I’m definitely going to go there again.
The homeless people are clean, the walkways are organized, and the street performers are another blog topic to discuss all together – top class acts.
First, here’s what you need to know about travelling to a foreign country:
1. Always plan an itinerary before you go.
There’s nothing more stressful than getting lost in a foreign country. I was lucky enough to have the luxury of a local showing me around, guiding me through the London Underground system, but if you don’t have an awesome cousin living in the country you’re visiting, you should over prepare on travelling arrangements and alternatives before getting there. This ensures that your vacation run smoothly; you avoid wasting time asking for directions and feeling confused about what to do next.
2. Convert your own money into foreign cash before you go.
There’s always uncertain danger when you’re walking with a stack of cash on hand – anywhere in the world, but it’s good to have some money handy when you’ve just arrived and you need to hop onto a train, buy a coffee or buy a new sim card for example.
3. Pack according to the climate but pack light.
You don’t want to pay an extra fee for overweight luggage when you get to the airport. I’d arrived in London just as all the stores were having sales. The British Pound Sterling exchange rate is ridiculous compared to the South African Rand (1£ = R18, 70 – 26/12/14). Needless to say, I didn’t shop up a storm, but one does as one would when you see a SALE! sign, so I bought one to two things. Hence, pack light, just in case you’re bringing something home with you.
Visiting the monuments.
The *touristy places didn’t intrigue me as much as the local hangouts. I had more fun trying Belguim chocolate crepes in a shoebox restaurant in Brixton.
Character lies in places where you find small crowds of people, and that’s usually where the rewarding ‘this-is-it’ feeling spurts from. It was nice to see Buckingham Palace; I thought that after I’d gone to see the palace that something would surge inside of me, you know that feeling like you’ve finally arrived. But there was nothing. Only after I’d walked through Brixton Village and had my cousin point out the famous Electric Avenue that Eddy Grant sang about, did I feel as though I’d arrived. I couldn’t stop singing… “We’re *gonna rock down to… Electric Avenue…”
We’d also gone to the National Portrait Gallery – a museum of British faces. There, I saw Charles Dickens, Diana Spencer, Rylan Clark, and I was introduced to the work of Grayson Perry, whom I’ve come to appreciate as an abstract genius. His Map of Days was my favourite.
London’s food and culture.
Gaining experience is worth more than attaining material things. Some people are reluctant to try foreign foods and drinks because we commonly fear what we don’t understand. A large portion of your experiences in a foreign place will be based on your enthusiasm to try a new things. Sometimes adventure lies in simply tasting a foreign dish. Be adventurous.
About an hour’s train ride to South Harrow from Canary Wharf, where I stayed, my cousin, Lemarc, and I, visited another relative for lunch one day. We were welcomed with a wide variety of traditional English and St Helenian food. I was familiar with many of the ingredients but some I had never eaten before like Parsnips, Yorkshire pudding, and boiled pudding.
The main purpose of my excursion to the UK was to visit my family. Having an opportunity to enjoy a meal with some of them was more than I could have asked of a vacation. I always tell my friends (a quote by Robin Esrock); “people you meet create the paradise you find”.
London is quite diverse. It’s as if each district has its own personality and each culture tries to maintain their roots as much as they can. Crêpes are made by the French, Pizza by the Italians, Dumplings and Sushi by the Asians, and so on…
In Soho, we went to a Korean restaurant called Bibimbap. We had some Korean green tea with popped rice, and the renowned Bibimbaps. You’re actually served raw food in a hot stone bowl and the food cooks as you eat. It’s incredible.
In Islington, Lemarc and I met with a friend of mine from Cape Town, who is now living in the area. We had lunch at one of the many hipster restaurants in the city but I forget the name. “Its Rustic chic”, Lemarc said. He’d ordered a Scotch egg and hand-cut chips and that’s the first time I’d come across something like a Scotch egg. I was sure to order one at a Heathrow Airport restaurant, before my flight back to Cape Town. It tastes exactly like an egg that’s covered in mince – and that’s all it is. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Camden Town was by far my favourite district to visit. Amy Winehouse lived around these parts, I was told. And Camden Market is filled with a feast of all sorts – drinks, food, art, live music and clothing stalls. “Anything goes in Camden except pretentiousness”, I’d heard. I had my first drink of hot mulled wine, which was interesting, and of course soothing because it was so cold that I could see my own breath.
I’d spent my last night in London at the Duck and Waffle restaurant, located on the 40th floor of the Heron Tower. That was something to write home about. The view, the bacon wrapped dates, and amazing company complimented each other beautifully. You know that it’s good when your cocktail is served with a stick of sugar cane as its sweetener.
I’d also spent one day of this trip in Glasgow, and one day in Edinburgh, leading up to New Years Eve. Check out my Instagram profile to watch New Year’s Eve Fireworks at the Hogmanay Street Party, in Edinburgh.
Have you been to London? What was your favourite district to visit? I’d love to hear from you. Post a comment in the section below or send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.