For some reason, London has always been my number one city to visit in Europe. I think Harry Potter might have a part in this. Before choosing to study in Paris, my first choice was actually LSE in London. After asking around about the program though, I decided against it. And as you can see, I have absolutely no regrets about choosing Paris.
Still, I had to visit London, the only city that had been on my mind for all of my youth (and my carte de sejour was about to expire so I had to re-enter France anyways). The trip was a bit overwhelming, considering it was a solo trip in a big and extremely windy city. If you think Paris has a lot of tourists…think again. London is packed with tourists and the local working men in suits walking around (not complaining about the latter, of course). It was also kind of weird that I was speaking English everywhere I went. Made me miss French.
On my first day there, I attempted to visit Hyde Park…and oh my gosh, just let me tell you about the weather. You have never experienced real wind until you’ve experienced it in London. It was @#*@#@ insane. I was halfway there on my trip and all of a sudden, just got knocked over by the wind. Then, rain came pouring down.They say that London will not be without rain within a 48 hour time period. I thought it would go away within a few moments…but I was sooooo wrong. I pulled out my umbrella…and the wind almost blew it away and turned it inside out. I had to find a corner on the sidewalk to pull my shit together. Literally. This also might have happened continuously for the next 10 minutes as I tried to make my way to Hyde Park. Now that I am thinking about it…I feel so stupid hahah. I really overestimated myself. I finally gave up in the end, and just shut myself in the hotel. An ATM machine also ate my credit card earlier that day, so obviously not a good day to be out.
The second and third day was much better since there was a bit of sunshine here and there, though the wind was still there, knocking me over every chance it gets. Gawd.
I stayed near Covent Garden, which is a popular shopping and touring site near the Royal Opera House. The area is pretty lively with a lot of stores, restaurants and street entertainment. There is a great band of violinists that I bumped into at least twice while I was walking there. They realy know how to play the crowd. I enjoy walking around here in the morning though since it’s quieter and less crowded. There is also a really cute coffee/bakery shop near here called Peyton and Byrne on Wellington street where I go get my caffeine in the morning. They also serve pretty good scones.
I am also near the National Gallery and the square. Crossing over this area, you would be walking along the St. James Park, which leads you right to Buckingham Palace! I would suggest picking a day with decent weather…because walking there is a major trip if it’s windy and rainy. I am speaking from experience, obviously. I was also really hoping I would be able to bump into Kate, William or Harry hahah.
One thing I will say that I miss while living in Paris is having more green space. There aren’t a lot of parks here with a lot of grass space. It’s usually a lot of dust. So when I came to London, I was set on hitting Hyde Park and Regents Park. Both parks are worth the visit, and definitely a great place to relax and rest (on a nice day). You may see a lot of people at both places but the overall atmosphere is pretty tranquil and calm.
Although I am a major “foodie,” I am actually not too much of a fan of British food. I do enjoy afternoon tea and the scones, for sure. But fish and chips? Pudding? Nah…not really my thing. I debated whether or not I should try it since I am in a city where it’s famous for those things, but I decided against it. Which you should do as well, and head over to the Borough and Camden Market for some street food instead! Unfortunately, the two markets aren’t close to each other at all, so you would have to visit them on separate days. Avoid weekends though, since they get super super crowded.
While the Borough market is purely just food, Camden Town Market is a mix of a flea market and street food stands. It’s a really artsy place to walk around.
London, being the big city that it is, has a lot to offer. Besides the central area where all the main tourist attractions are, other areas are great places to walk around as well like Nottingham or Kensington. I was unable to make it there due to time constraints, but I’ve only heard good things about it. Oh well, next time I suppose =/ And I may actually have to plan out a route to visit all the Harry Potter sights ahaha