Last March, my family and I flew to England, thrilled to visit my little brother after three long months of separation! On his side of the world, Ced was joyfully enjoying the student exchange experience, casually travelling every other weekend and studying “on the side”.
After several hours of plane travelling, my mother, father, little brother and I lined up in front of Ced’s hotel room and knocked impatiently on the door. We heard my brother get up and walk slowly before opening, a big smile on his face. Arms wide he said, “Hi Gab!” and we hugged, so happy.
Thanks to our late arrival, we had the glamorous hotel’s restaurant to ourselves, except for two young women dressed in long sparkly gowns who definitely surprised us with their glitz! We chatted while my brother devoured his huge pasta plate. He had been living the cool & chill hostel life for a couple of weeks now, and his belly was very happy with the fancy food coming in.
London is home to so many beautiful things that I love: classy cabs, lovely accents, tea & biscuits, chatty pubs, ancient architecture… It feels like New York City’s elegant and slightly more mature sister. With its ethnically diverse people, innovative professionals, and student population, the city is always alive and evolving.
Having played tourists in London before, and having done the things to do in London visiting Big Ben, Tower Bridge, London Eye, Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace and the list goes on, we decided to go for new attractions this time. We payed short visits to the crowded Tate Modern and British Museum, and went up the very expensive Shard Tower.
But the touristy activities did not even make my top ten list.
What I loved most was seeing the Stomp show, which was refreshingly original, full of movement and surprisingly funny. I cherished spending time with my reunited family. And I adored listening to every single story my jet-setter friends told me.
When I visit a city, I love to put the local’s shoes on, walk his streets, taste his food, sit on his bus, with my beloved camera hooked around my neck ready to take a snap. I put my childish eyes on and feel like I’m discovering the world for the first time. If you like travelling this way, then you should pay a visit to the three neighbourhoods below the next time you’re in London!
On my first morning in London, I woke up excitedly as I had a very important brunch to attend to. Typical British weather was definitely au rendez-vous that day, but I could only feel sunshine in my heart! I was about to see my friend Véro for the first time in a year in a half; the last time had been during our trip to Italy and Czech Republic. Not much had happened to Véro since then…she had only gotten married, traveled all around Europe and moved to London. Nothing very special right?
I spotted her across the street in Notting Hill, where she lives, happily waving at me. We both ran to the middle of the street, only to be awkwardly separated by a fence forbidding us to hug. Véro pointed towards the right and I followed her, walking all the way to the end of the fence before hugging her and jumping of happiness. Right away, we started talking and laughing about everything. It was like I had seen her the day before.
We had the most delicious healthy brunch at the Farm Girl Cafe, where the relaxed Australian vibe stole my heart. The green turquoise walls and beautiful light coming in on the wood tables take you out of London directly to sunshine country. Behind the bar, on which stands baskets of colourful snacks and a huge coffee machine, the staff cooks the most delicious delicacies. The latte, granola bowl, and avocado toast were heaven.
It only makes sense that the cutest breakfast place is located in Notting Hill, where you could spend your days observing adorable things! At this time of the year, blooming cherry blossom trees stand beautifully before adorable houses painted in pastel colours. Independent coffee shops pop everywhere; we grabbed a coffee for Véro’s husband at one of those before heading to their apartment where we chatted for a couple of hours until they had to leave for a vacation in Japan and I had to get back to my family.
Neal’s Yard in Covent Garden
Before flying off to her next destination, Véro revealed London’s best kept secret to me: Neal’s Yard. I shared the tip with my family over breakfast the next morning and with the trick of a photo, they were on board to visit Covent Garden’s small alley.
One step in, and you’ve entered London’s colour fantasy land. It is breathtakingly different and beautiful. The houses are all painted in different colours that fit with one another even though they are never the same. Flora grows on brick walls, picnic tables and balconies, and festive light bulbs strings connect houses.
My mother, father and little brother love afternoon napping when they travel. I am starting to think that in their previous lives, they lived in Southern Europe where they invented the siesta. While all of this is very exciting, my brother Ced and I prefer staying out and walking till we can’t cause our feet burn!
On a beautiful afternoon, after a quick lunch with the fam at a cafe, Ced and I walked around Soho for hours, losing track of time. We loved it! The neighbourhood is full of life, amusement, shops and restaurants. I felt a New York vibe there, and I do love that city!
We walked and walked and walked, stopped to listen to a guy rapping in the street, crowds cheering all around. I took a bunch of pictures. We finally talked about Ced’s exchange experience and discussed our future, hopes and dreams.
That night, we had another lovely family dinner at Arbutus, where the food was exquisitely delicious. The next day, we would leave for Birmingham to visit my brother’s new campus home, and would then get on the road and discover the charming countryside of England.
That’s when my head started to get pretty dreamy. What can I say, I love embarking imaginary trains to Hogwarts every now and then. Can anyone blame me?
Stay tuned for the rest of the story, next post will be up shortly!