London is a winsome, safe, and captivating city
filled with history, culture, and a lively, buzzing atmosphere
I just spent two weeks (a fortnight as the Brits say, apparently) in this capitol of the United Kingdom, and honestly, I could have stayed for another two years...
Everyday was a new adventure filled with immaculate architecture, unique encounters, and delicious food (Indian food fanatics, you're in luck)
Everyone there was going somewhere... they were all well on their way, and they were moving there quickly. Let's just say, London is not a place for the slow walker.
I thought I was a fast walker, until I came here - it was actually very impressive being in the jumble with these people, they're like a rare breed of money making, moving machines. Also, everyone wears black (unless you're a prep school rugrat - then you look like you attend hogwarts, and a total BADASS!! -
side note: Who the hell designs these kid school uniforms?! I would literally enroll all of my future children just so I could be entertained daily with how cute yet ridiculous they look. Like little old men that also might pull out a wand, cast a spell, and pull a rabbit out of their backpack at any given second?!). So it's up to you how you want to blend into that mix, for a whole lotta black and ties - it's quite amusing?
The whole city is flourishing, bustling, and booming. I remember laying in my hostel bed right in the heart of SOHO District, which is quite literally and figuratively the heart of London - and I could hear the city beating of vibrance and life. I can honestly say i've never enjoyed city "noise" so much. I had this moment where I was like "holy shit! I can literally hear sounds from thousands of people, and machines made by people, making noise right now, all together in this collective and communal shared space together". It was wild. and then i'd hear the not-so-occassional honk of a horn, followed by an aggressive and very unnecessary amount of longer honks shortly after. This calming buzz of thousands was interrupted by just a few people trying to make a right hand turn (yeah, they drive on the left side of the road there because London is way too advanced for all of our peasant right side of the road driving shenanigans)
I am not a big city gal, by any means, but there was something so charming about London. I found so much peace in the chaos. I was deeply inspired by the movement, the consistent flow, the mechanics of progress. It is this highly advanced society with the latest trends in fashion, the latest technology in businesses, and only the fanciest automobiles driving it's streets (Seriously, i'm convinced you have to own a Porsche or ranger rover to drive the streets of London).
Yet, everything was so classical. People were very respectful and had quite impressive manners, even the kiddos. The buildings made me feel like I was living in a dream based in the 1800's. The taxi cabs were straight out of a vintage magazine you'd find in your grandparents nightstand drawer.
I didn't want to blink, because I didn't want to miss ANYTHING.
As impressive and easy to navigate as their public transportation was, I decided to spend most of my time gandering (is gandering even a word?!) around on foot. I especially enjoyed this particular path of getting around because as fast and effective as the tube (underground railway) is, all you get a glimpse of is black tunnels and then you walk up the stairs and enter into a strange, unknown land. The red busses were awesome, highly iconic, and a must do. If you're traveling across the city I suggest the double decker bus and yes, it is absolutely necessary and mandatory that you go to the second story. And please, don't hold back on the natural response to instantly pull out your phone and take a few obligatory snapchats - because
HELLO, YOU ARE RIDING IN A FUCKING DOUBLE DECKER BUS!!!!!
(And I hope you get lucky enough to get the front seats on the second floor - if this happens, don't get off the bus!!!! Enjoy your panoramic tour of the city)
In case you can't tell, I AM MADLY IN LOVE WITH LONDON.
It's bloody blinding. A real corker.
If taking a trip to London is something you fancy,
keep your pecker up because it's time to get chuffed to the bits.
You'll lose your marbles and you'll most definitely be gobsmacked.
ok, ok, i'll stop with the tosh. sorry (not) (yeah, definitely not sorry)
IF I HAD TO DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN FROM THE START,
WHY I WOULD CHOOSE LONDON
AS MY FIRST BIG SOLO TRIP:
1) Safety - I never once felt in danger. As days went on I realized how comfortable and truly safe I felt in every part of main city London that I was in. This is a big thing for me being a solo traveler! Feeling uneasy is the quickest way to not enjoy myself on a trip, or anytime. I was fully present and able to enjoy every moment. I even felt safe walking around at night because of the amount of people out and around.
2) They speak English - this helped with everything from ordering food, to asking about attractions to see, to making friends with the locals. It was so convenient and welcoming traveling across the world to a land where your fluent language is theirs as well. Of course, english is so common it's spoken almost everywhere - I always feel a bit intimidated and disrespectful when i'm in a country where I don't speak much of their native language (I know they don't mind and that's all part of being a tourist). But, It was nice to not have that worry in the back of my mind.
3) Public transportation is easy- Like I said above, Londons public transportation is quite impressive! The busses run on time, very often, and the tube system is complex but totally easy to grasp. There's always a way to where you are going that won't require much planning or effort to get to. They have live updates at their bus stops saying when the next bus is due, maps everywhere, and even apps that have live updates (city mapper). The oyster card is a reusable card that you can put money on and you just tap it to the readers as you go in and out, on and off, all the public transportation types that London offers (tubes, trains, and busses).
4) You can walk the town on foot as well -
This was my person preference! It was amazing and would give me a full day of adventures without having much of a plan (my favorite way to travel). I saw so much! Some friends that live in London said they would see my snaps and not even recognize where I was. Just one of the many perks to walking: you see things many people pass when they are focused on getting to a certain destination. Slow it down! Enjoy the journey. I would look forward to the cold breeze on my face as I was bundled up in a few layers every single day! It was truly amazing.
5) Many female solo travelers - I met so many solo female travelers in my hostels. I jumped around to a total of 5 different hostels in my time in London - in all different areas too. You are not alone! I'm tellin ya, London just has this way about it.
6) Respect as a Woman - Respecting women is quite literally in their government and history. Two weeks in London and I was not cat called, whistled, hollered, or aaaaayyyye mami-ed at my whole time there. NOT EVEN ONCE. Two minutes in Mexico and i'm already rolling my eyes. (Sorry, still love you Mexico, but man oh man do some of the men there feel entitled). I personally did not experience any gender inequality. It seem to be that men and women were considered and treated equally. I think this is due to the fact that it's been so strongly interwoven in their culture in recent history- long live the QUEEN!
7) Tons of quick grab and go restaurants - sometimes when you are traveling alone you might not want to deal with sit down restaurants. I personally don't mind walking into a restaurant and asking for a table for one, but I understand that's not everyones cup of tea. London makes it easy for the solo traveler with all the quick, walk in - walk out, grab + go places everywhere. Oh yeah, and these places are actually good?! You would never catch me dead at a fast food joint in the states, but these chains were impressive - and they are seriously on every corner.
LEON, EAT., PRET A MANGER, ITSU, CRUSSH, the list goes on...
Also there are grocery stores and markets with prepared food in them like Whole Foods, Planet Organic, Borough Market, etc.
But honestly, I personally opted for Indian food 9/10 meals. I couldn't resist.
7) Nature and City - The best of both worlds. If you're feeling caught up in the hustle and bustle of the city life you can spend hours, days, weeks exploring the parks all over London. The royal parks are acres and acres. Go to the middle of Hyde Park and you'll forget you're even in one of the worlds biggest cities. Oh yeah, and pups... EVERYWHERE. Go there and get your puppy love on.
8) Museums to keep you entertained - Londons museums are some of the most impressive in the World. They also happen to be free! Solo travelers - you're in luck. Who talks in a museum anyways?!! Exactly, this is the place to be if you are traveling solo.
9) There is wifi everywhere - go to any given sidewalk in London and you'll have 5 different wifi options. This is good for those who don't have an international plan. This means you can easily keep connected with friends, family, and the like. Also good for peace of mind to have a functional phone with you. If you want to look up places near by or feel like you are lost, don't fear - wifi is near!
10) And LAST BUT NOT LEAST - If you fall in love with London and don't want to leave, you can LEGALLY (and easily) stay there 6 months as a US Citizen. I'd be lying if I didn't mention that I considered doing this multiple times a day. It was probably unhealthy to get my hopes up that much convincing myself that I was just going to change all my plans (I don't really have too many plans, but lets just call them "plans to make plans") and stay.
Some info: Most of Europe consists of countries (26 countries to be exact) that are allied together in the European Union which are referred to as the Schengen Area. This is important to know because you can only stay 90 days in a 180 day period in the Schengen countries as an American citizen. But nope, not the good ole United Kingdom. Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England. They let you hang out for 6 months. aka S T A Y.
London is beautiful and if none of those above options were relevant - i'd still say a million times more that you should go. I would walk around and just be in awe - abundance of gratitude for the chance to be walking these historic streets and experiencing it with my own two eyes.
Cheers to the land of beautiful landscapes, historical sights, and cultural treasures.
I truly had the most incredible time and i'm already trying to figure out my next trip back there. Highly likely that next time i'll be there, it'll be longer than two weeks.
As much as I saw, there was still SO MUCH MORE to see.
That's if for me, I’m Off to Bedfordshire
(which means Bed... wish I was actually talking about the English town)