I can’t believe it’s already been almost two months since I met two of my best friends in London. Time doesn’t exist for me in Europe, it just slips by unnoticed between countries. Two summers ago I traveled to London with my sister, and I absolutely loved the city and the rather sassy people, so needless to say I was excited to return with Kelly and Ansley for round two. I don’t know what it is about London that has me so hooked, maybe it’s the accent or the blind belief that I’ll meet and marry a Jude Law lookalike, but the city has me charmed nonetheless.
They say that when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, and I wholeheartedly agree with that statement. We were there for three and a half days and were ready to cover some serious ground. Of course we had to do the typical tourist-y stuff: the London Eye, Buckingham Palace, Harrods, Big Ben.. These are all places that I had visited with Shannon a few years ago, but I just as excited to throw down 17 sterling to ride the London Eye as I was then. There were a few places that I had missed on the first trip and was eager to see this time: Notting Hill and Portobello Market, Kensington Palace, the changing of the guards, and of course enjoy scones and a traditional British afternoon tea.
Notting Hill was one of the most quaint and colorful little areas that I’ve ever been to. With cobblestoned streets lined by Victorian townhomes, it’s easy to see why it’s got such cinema cred. Not to mention Portobello Market is a rummager’s dream. The little antique shops and cafes overflowing onto the street that’s already packed with people makes for such a fun and energetic atmosphere. After crowding into a little cafe for a mid-morning pick-me-up of brownies and cupcakes, we hopped back on the double decker and made our way to Harrods for an afternoon of shopping.
I would say that the highlight of the trip for me was afternoon tea and Kensington Palace. A friend of ours who is studying in London recommended that we take afternoon tea at a place called the Saatchi Gallery. She definitely didn’t steer us wrong, the restaurant was amazing. We enjoyed scones, crumpets, finger sandwiches and the accents of the Brits seated nearby, and left that evening feeling very posh indeed. The next morning we woke up to a freezing cold rain, and figured that there was no better place to take cover than in Kensington Palace. I happen to be a huge fan of Will and Kate, and get made fun of very often for the keychain that hangs off of my apartment keys, so visiting the Palace is now one of my all-time favorite memories. The tour is informative and fun, and seeing Princess Diana and former royals’ gowns is definitely worth the entrance fee.
Something that I hadn’t noticed about London the first time around is that life is very structured there. Maybe it’s only because I’ve been living in Madrid for a few months now that I noticed the stark difference in lifestyles, but it really stood out to me nonetheless. In Madrid, no one tells you to “Mind the gap” or to “Take care” if the floor is slippery. Even the washrooms had signs demonstrating how to turn on the tap or how to flush the toilet. I’ve never seen anything like that in Madrid, people just seem to march to the beat of their own drums in Spain. The other cultural element that stood out to me was the amount of personal space that was considered acceptable. In Madrid (I think it’s fairly common in southern Europe), personal space is a non-issue. You get used to brushing up next to people on the metro, double kissing strangers, and sitting within six inches of other diners in restaurants. In England, people were very polite and cognizant of not being too close to anyone else on the metro and ensuring that you wouldn’t be rubbing elbows with anyone else. The things you learn while studying abroad…
Last thoughts on London – I love the way they speak. Here are a few phrases and words that are now a permanent part of our vocabulary:
- “That’s so posh.”
- Quid – slang for sterling
- “Are you right?” Heard in every store/restaurant/hotel and is synonymous with “How are you?”
- Queue – line
- Mind the gap
- Love – I love being called “love.”
And here are a few pictures from our weekend: