Travel Journal // London

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When I returned to London in March, I went across the water alone, set on my annual journey to that great grey city whether I was accompanied or not. I had bought a one-way ticket from Boston for $100 that previous August late one night in a condo in Florida as my family slept; for $100, I felt like it would be straight blasphemy to not to purchase the ticket.

“Does Boston usually get snowstorms that late in March?” I texted a friend who called that city home. “It’s happened before,” he said.

Naturally, the day before I was set to fly out, I received an email from Southwest: my flight to Boston had been cancelled due to a late winter Nor’easter that was sweeping into the area, grounding flights from New York to Boston. I spent the day asking just about every single co-worker what they would do in this situation, wondering if I should try to fly to Boston that Tuesday night after work and risk getting stranded should my London flight end up being cancelled. (Boston is cool an’ all, but no thanks.)

The day of fretting over the right move culminated with a 45-minute call to Norwegian Airlines that finally connected me to an agent who, in less than the time of a 1975 song, put me on another flight leaving that Friday. I was going to London, albeit four days instead of six. On the Wednesday night that I should have been on a transatlantic flight, I spent it drinking a margarita at my neighborhood Mexican restaurant that I may as well own stock in at this point. But honestly, I can’t complain—at least I made it across the ocean.

By any standards of a proper tourist, I didn’t “do” all that much while I was in London. I stayed in a cheery studio flat in Hammersmith on a quiet neighborhood street lined with characteristically brown brick London flats. It was chilly and rainy most days—exactly as expected. I spent much of my time sitting in parks drinking coffee or walking streets listening to The 1975 or in a dark church where the trains rumble below as they pull out of the South Kensington station or enjoying Thai takeout (literally every single night...).

But that is my London.

My London is circling Heathrow on our descent while playing The 1975’s “Robbers” on repeat. My London is a tree on Primrose Hill, sitting underneath it year after year, a bit like marking my growth on a door frame.

My London is a Thai restaurant with only six small tables tucked into a room in a square across from the Natural History Museum. My London is a bench on the banks of the Thames, the Shard barely visible behind a brown stone church on the opposite bank.

My London is a mocha and a notebook and all sorts of thoughts ready to wrestle with the blank page. My London is raindrops and wind gusts and grey skies spread wide.

My London is “Mind the Gap” and a mozzarella bar hidden on a narrow road off Oxford Street. My London is long walks and wanders with a “You must be in London” playlist.

My London is exploring the shelves of Daunt Books and enjoying a lunch of gluten-free goodness at Le Pain Quotidien (I don’t even care that it’s a chain restaurant). My London is gooey raclette cheese smothered over boiled new potatoes, walking through the crowds of Borough Market while sipping prosecco spritzers.

My London is a picnic at Hampstead Heath in a rare moment of sunshine. My London is a quiet, centuries-old church next to the Victoria and Albert Museum, the rumble of the trains below the only sound echoing throughout the cavernous cathedral.

My London is slower-paced and rather ordinary, but it is mine.


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THE ITINERARY

Since my solo trip to London was all about returning to the places that make the city feel like home to me, listing my itinerary probably wouldn't be all that interesting to you. So instead, I'm simply going to leave you with some photos. 

If you're looking for London recommendations: 

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I made a friend!

I made a friend!

My favorite bookstore in all the land, Daunt Books on Marylebone Street.

My favorite bookstore in all the land, Daunt Books on Marylebone Street.

Hyde Park

Hyde Park

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