When people ask me which of the cities I’ve visited so far is my favorite, my immediate answer would always be London (Kyoto would be a close second). My first European city. The first time I was scheduled for a flight to the United Kingdom, more than a year ago, I was so excited I literally did not get any sleep the night before (which was actually unfortunate, as the flight was a dragging fourteen-hour one).
Everyone had plans of their own that day, so I was all set to explore the city by myself, but the crew ended up spontaneously booking a trip to a town called Banstead in Surrey, about an hour away from the city, for the Mayfield Lavender Farm.
The farm’s only open for visit from June to September when the lavenders are in bloom. We went in July, on what turned out to be a good day, as they were in full bloom. Of course that would mean the field would be packed and it would be impossible to get a wide shot without bodies getting in the way, so I didn’t bother. I did bother having a few of my photos taken though, of course, haha. (First timer, pagbigyan.)
After spending maybe two hours marvelling at the beautiful fields, we drove back to the city where we parted ways. Time to explore on my own! First stop: Covent Garden. It’s a plaza full of restaurants and retail stores; a lovely place to people-watch, hear some live classical music (went on a weekend, so not quite sure if this is a weekday thing too, though), and as tipped by my co-crew, to get your money changed. Also: to grab a pie! Battersea Pie was my first English meal. I’m not a pie person at all, but it was a good enough first taste of English cuisine. (Now that I think about it, that was also my last, as I opted for pizza for dinner, haha.)
I really didn’t mind the idea of exploring the city on my own (my mom did, though, haha), as it wouldn’t have been my first time. Also, it would’ve been easy to find my way back if I had gotten lost considering we speak the same language (unlike how it would be a struggle to communicate in Japan, for example). I’d also heard about the tube being very easy to navigate (it really was), so I was confident I would be fine. Locals seemed approachable too – at some point, a random dude struck a conversation with me and worriedly asked, “How come you’re out here by yourself? Pretty girl like you all alone… (shakes head)” I told him I knew it was safe here (of course I don’t actually know that, but I had to appear like I know my shit), and he said “yeah, it is, it’s very safe here, don’t worry.” I ended up with dinner recommendations and a quick chat, no worries! I know it may seem naive, but there are things to be learned and skills to be acquired when traveling alone and getting to talk to locals. I even met a fellow tourist, a French-Moroccan, who became my photographer for a bit – yay for decent photos versus selfies, haha. Thanks, kind stranger (a.k.a. Mohammed)!
Anyway – lots and lots of walking ensued, basically. I didn’t mind, being surrounded by such beautiful, grand architecture.
The Big Ben was unfortunately under construction at the time, so I didn’t ask for a proper photo with it nor took one of it anymore. It was just scaffolding halfway up. The cliché photo by the Big Ben would have to wait (until 2021, to be specific).
I stumbled upon street performers everywhere! Guy on the left was singing his rendition of Coldplay‘s Fix You (a.k.a. my all-time favorite song), so I stopped to appreciate and capture the moment. Lady on the left was into it and singing (harmonizing, actually) along. Loved how supportive she was. Guy on the right was performing a magic trick, supposedly making a Coca-Cola bottle float. London felt so alive with all the performance art. I felt like I was in a movie.
After a self-guided walking tour that allowed me to visit all the standard tourist spots – the Big Ben, the London Eye, Trafalgar Square (pictured above), Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey, not to mention, buying myself souvenir items like the ecstatic tourist that I was (a mini Big Ben now lives on one of my shelves), it was time to shop at Oxford Street. It was getting late at this point – the sun had set and lights had started to fill the city and I fell in love even more. London looked so magical at night, wah.
I started feeling my back and my feet ache after a bit of strolling around Oxford street, so I cut the (window) shopping short and grabbed a bite at Pizza Pilgrims in Kingly Court, before heading back to the hotel and calling it a night. I wish I had more energy to explore the city more, but alas, my physically unfit self could only walk so much…
This was one of those days when I felt like I was actually traveling versus just spending a layover for work. Loved it, and absolutely loved London. Will always look forward to my next visit. xx