Last summer, after visiting Russia for work, I took a four day solo trip to London before heading back to the states. I didn’t exactly love Russia, so arriving in London felt like a dream. Enjoying my first real meal at a restaurant near Buckingham Palace was an experience I don’t think I’ll ever be able to tell accurately. Russia left me feeling so depleted and so hungry (I literally ate nothing but lettuce and cucumbers for two weeks) that by the time I got to London and opened a menu, I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.
I ordered this incredible Eggs Benedict with pesto and sun-dried tomatoes and wiped tears away from my eyes as I ate it because it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. Food is so good, you guys. Seriously. I’m never eating lettuce or cucumbers ever again.
I stayed near the West Hampstead tube stop with a sweet couple I found on Airbnb. They had an adorable “Welcome to London!” card waiting for me in my room with chocolates, a key to the house, and a guidebook. After traveling for 18 hours or so due to layovers and lost luggage, I felt so fortunate to have wound up staying with two of the most caring and considerate people in London. We got along so well and stayed up late telling stories, laughing, and drinking (strong) homemade Romanian Pálinka. They’re the kind of people who get up early to meditate and go to bed early to meditate. There was such a peaceful orb encircling their home and I loved it. They even brought me out to dinner at their favorite Thai restaurant on my last night and refused to let me pay for my meal. It was sad saying goodbye to them. I regret not taking their picture!
I walked and walked and walked. I saw the Palace of Westminster, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Tower of London, and all the historic buildings in between. I battled stomach issues (possibly my body still recovering from Russia), jet lag, and a bit of a cold while I was in London, but I didn’t let any of that stop me from exploring. London is a city I had always dreamed of visiting. Traveling alone is fun, but it did get lonely sometimes, especially while I waited in line for two hours to ride the London Eye (like a true tourist) and had nobody to talk to. I had plans to meet up with Freya on her lunch break that day, but with no cell service and the amount of time it took for me to get through that line, we just couldn’t make it work. I almost bailed on riding the damn thing, but you pay ahead of time and the weather was decent and I had already waited for over an hour, so I figured I might as well stick it out. In the long run, I’m glad I did. It was gorgeous up there.
I visited The National Gallery and saw Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, a few Rembrandts (one of my faves), and tons of other amazing paintings, all for free! I visited a street market and tasted fresh currants and strawberries, saw the Shard and Gherkin (30 St Mary Axe) from a distance, took a stroll around Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, and ate lunch on a bench near the Tower Bridge while watching the boats go by on the River Thames.
On my last day, I went to see Abbey Road. I loved the St. John’s Wood neighborhood. There was a quaint coffee shop, decked out in Beatles gear where I ordered a soy chai and purchased an Abbey Road Studios shirt for my little brother. I was surprised by all the traffic on the famous road where the crosswalk is. Of course there were loads of tourists running out into traffic trying to get photos of themselves crossing… I’m sure the locals hate that. Lots of honking going on there.
After that, I trekked over to visit two of the homes Sylvia Plath once lived in. Seeing those flats was probably my favorite part of the whole trip. I’m a huge Sylvia fan and it was so awesome being able to walk around the neighborhood she lived in and wrote about for all those years. I know I looked like a goon standing out on the street alone with tears on my cheeks as I wrote Adam an email about all the feelings I was feeling. I’ve been reading her work since I was 14, and her writing means so much to me.
It was bizarre standing there thinking about all she wrote and went through. Some of my favorite poems were composed in those buildings! They’re only a block or two away from each other. She lived in the purple flat for just a year before moving to the green one where she died only a few years later. I’m not religious, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel her there. I didn’t get a close-up of the plaque on the house she died in, mainly because there was a car parked out front and I didn’t want to intrude, but here’s someone else’s shot of it. William Butler Yeats lived in the same flat once upon a time, and I remember Sylvia writing about how excited she was to live and create in the same place a great poet once resided. Little did she know she’d someday have a plaque of her very own on the flat she lived in just around the corner. I’m so happy I was able to check these places off my ever-growing bucket list.
I’m one of those annoying people who takes photos of their food, so that sandwich was the last meal I had at the airport before flying home, and I thought it was funny because I ordered a sandwich with chips, and for some reason I was expecting actual chips (like the American that I am), but of course I was served fries instead. I laughed to myself because that was the most English thing that happened to me while I was there. London was beyond great and I wasn’t ready to leave. It’s so hard trying to see everything you want to see in a new place with only a couple of days to do so! Aside from missing St. Paul’s Cathedral (kicking myself for that!), I’m pretty happy with everything I was able to see, and I’m positive I’ll be back for a visit again someday.
“I’m leaving because the weather is too good. I hate London when it’s not raining.” -Groucho Marx