“There’s nowhere else like London. Nothing at all, anywhere.”
~ Vivienne Westwood
It’s true what they say, love comes to you when you least expect it. Although in this case it wasn’t a person, but a place. I never expected London to have such a profound impact on me. It literally swept me away and has stolen my heart.
I was so frustrated with that fact that I’ve lived in Italy for 3 years and haven’t traveled much (really at all). On a whim and an incredible seat deal with RyanAir, I planned a trip to London for my birthday weekend last November.
I was excited to see my friends who live in London but other than that I didn’t have high expectations for this trip. I knew I would only be there for a couple days and I wouldn’t be able to see everything but I wanted to try and take in as much as I could. We arrived late on Saturday night, and of course it was rainy (not surprising) and colder than I’m used to. We quickly found our hotel with a little help from a few Londoners.
That was one of the first things that really made an impression on me. The people of London have a genuine kindness to them and are so generous, quick to offer help; even if you don’t ask for it.
We woke up Sunday morning to a beautifully sunny day. It was so wonderful to walk along the Thames without an umbrella and just take in the busy city buzzing with tourists and locals. We walked to the Tower Bridge before hoping on the underground to make our way to meet my friends. Seeing my Toronto friends, who have lived in London for years now, was so amazing and surreal. We wandered through the streets of London passing the Big Ben has it chimed, the House of Parliament, and the London Eye. We made our way to Trafalgar Square and had afternoon tea in the National Café located in the National Gallery.
In the evening, we walked around the Regent and Oxford Street shops and Piccadilly Circus. Although it was mid-November, the streets and shops were already lit up and ready for the Christmas season. It was so enchanting. I could have walked up and down those streets forever. You couldn’t help but notice the explosion of culture and the mixture of languages that filled the air as you weaved through the many people walking through the streets.
The next day, we made our way to Buckingham Palace and through Green Park before we hopped on the underground and made our way to Abbey Road Studios. I have to admit, I wasn’t too impressed with the famous Beatles crosswalk. It was the walls that enclosed the studios completely covered in names and quotes and messages from people all over the world that made the biggest impression on me. Having worked in the music business, seeing the studios and seeing the mass amount of people that come here to see such a historical place that played such a profound role in music history was truly inspiring.
After Abbey Road Studios, we decided to stop in Notting Hill. Not only because I am a fan of the film but I was told that it would be a neighbourhood that I would definitely fancy. It was a rainy Monday afternoon, so there wasn’t too much chaos. I absolutely adored this little neighbourhood lined with unique shops and home to such an interesting blend of people.
Cosenza doesn’t have many ethnic restaurants (in fact it’s one of the things I miss about living in Toronto) so I wanted to take advantage and have some Thai food. We noticed there were many in Notting Hill but we were drawn to one in particular, Thai Rice. There were a few people eating inside so we decided to give it a try, not knowing what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised by how good the food was. I even had my first taste of Asian beer
We headed back to Piccadilly Circus to meet up with an Italian friend who moved to London last June for work. We headed to Carnaby Street, a pedestrian area in the SoHo district, which is known for its unique Christmas lights. The street was lit up with tons of birds, robins to be precise. We stopped into the Red Lion, one of the many traditional English pubs that you can find in that area. We could have chatted the night away, but unfortunately we had to get back to the hotel to get some rest before our super early flight the next morning.
It was very clear to me throughout the trip that I would return. As we headed to the airport I could feel the energy of London pulling at me; it wasn’t finished with me just yet. I promised myself that I wouldn’t wait so long to return to this wonderfully intoxicating city that is home to some very important people in my life. London was beyond all my expectations. I’m very much looking forward to going back and making more wonderful memories.
Have you ever fallen completely head over heels for a city? What was it about the city that swept you off your feet?