My six months of living and traveling throughout Europe, the UK, and Israel has begun! I arrived at my first destination this past Thursday…London. When people heard that this was going to be my first time in London, they started to recommend all the great places to see and visit, things to experience and do…keep the recommendations coming, please!
Yet in spite of all the things there are to do I have been extremely pleased, and yet not very surprised, to see my trip already unfolding as I had hoped, even from day one. To clue you in this means that I have been enjoying local experiences with the locals of London since the moment I arrived. I had the fortune of staying with my friend and past salsa instructor, Eulanda Shead, who is attending the University at Roehampton. This area is just South West of London center and is where she lives with her flat-mate from Croatia.
My non-stop flight from Denver to London on British Airways went great and making my way through Heathrow Airport when I arrived was hassle free. From here, I was immediately on my way to experiencing London as the locals do…I made my way to the Underground Tube, as the British call it, and began the journey to my friend’s home. As in Europe, the UK has an extensive and wonderful rail system that makes living in areas like London and visiting them so much more convenient. I highly recommend that if you plan to visit London, that you order online an Oyster card (at Transport for London) and have it mailed to you before you leave for your trip. This way you already have money loaded on the card and ready to use as soon as you arrive. Doing this in preparation for my trip really paid off since I knew I would be using the Tube immediately from the airport. And make sure to “mind the gap”. If you don’t know yet what that means, don’t worry…I hope one day you find out.
My new bag on wheels managed to “mind the gap” even though it took quite the muscle for me to ensure it made on and off the Tube with me. I was pretty proud of myself for having packed so efficiently for an entire six months. I am not the best packer and tend to pack too much. After all, what woman wants to be left without options when it comes to clothes, accessories, and shoes…although I grew up as a tomboy, I am that woman now who likes her clothes and fashion. What I love more though is traveling so the sacrifice is worth it and saves my body a lot of grief if I pack light. For this trip, I got a new bag from REI that I am loving. It’s the REI Wheely Beast Wheeled Duffel 28″. Although it has the word beast in it, don’t assume I still packed too much and that its bigger than me, because I’m proud to say that’s not the case…there’s actually one bigger than mine. I’ll keep you updated with how she’s holding up for me and provide some trustworthy reviews by the time this six-month adventure is done. So I’m outfitted with my trustee duffel being towed behind me and my laptop (aka, office) carried in my shoulder bag. I even managed to fit my medium-sized camelback day pack into my duffel, which will be great for 3-4 day shorter excursions here and there.
Within a matter of hours after arriving, I was heading with Eulanda to her friend’s birthday party. The guest of honor was Jonas, turning 27 and originally from the Congo. Arriving at his sister’s, it was apparent that London truly is a city of diversity: Jonas and his sisters are from the Congo, Denise is from Italy, and Andy is from Africa as well. Later in the evening Elvira joined and I learned that she is from Granada, Spain. We enjoyed a feast of Italian and African foods while listening to everything from Michael Jackson to salsa classics like Juan Luis Guerra. And before the night was over, the birthday man was honored with several salsa dances to commemorate his special day. So here I was in London and already salsa dancing a bit. Certainly my idea of a good time. It seems to find me wherever I go.
Friday evening, Eulanda and I enjoyed a great dinner with fantastic ambiance and food. She took me to Momo’s, which is a Moroccan restaurant near Soho in the center of London. We enjoyed sharing small plates of authentic dishes from Morocco that ranged from King Prawns to traditional humus and pita bread. My favorite though was the setting…I truly felt like I was in Morocco (well, at least from what I’ve seen in pictures of the place since I have not been there yet). The ceiling was populated with beautiful ornate lamps of varying colors and design. The overall lighting was dim and soft, and the seating was on cushioned benches and small soft stools. Everything seemed to stimulate the senses, from hearing to seeing to tasting.
You may be thinking “what is this woman doing? First time in London and she’s not seeing all the British sights?” Well don’t worry, there is still more to share about this first visit and I’ll returning for another visit within this six month period of traveling. One of my favorite topics is history and London is steeped in rich history that I am already experiencing first-hand…but I can’t give it all away now! It would be long enough to be a book (which maybe I’ll write one of those one day too…), but for now, stay tuned to hear of what else I see. And even more so, comment back with your suggestions of places to visit while in this great city and of stories you may have from your own travels here. So for now, I’ll doff my hat to ya and leave ya with “cheers”.