An AngloPHILE with an aversion to the capital of ENGLAND.
That's how I used to think of myself. If you know me personally, you know I love everything that comes from the British Isles: Shakespeare, the royals, the BBC, kilts, chalk cliffs, the language, fish and chips, Doctor Who, Mary Berry, I could go on..., but I did not love London. I don't know why. I just always thought, if I ever go to the UK, I really don't care to go to London. There's so much more to see beyond its capital.
Last year, I had a trip planned to Barcelona with my friends. A trip on a standby ticket. When the day arrived for me to fly to Barcelona, I couldn't get a seat on the plane. So I thought... No worries, I will fly somewhere else in Europe and take a train. Paris, Lisbon, Madrid, Rome, so many options... You know what I found out? Train tickets are NOT CHEAP! I was looking at tickets that would cost me more than 300 USD. However, plane tickets are.
I researched and found a ticket to BCN from London for 50 USD, I kid you not. Well, I had to pay another 30 for my carry-on, but I've paid more to travel on a bus to NYC from DC. So, I bought it and I'd fly to London.
I got myself a bed in a hostel for two nights. I'd get to arrive at noon on Thursday while my flight to BCN was on Saturday morning. Ok, then. I was gonna have time to see... London. Hmmm. London? The city you didn't care about? Yeah... that one.
Something started to change within me when I was researching the hostel for my stay: I'm going to London! The Queen lives there. They have tea, as in dinner. There are actual English pubs with English beer. It seems I'm going to enjoy myself. There's a hostel in Kensington... Isn't that where the prince lives? Oh! I'm staying there! Oh! I can walk to Notting Hill! I love that movie!
I arrived in London.
Oh my God. I don't know why, but as soon as I stepped onto it from the underground (hah!), I felt home? I think it might have been the novelty of having to look to my right to cross the street. All that brain confusion got me in love. Then I immediately took a double-decker bus to Kensington. Nope... I went the opposite way. One of my favorite things about traveling by myself is that if I say, "ok, this is the way to our destination", but I'm wrong, no one can look at me with frustration when we find ourselves lost, and I get to see a part of town I wasn't planning on. And that part of town was CUTE! Proof:
I made it to the hostel at about 2pm on that Thursday, but I forgot to mention, I didn't bat an eye on the overnight flight from DC. I had just arrived and I was already pooped. I wanted to be mad at myself for having to take a nap and waste precious hours sleeping, but I was too tired for that. So I went to bed (I'll tell you about the hostel bed later) for 3 hours.
What a difference a nap makes. I woke up at 5 and immediately went out to explore my surroundings. I knew I was close to Kensington Palace, so I walked there. On the way to the palace grounds I had maybe twelve emotional fits as I saw the most perfect town houses in the most perfectly quiet streets. Have you seen their street name signs? They're art if you ask me.
Continuing on my way to Will's pad, I passed the cutest little street with a shop on the corner selling fascinators, of course. And then I saw the gate: CROWN ESTATE. It was beautiful walking the park around the palace. But I needed to find something to eat, so I turned North to Bayswater Road and found myself a quiet cafe where I had a rocket salad dinner. Can we all agree that rocket is a much better name for arugula? Ok, agreed.
To finish off the day, I walked back to the hostel through Notting Hill. And this, dear reader, is where London wrapped its fingers around my heart and squeezed it tight. I'm besotted with this town. I have no idea how I could ever afford to live there, but one can dream, right?
That's it for the ½ day part of this unexpected trip. Next post, I'll tell you all about the 27k steps I took on my full day in the city. They were all worth it.