London Diaries #3

Mornings in London

This post was actually long overdue. Picture this: I’m a people watcher. Not the creepy kind, though. I just like observing people around me. Hey, maybe I should have studied anthropology!

To be honest, I don’t get to do this quite comfortably in Brussels, where people seem to have radars screaming “SOS, a stranger’s looking at you!”. I don’t mean to criticise, it’s just my opinion. I think people in Brussels tend to be more self-conscious somehow, which is perfectly fine and I respect that. But let me tell you guys: this does not make public transport a very friendly environment. How many times have I genuinely smiled at a stranger, out of sheer kindness and got shot with an angry or awkward look? You might say that everyone’s got problems and a stranger smiling at you isn’t necessarily called for. But hey, nothing wrong with that. It’s just a smile, for goodness’ sake. To be fair, there are also lovely people on the bus or the metro… but those seem to get pretty extinct.

Where am I going with this? No panic, this isn’t a post to criticise Brussels, nor to brag too much about London. After all, I realise London is not perfect. No city is, let’s be honest. Plus, Brussels is my second home and so far, I have lived beautiful and memorable moments there. However, if there is something I can easily do in London is people watching, without feeling oppressed or being frowned at. And what better place to observe people that on the tube?

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The tube is a true phenomenon, especially in the morning. True, it’s crowded, narrow, invaded by newspapers (an ecologist’s nightmare) and with this heat it makes a sauna look anything but luxurious. I remember my first morning as a commuter. A real commute, meaning a one-hour commute, not 20 minutes by tram when I go to uni in Brussels.

The first day of work, I had absolutely no idea how fast everything was going to be. Everything and everyone in London is fast. You have no choice, actually, you have to be fast in order to seize everything. Or seize the day, basically. Every morning, I get this adrenaline rush before diving into this city’s fever. But this is what makes it so exciting! Not to mention my work which gets me out of bed every single day with a smile on my face.

Now I actually realise how a routine makes you discover a city in a different way. I’m not just a tourist now, I actually live here and get involved in everyday things. You get a different feeling and perspective about the city, its vibe and its people. For example, the tube used to be an intimidating labyrinth that made absolutely no sense. I figured a good way to make this easier: wandering aimlessly and take a random tube makes you develop a remarkable sense of orientation. The more you experience the underground, the more fun it gets.

A funny thing about my “routine” is that I still get to see different things. I may take the same bus and tube but there is always something new to see. The most fascinating thing about the London tube is diversity. You get to see all sorts of people, all sorts of styles, all sorts of attitudes, all walks of life. You may see a corporate grey suit next to a colourful hipster listening to loud hip hop. You may see a shy girl reading an old edition of “Wuthering Heights” next to a hi-tech guy holding a Kindle. Or even a Sainsbury’s bag next to a classy Mulberry bag. Diversity is amazing.

What makes people-watching so easy is that everyone minds their own business. Everyone is either absorbed in a newspaper, their phone or their Kindle. Tourists are usually absorbed in their maps, trying to sort it all out. I know the feeling… However, at the same time, people are very considerate towards each other. Even the slightest accidental nudge and people apologise. I have heard many stories about British people hating chit-chatting with strangers. Honestly? All the people I’ve met here are into random chatting, which makes waiting for the tube less long and less stressful. But hey, maybe I’m just lucky! 🙂

I feel blessed for everything I get to do and for every adventurous minute I get to live here. If my future job will get me out of bed every morning like this internship, I will be forever grateful! I think everyone deserves to feel like this. Sometimes, I still think all of this is just a dream. I’m still starry-eyed and inspired by this city’s energy. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been affected by the routine… maybe it’s too early for that, who knows? You know what I say: better make the most of it! 😉

P.S. To compensate the lack of pictures, here’s a song that matches my mood: “Take Back The City” by Snow Patrol. “I love this city tonight. I love this city always!”

Enjoy and have a great week! 🙂

London Diaries #2

Third week – whoosh! – just flew by. Guys, if this keeps going like this, I won’t see those three months run past me. Every single morning, I wake up and think: “Stop lazing around, get up and make the most of it!”

I think Saturday was my fullest day so far… and the most spontaneous one. The morning was pretty cloudy but it didn’t stop me from enjoying my improvised sightseeing! So, I finally decided to jump on the bus 53 from Charlton to Westminster. I figured it might be a nice change of scenery. Once I got to Westminster, I went for a very long and slow walk, taking pictures here and there.

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Big Ben surrounded by a sea of tourists. Casual, right?

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Typical cloudy London. Hey, it’s part of its charm. 😉IMG_3487

One day, I’ll just have to experience the view from the London Eye.IMG_3492

Westminster Abbey: the architecture will always amaze me.IMG_3490

I really wanted to visit Westminster Abbey… until I saw the queue outside. Not brave enough to face it! 😀

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Dickensian landscape, with Big Ben hiding around the corner.

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I stumbled upon Victoria Tower Gardens, a quite little corner away from the crowd of tourists. I sound so anti-tourist, don’t I? I assure you I’m not. I’m only against very rude and reckless ones. 😉

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The Houses of Parliament: view from the Victoria Tower Gardens.IMG_3506

Of course I just had to come across Burberry… *sigh*.

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Yet another little quiet corner I stumbled upon: St John’s Gardens.IMG_3509

Just peaceful. The only sound were the birds singing. Pure bliss.IMG_3514

This was the moment where I went: “Where are all the Londoners?” It was weird seeing quiet, empty streets.IMG_3515

Then, I decided to head towards Victoria Station because I wanted to try out another Korean restaurant (also recommended by Antonia) which is called Lime Orange and may I say they’ve got some pretty amazing stuff! I was so hungry I didn’t even bother to write down what I ordered but I promise next time I’ll give you guys more details. 😉

Here’s a very foggy picture of the second course. My phone wasn’t very cooperative… it probably hates Instagram. Yes, for the moment, Instagram is my food-pictures-sharing buddy!

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Afterwards, I wanted to head towards Portobello Market. Then I realised South Kensington is on the same underground line so I went for a stroll… Guys, remember this: South Kensington is very French-inspired because many French people live there… which means French food! And French food also means baguettes, patisseries, macarons and everything that rhymes with them! Very dangerous area, if you ask me…

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I might check this Institut Français, they seem to host some pretty interesting events! And if you’re ever in the mood for a French movie, this is the right place. 🙂

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Loving the white buildings, impregnated with light and the black fences. I definitely have a thing for architecture, it defines a city in so many ways.IMG_3526

The Natural Science Museum, where you can also visit the Butterfly House. I remember visiting this with one of my best friends three years ago. Such an amazing show of colours! It’s actually a butterfly exhibition, with tropical butterflies from all around the world, which – I think – is organised every summer. Worth visiting it! 🙂IMG_3528

The Lycée Français Charles de Gaulle. IMG_3532

Aaand here we are! Portobello Road, on my way to Portobello Market! I’ve been here once but since I didn’t have a lot of time to see it, I decided to have a proper tour!

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Portobello Market used to be one of London’s secrets until the movie “Notting Hill” made it extremely famous. IMG_3537

*sigh* Don’t you just love those bright or pastel-coloured houses? Thinking of French macarons, all of a sudden. Why do I always have to think about food?

Basically, Portobello Market is the perfect vintage paradise! Of course, I didn’t have time to see all of it. I think I might even book a whole day just for it! Unfortunately, I didn’t have the chance to take any decent pictures of all the things you can find there. You can find everything: food, cups of tea, vintage bags, old telephones, old cameras, jewellery… you name it! This might be my new favourite place!

Well, guys, I think this pretty much sums up how I spent last Saturday… hope you enjoyed this and… stay tuned for more! The list of things to see in London is getting bigger and bigger! 🙂

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London Diaries #1

All right, so, it’s been two full weeks since I came here and I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it! Amazed by London too much? Yes. Annoying people with this? Maybe. Feeling guilty about it? No!

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After two weeks of being in London, I finally get out at Westminster Station and… Why, hello, Big Ben! Nice to see you again!

This second week was rather busy as I’ve had plenty of things to do at work.What I really love about this internship is that I never do the same things and of course I learn a lot of things along the way, even little tricks and tips. Also, the weather has been lovely… perhaps a little bit too much? Who said it was impossible to get a tan in London? This weather also reminds me of last year in Siena, where I was complaining at first because the air was suffocating but then I got used to it and didn’t want to leave anymore!

Apart from work, I’ve also had the chance to go out and explore the city a bit more. Last Wednesday, I met two lovely interns and we spent the evening in Southbank, having drinks and just chatting about all sorts of thing. If you’re into people-watching, then Southbank is ideal! On Friday, after work, I went for a walk from Westminster to Tottenham Court Road. I didn’t get as many pictures as I should have… maybe because I was too absorbed by everything around me! Gotta work on that…

Now, moving on to the best worthy news of all: I have finally tried Korean food! Antonia, if you happen to read this: a major thank you! 😀 Antonia is a huge fan of Korean food (well, food in general, actually) and has also created a blog about it. Basically, her aim is to try every Korean restaurant in Zone 1, in London. I say it’s a pretty fantastic idea! Wait til you see what Kimchi is all about…

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Nothing but healthy and tasty food! Now, all I want to do is run to the closest Korean restaurant and have some of this! #callmecrazy

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On my way back home from work. It’s always nice to go on the upper bus deck (yes, I’m still a kid about this) and discover new things! If you’re not brave enough to walk in London, take the bus and enjoy the view! 

You might have noticed that I’m slightly more active on Twitter and Instagram. You know these times where you forget your camera and have no choice but to take pictures with your phone? Long live Android apps for fast-sharing! 🙂

This weekend I’ve been meaning to go to Hampstead Heath, but unfortunately, the Northern Line was closed and had no way of getting there… But I still have plenty of time! 🙂  I’m planning lots of things for the next weekend (which, hopefully, won’t be this hot): visit London Sea Life, the Museum of London Docklands, maybe check out Brick Lane and explore Charlton Village (which is 10 minutes away). Somehow, Charlton makes me think of the Charleston…

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London’s fast pace makes me want to make the most of those three months even more! You don’t become a Londoner overnight, but I have a feeling I can almost get there (let’s not be modest). After all, if you’re open to everything that London has to offer, it will welcome you with open arms!

Stay tuned for more London Diaries, ladies and gents! 🙂

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London Town

“Ladies and gentlemen, please mind the gap and the closing doors!”

Oh, how I’ve missed this! How I’ve missed the beautiful St-Pancras Station, the tube, the double-deckers, hearing English in all sorts of accents everywhere, “Cheers, mate!”, “Here you go, darling!”, “I mean, oh my Gawd!”… London, I am here so be ready to take my breath away!

After this first full and surprising week, I’m… overwhelmed. In a great way though! I’m overwhelmed with feelings I can’t describe: I’m happy and puzzled at the same time but I wouldn’t change this for the world!  

Fact of the day 1: London is huge. No, really. I think nobody realises that when you’re only hanging out in the city centre. But best part about that? You have thousands of places to explore! No complaining there.

Fact of the day 2: London is absolutely crowded, at every hour of the day. If you think Brussels is crowded, come and change your mind about it in London!

Fact of the day 3: despite of facts 1 and 2, London is fantastic! But that’s not new, is it?

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(You better not be claustrophobic when getting on the tube).

Also, my intern job at the Media Diversity Institute is everything an intern can dream of. After only a week, I can say I’ve learned a lot and feel fulfilled. I also happen to have met the best colleagues there can be: we are always helping each other out, even for little things and that’s what makes the atmosphere in the office really cosy.

For the first time in my life, I feel independent. There were other times when I felt like a grown-up (for example, in Siena, last year) but this time, it’s ten times different. It’s a different context, a different city and new experiences are awaiting! I believe it’s Bob Moawad who said:

The best day of your life is the one on which you decide your life is your own. No apologies or excuses. No one to lean on, rely on, or blame. The gift is yours – it is an amazing journey – and you alone are responsible for the quality of it. This is the day your life really begins”.

Feeling like the luckiest girl alive? Oh, you bet!

Have a great weekend, everyone! Stay tuned for more London updates (pictures and all)! 😉