Having a good friend is like having a secret inside joke that only the two of you know about. It’s looking at each other and being able to know exactly what they are saying without having to utter a single sound. Having a good tour guide is like having a British accent in your brain, dictating your thoughts and pointing out the smells of the subway system.
In London, we went on a three hour walking tour around the city, all equipped with a single headphone while we explored the city and watched the changing of the guards at Birmingham Palace. Everything the tour guide said was transferred into a tiny device that flowed into our ear. She was quirky and sarcastic, and had the most brilliant accent. And she was hilarious, making us all laugh simultaneously. Onlookers probably thought we were crazy because none of us were talking to each other yet we would all laugh at the same time in random places. Weird. Cool. British.
My absolute favorite part about London is that you can just wander. You can wander aimlessly, you can wander with purpose, or you can wander because you are lost and are searching for the nearest tube station. The best part about wandering in London is that you can stumble upon absolute gems. By gems, I mean that you stumble upon tiny corridors or plazas that are not visible from the streets or from the busy tourist areas. And those are the places that are my absolute favorite. Last year, my friend Tina and I stumbled upon a tiny plaza with 5 floors of shops that were lit up with Christmas lights and surrounded a garden of flowers. That was one of my favorite nights in London last year, and I didn’t even bother to write down where that plaza was because it was one of those “in the moment” things that wouldn’t have the same effect on me if I returned during the day when it was crowded with hurried shoppers.
Last week, I was wandering aimlessly around London after splitting up with my group because they were doing touristy things that I had no intention of re-living. I stumbled upon the most precious wharf that had back roads and alleys that lead to a big white building with “Design Museum” written on it. I figured I would check it out because I had nothing of actual importance on my agenda. It turned out to be absolutely fantastic and another gem of a museum.
After I left the Design Museum, I went to go meet up with my friend Matty. The wonderful thing about knowing locals is that they know all the best places to go. We ended up going to this business building. 34 stories high. There was a bar and a restaurant on the top floor so we took a seat, got some drinks, and stared wide-eyed out at the view. You could see all of London, from Big Ben to the Shard to the neon-colored Google headquarters below us.
London is a city that you feel very safe in. 90% of the city is clean and well lit. Everybody is always on the move but you can sit in a coffee shop for hours if you wanted. The architecture will blow you away and each crevice of the city is differerent from the last.
Next stop Paris.