get a higher basic here or because a tip of 12.5% is added automatically to some bills.
Piccadilly Circus is an extremely busy spot which I hear looks quite pretty at night with all the lights. We spent 2 hours at Ripley’s marveling at the 6 floors of interesting and unique displays. My personal favourites were the moving dinosaur, the mirror maze, the laser room, the electrocuted man and the Tower Bridge display made from matchsticks.
A stop at Canary Wharf mall was needed to get groceries for the dinner party at Michelle’s. If only there were a Waitrose this big near my apartment, it really is huge! I could of course do my shopping online, but I am way too indecisive to decide upfront about what I want to eat for a whole week. Our dinner ended off with us watching Magic Mike, I hope you (if you are a chick or a gay guy) are as excited as I am that the sequel is releasing in July! I will definitely be planning a ladies night out. This was the third week in a row that I spent the Saturday night at Michelle’s, I haven’t even spent one at my own apartment yet!
A lesson I learnt on the Sunday is that if it is windy, 5 degrees will be freezing cold and not ideal for you to be outside for 4 hours. I went to see the change of the guard at Buckingham Palace which I found rather underwhelming. The crowd in typical British fashion lacked excitement. Proceedings mainly take place behind the palace gate so unless you are right against it you won’t see much. There are better ways to spend an hour than standing outside in a crowd to hear music and see a short march.
A stroll down The Mall alongside St James’s Park is lovely on a Sunday when the mall is closed to traffic. After catching glimpses of Big Ben for two weeks I finally got around to seeing and snapping photos of the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey. The gloomy weather cast a very depressing background on the pictures. When the sun is out though, London is a totally different place, dare I even say beautiful.
The OCD side of me wanted to add thoughts I have had/forgotten to include in my first London post for completeness. But I know that no one is going to go back and read it besides my bf and I, so each week I will include random (sometimes funny) anecdotes.
– You can’t get anywhere in London without Google Maps. Sometimes even with Google Maps you get lost! As a safety measure if you are directionally challenged like I am, double the walking time it suggests.
– Women in London seem to prefer their hair to be cut the same length. I haven’t seen anyone with layered hair which is a popular style in SA.
– McDonalds and Nandos are crappy here.
– There are few things worse than a stinky or sick person sitting next to you on the Tube.
– I associated gloomy weather with it being dark as night outside which really isn’t the case. When the sun does shine you need a pair of sunglasses as it can be blindingly bright.
– I don’t have a problem with PDA but I, like everyone else find PDA on a train excruciatingly annoying. I think this is because your personal space is already encroached on a train and you don’t want to have to now also witness slobbering tonsil hockey.
– In general Brits seem quite prudish. Men crying during sex and the stigma with watching 50 Shades of Grey are just two examples of this.
Sightseeing round up: Camden Arts Centre, The Lukin, Piccadilly circus, TGI Fridays, Ripley’s Believe it or Not, Canary Wharf mall, Green Park, Buckingham Palace, Changing of the Guard, St James’s Park, The Mall, 10 Downing Street, Houses of Parliament, London Eye and the Thames.
1. The bar at Fire & Stone restaurant / 2. Lisbon pizza at Fire & Stone / 3. Long walk at Green Park Tube / 4. Green Park Tube / 5. Police box / 6. Fish and mushy peas at The Lukin / 7. At the Lukin with Michelle and Emefa / 8. Bar at The Lukin / 9. Knightsbridge tube / 10. Bar at TGI Fridays / 11. Chicken wings & Fajitas at TGI Fridays / 12. Heart microphone art / 13. London sign / 14. Blinged out Mini at Ripley’s / 15. Moving dinosaur / 16. Her majesty will see you now / 17. Selfie in the mirror maze / 18. Piccadilly circus / 19. Table setting for dinner party / 20. Buckingham Palace gates / 21. Buckingham Palace / 22. Garden around Buckingham Palace / 23. Crowds waiting for the changing of the guard / 24. The changing of the guard / 25. Me in front of Buckingham Palace / 26. Queen Victoria memorial / 27. The Mall / 28. Changing of the guard / 29. St James’s Park / 30. Horse Guards Parade / 31. Houses of Parliament / 32. Statue of Madiba / 33. Westminster Abbey / 34. London Eye from Westminster Bridge
Sights seen: 15
Photos taken: 747
Pounds spent: 76