Ah, London. My muse.
No, really. This whole love affair with travel really got started when I studied abroad in London five years ago (WHERE DOES THE TIME GO!?)
Flashback to 2012, I was absolutely scared to death to embark on a journey abroad by myself. My parents dropped me off at the Orlando airport, and as soon as I went through security, I immediately felt like my seven-year-old self, backpack and all, taking a deep breath, waving goodbye to Mom and heading down the terminal.
Only this time, it wasn’t a quick flight to visit my grandparents.
I am SO happy that I took that leap of faith, though. I absolutely fell in love with London and the entire United Kingdom, got to live in the heart of the city for a summer, and made some lifelong friends (even met my Maid-of-Honor-to-be…hey Chels!)
Flash forward to 2017, I was elated to head back to my old ‘stomping grounds’ and bring Pat with me. Our relationship was just beginning when I was there the first time, so getting to share it with him, and doing so while we’re engaged, was really special.
AWWWWWW. I know.
After three months in Croatia and a whirlwind stop-over in Venice, our first stop in London?
Big, fat, greasy cheeseburgers. And sweet potato fries. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Mediterranean/Italian diet just as much as the next pasta fanatic, but after eating the same type of food for three months…good lord those burgers were good.
We got a flat in Porchester, which was a really convenient location about a ten minute walk from Hyde Park and Notting Hill.
Although I initially had hoped to find a place in the same neighborhood I lived in before (Bloomsbury), it was actually really nice to get to know a different part of the city. Also, shout-out to FSU for having student housing in the nicest area of London– we couldn’t even find a closet for less than $250/night in that area.
In a poetic turn of events, I unknowingly booked a flat that was ironically similar to the one we had (and complained about) in college. Go up 10 flights of stairs, finally catch your breath, open the door and find two more flights of stairs, THEN you’ve arrived.
And, of course, it was hot. Good weather is really a ‘be careful what you wish for’ kind of thing in London because nothing is equipped to deal with the heat.
i.e. A/C doesn’t exist and you don’t want to be staying in a converted attic in London when it’s 90 degrees.
All joking aside, I couldn’t believe the weather we had. It was sunny almost every single day. I kept telling Pat that in the entire summer I was there, we only got a week or two of weather like that.
(For those of you who want the ‘cliff notes’ version of this post, you can get the jist of our time in London, Liverpool & Dublin with this video):
A grand tour of Soho, Trafalgar Square & Southbank
SEVERAL evenings at Gordon’s Wine Bar. My absolute favorite spot, and a MUST on any trip to London.
Brick Lane & dinner at Eastern Eye – the best curry house in London. Seriously.
Camden. Always an experience in and of itself.
A stroll down Portobello Road and lunch at The Sun in Splendour – the oldest pub in Notting Hill, and one of my favorite restaurants (can’t go wrong with the fish n’ chips, quinoa burger or asparagus risotto).
Discovered ‘Little Venice’ and an amazing restaurant called Café Laville, which is perched on a bridge above one of the canals.
And it’s ARSENALLLLLLL! – I can’t believe this is the only record I have from the day, but the best part of the entire trip was when we met up with some friends/Pat’s old soccer coach to watch the Arsenal vs. Chelsea match. We got to hang out in Finsbury Park for the ‘pregame’ then headed to a sports bar in Leicester Square for a watch party. Arsenal won, and it was insane.
Walked eight miles !EIGHT MILES! from Hyde Park to Buckingham Palace, Westminster, London Bridge and Borough Market (it was the last day, so we crammed)
Onto Liverpool & Dublin
After London we took the train to Liverpool. I always refer to Liverpool as “the New Orleans of England” because of it’s bars and live music culture.
It’s no secret, you go to Liverpool for the nightlife, so we don’t have much to report in terms of sightseeing, but being in the birthplace of The Beatles on the day of the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was wild, to say the least.
We also had a few days in Dublin before catching our flight to Rome. Since we had enough pints of beer to last us a lifetime in Liverpool, our few days in Dublin were a bit quiet. We managed to get out and about for a Sandeman’s Free Walking Tour (highly recommended, of course) and discovered some great restaurants. Specifically, Boxti House, The Norseman Pub (great live music, too) and Toscana (better Italian food than I had in Venice…and you can only do so much Irish food before your heart explodes).
This now marks the second time I’ve been to Dublin, swore to myself I’d make it to the countryside, and didn’t. Needless to say, there is another Ireland trip in our future for the SOLE PURPOSE of seeing the countryside.
On a somber note, we were absolutely horrified by the acts of terror that occurred in Manchester and London while we were there.
We walked over London Bridge and spent the afternoon at Borough Market just two days before that attack. It easily could have been us.
The state of the world today and especially these senseless acts of extremist violence is something Pat and I talked about a lot before we left, and have continued to discuss on our trip. We knew the risks. We’ve talked about the “what if’s”, but these tragedies were a terrible reminder of how vigilant we really have to be.
Vigilant. Not fearful.
We didn’t and will not let the actions of these ridiculous, cowardly people keep us from seeing the world. If we live in fear, we let them win.
What we saw in London in the hours and days after that attack absolutely reaffirmed that belief. People went to work. They took the tube. Tour groups were lined up taking photos of Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. People were in mourning, but there was also an unmistakable air of defiance.
Travel more. Talk to more people of different cultures. Understand more.
The cowards will never win.