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London Calling!

in Life/Photography by

Where’s the Queen When You Need Her?

Back in May, I went to London for the first time. Here are my thoughts:

If you live in a metropolitan city like New York City, Los Angeles or Chicago, walking down London’s Oxford Street will feel very familiar to any of the popular shopping areas in your city. There were chain stores galore and while you might initially think to stay away, you can still satisfy yourself by popping into regional stores like New Look and picking up a handful of on-trend items for a relatively low price. Not only did I find a dope pair of dark brown suede Chelsea boots but I also got a thick gray and white stripped short-sleeve button down.

There was also a jacket purchased from The Kooples…but I don’t want to talk about.

Now, it might have been the fact that I was with my mother but once the sun went down, London seemed to get really quiet. Here in New York City, any neighborhood that I would find myself walking through has a pulse even when the moon is high and most should be in bed resting up for the next work day. On our first night, we decided to hit up a bar that advertised free ping-pong (it did not). The brisk walk from our hotel to the bus stop made me nervous but it wasn’t because I felt unsafe. It was because of how quiet and empty the streets were. There was no energy, no life. We made it to the bar but only stuck around for one beer before heading back where I gladly fell into bed and stayed up watching the ridiculous yet hilarious reality TV program, Gogglebox.

Score. Again.

On my last day in London, my mother and I ordered a small breakfast at Bar Italia and I consumed one of the best espresso’s I’ve had in a long time. After some walking around more shopping areas, we made our way to the Islington area for lunch at Trullo, an Italian restaurant. I didn’t want to plan things by the minute before arriving but I made sure to confirm a reservation at this restaurant and I’m so glad I did. The service? Best I’ve had in quite some time. Our server gave a wine recommendation which we went with and when I discovered I wasn’t a big fan, she offered to grab me a glass of my choice on the house since I wasn’t satisfied.

We also chatted about how it was our last day in London and how I was looking forward to walking through Notting Hill to find as many pastel houses as I could. When she eventually came back to bring us the check, she also had taken the time to write out directions and recommendations for Notting Hill which, I thought, was so kind. It didn’t feel like a “Let me help these poor tourists” more as a “I live in the area and if you mentioned liking [insert something], go to this section and you’ll LOVE just walking around.” So, we followed her instructions and I loved just walking around even with the threat of rain.

Before I knew it, we had stumbled upon a block with  a row of pastel homes. I struggle to find the right words to use that will properly describe why I love these homes so much. The immediate thought that flashed across my mind when confronting the pastels was how calming it must be to live in one of these buildings. Please don’t roll your eyes too hard. I know this is a romanticized idea and that there are well rounded and complicated lives that take place just beyond the front door. 

But it’s still nice to fantasize.

On our final night, I started packing my luggage and for a brief moment, I was almost upset with myself for not “doing more.” I quickly got over it as I chuckled through a few episodes of Gogglebox before passing out. Just because one has traveled to a new destination does not mean every single second must be spent dashing around to as many places as possible. I had no desire to hit up the traditional tourist attractions. Hard pass. What I wanted to do was discover London on my own terms and I got to do just that.

The next morning, we checked out of our hotel, the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel nearest the Tower Of London, and made our way to the train station where we would take the Eurostar into Paris. On that train ride, I alternated between reading and staring out of the window. No, I wasn’t upset that I hadn’t done more. I had already decided that there would be plenty of opportunities  to come back.

Make sure to watch my London travel vlog to see the ultimate Buckingham Palace fail and subscribe to the Thursday’s Journal YouTube channel!

Calvin is a story creator currently based in New York City. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram (@mrcalvinwalker).

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