Are there any three words that are more indicative of London than the phrase “mind the gap?” Surely you could name drop the major sites, Big Ben, the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, but for anyone who’s actually been to London the incessant chant of “mind the gap” from the anonymous overhead voice should bring you right back to the underground…at least it does for me!
Having already done the London touristy sites several years ago, I opted to instead go for a more local feel just like my time in Amsterdam. My luck on the United Kingdom leg of this trip is pretty fierce – I’ve met a lot of people along the way and have several house offers all throughout England and Scotland – so that should make it all a bit more affordable.
So, although I only briefly mentioned Hannah at the time, I met Hannah during my trekking in Nepal – remember the completely hazy, nary a mountain in site trek? Yes, well she was also blessed with the terrible choice of hiking dates and we bonded in Ghorepani over warm food, hot drinks, a roaring fire and a mutual love for Aqua (don’t judge me for that).
Hannah lives in Clapham Common and has a lovely flat with an extra room – perfect for a couch-crashing traveler. She recommended that I purchase an Oyster-card for my three days in the city (three pounds refundable when you return the card and you can load it up with all the money you think you’ll use on underground and buses) – best way to get around! There was no fumbling at the door to the bus counting out change, I was able to just breeze on and off – I definitely recommend this for traveling for a couple of days in the city.
Moving on, Hannah recommended that I spend one of my days in South Kensington – the museums in London are free so I was able to wander in and out to my heart’s content. The Victoria and Albert is Hannah’s favorite and I managed to catch a really neat exhibit, Telling Tales. I’m a nerd at heart thanks to my dad and I thought that the Science Museum across the street was a lot of fun; it’s aimed at appealing to kids…but who isn’t a kid a heart, right? Hands on exhibitions and short consumable facts made it a fun wander.
The museums are in a beautiful part of town where the houses are whitewashed with picturesque flower boxes on the window sills. Wandering through the streets brought me to Hyde Park and the Victoria and Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens. Read my book here for a lot of the day amongst the locals and tourists lounging in the ample green space.
I will admit that I succumbed to the super touristy with a stop at Covent Gardens for an afternoon and a vegetarian treat recommended by Hannah’s roommate, Food for Thought. The atmosphere at Covent Gardens is touristy-tastic tons of street performers and the sounds of buskers waft through the air – and you have to dodge living statues – but good fun for a stroll and shopping if you’re not on a backpacker budget!
Capped off the visit to London with a couple of beers with some two great guys that I met in India during the craziness of Holi festivities – they were my street protection for the day!. Remember these guys?
Neil and Jordi agreed to meet up for drinks at a bar on Old Street in the apparently trendy side of town – Jordi works there and it was early enough in the evening that he was able to relax and chat for a couple of hours. I love these guys and it was just really neat to have that connection of meeting genuinely nice people and making friendships that carry over outside of the crazy situations in which I met them…heck, I’m surprised they even recognized me when I went in considering the last they saw of me I was coated in pink, green, and yellow Indian Holi colors.
Cheers and sincere thanks to my London friends – I didn’t see a single of the “major” sites in the town but had a brilliant time in the city and hope to come back!