The London Posts | To London, With Love

Monday, January 8, 2018

The biggest question I've been asked about my trip was if London was everything I expected it to be. My answer every time? Yes, and then some. 
There was something about finally getting off the tube on Gloucester Road near our hotel that made me feel calm. Somehow that became possible after a six hour flight and super long tube journey into the city. Everything around me seemed familiar but also surreal all at once. I was finally in the middle of everything I'd seen in Youtube videos for three years. It was like that moment in The Holiday when Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz realize they've arrived at their swapped houses. 

Even when Amina and I did one thing after another, I was still overwhelmed with the fact that I was in London. I was overjoyed with just going in a Boots to see what was really inside and drink coffee at The Good Life. I got to see my favorite Youtuber, Zoella's bodycare range up close and in person. We got off the tube in the heart of Piccadilly Circus where it was hard not to just tilt my head back and gawk. Seriously, that place is huge, like a condensed Times Square all in one. 

Notting Hill
Even though the pollution there is horrible and left me with a dry throat constantly (amazing, I know) and seeing the sun out was a rare occasion, I still fell in love with London and it's beautiful Christmas lights and simple and classic architecture everywhere I turned. 

I fell in love with Selfridges, the giant department store that looms over Oxford Street, unable to shy away amongst every other shop you could ever imagine. I could have stood and watched the giant Christmas baubles twinkle, glimmer, and inspire Christmas cheer all day. 

Instagram-worthy house in Notting Hill
On the other side of Selfridges was Regent Street where Liberty resides in all it's beautiful, English exterior and glory. Regent Street had my favorite lights, Christmas angels twinkling and gliding over the pedestrians down below, hands full of shopping bags and cell phones in hand. I only say cell phones because anyone on foot had their nose glued to their phone screens. Yes, that makes me sound about fifty years old but it's super difficult to cut through a crowd when almost everyone is on their phone. 

The mayhem of the sidewalks didn't make me love London any less. It's part of living in a big city like that I would imagine. That's why people move with purpose. Move or be moved I'm sure they would say. Luckily I know how to move with intention and get out of the way (multiple times I wanted to cry “Please don't hurt me, I'm just an American”). 

Hampstead Heath
Holborn Grind was my favorite coffee shop amongst all the ones on my list, even though there were a couple I didn't get to go to. The interior was inviting and aesthetically pleasing which would have had me sitting on one of their benches all day long, blending in with the other coffee drinkers and Londoners passing through. It was tiny, as most places are, but I felt calm sitting inside. I hope the next time I'm in London I get to experience their other all of them. Like Pokemon, gotta visit them all.

I know I mentioned it in my shopping post but We Built This City, nestled at the end of Carnaby Street, was one of my favorite shops I visited during my whole trip. It was so unique and captured my tongue in cheek but tasteful gifts and prints that made me want to buy the whole store. I still want the string lights with gin bottles on them. Yes, I said gin bottles. Carnaby Street was one of my favorite areas for shopping after Regent Street because it was busy yes, but carried a somewhat more chill vibe. It would be one of the first places I would return to one day. Their Christmas decorations up above my head made me feel like I was in some tropical wonderland hidden in London. The vibrant colors of the palm trees and birds made London not feel so cold and grey when I was underneath them. 

Our last day we saw the historic sites from Parliament, Big Ben (and all his scaffolding), and Buckingham Palace. I was having a big history lover moment when I was surrounded by the magnitude of the historic buildings and their exquisite architecture that's been there for years (like more than my brain could compute). I had the opportunity to recreate a photo taken of my mom back when she visited London in the 90's before I was born, standing where she stood some 26 years ago. It even gave Amina, my best friend, chills when she took the picture. 

The walk to Buckingham Palace from Parliament Square reminded me so much of the National Mall in DC. Crossing through St. James Park was like walking through the mall, except Buckingham Palace was waiting for us at the end instead of the Capitol building. The Palace could comfortably house our White House and then some. It was astounding how close people could get to the building and experience the architecture and beauty up close. It was a moment where I felt calm with all that history surrounding me, and tiny details etched into the stone work of the Queen's home. I could have stood there for hours too. 

I loved London, even with its busy sidewalks, people moving intensely, and all the shopping I could ever want. Their coffee is some of the best I've ever, ever had in my life...which is a lot. Seriously, a flat white anywhere in London will knock you on your butt way harder than Starbucks ever will...then you'll run all the way from Big Ben to St. Paul's Cathedral. I won't bore you anymore but I hope you get to visit London one day...but hit me up for recommendations first. Cheers! 

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