London Calling

I ventured back to London last weekend sans teammates for the first time since my 12 year old self took her first trip overseas.

Because our regular league season ended, we had two weeks until our first playoff match which was this past Saturday night (we got wacked around by Cannes) And we were gratefully given a 3 day weekend of which I took full advantage.  We haven’t gotten a lot of free weekends since I’ve been here, and I was supposed to meet up with a few friends in London who ended up changing destinations last minute.  So I decided to still head there myself.

Trying to avoid the expense of a hotel room, and up for a little adventure I tried out Couch Surfing for the first time.  For those of you who don’t know CouchSurfer is an organization who pairs travelers with hosts and you get to sleep on their couch and enjoy the city through a local’s eyes.  I was super nervous at first but things ended up working out so much better than I expected.  I chose to stay with a lawyer in a lovely high rise apartment in downtown London.

IMG_1145(The view from my window!)

We went out for dinner and then went out with some of his friends on Friday night which was the perfect start to my trip.  And then he sort of left me to my exploring Saturday and Sunday.  It was such an awesome experience and fun to make a new connection in such a cool city as London.

Landing in the airport and getting in the coach bus to take downtown when I landed Friday afternoon, my first realization was omg they drive on the wrong side of the road!  I had totally forgot, and things are the same in France as they are in the States.  So I had to adjust pretty fast.  I didn’t do any driving, but putzing around the London streets in my host’s low riding Porsche was a little weird at first.  The other funny thing I noticed is, the same goes for which way you walk up and down a staircase! It’s backwards!

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I got straight off the bus and headed for the metro to get my oyster card for travel for the weekend, and get myself to Camden Town.  It was first on my list of places to go and I had all Friday afternoon to explore it.  I wandered through the mobbed markets and food tents and smoke shops.  Bartered for some earrings and got a killer green juice and of course, fish and chips!

IMG_1127IMG_1129 IMG_1135The people watching was just fantastic, I wish I could have taken more portraits, but this ended up being one of my favorites.  IMG_1139 IMG_1144  There is nothing more perfect than sitting down to a solo meal in a city full of strangers 🙂IMG_8309

Saturday I got off to a little bit slower start than I planned, due to Friday’s unexpected festivities.  But I meandered my way around some closed tube stops to Portobello Road and the Kensington/Nottinghill area.  I really didn’t have an agenda, and had already seen many of the sights of London before so I was so happy to be able to get a feel for some of the more authentic and eclectic areas of the city.  The big groups of pictures below are shot in, between and on the markets and antique shops that line Portobello Road.

IMG_1154 IMG_1157 IMG_1158 IMG_1162 IMG_1163 IMG_1165 IMG_1168 IMG_1173 IMG_1175 IMG_1176 IMG_1182Saturday night my host came and picked me up in Kensington and took me to Primrose Park, for an awesome view of the city on top of a hill.  It was a cool spot to end the day and fun to drive across the bridges over the Thames and see sights all lit up at night.  I had a quiet night in because I wanted to have an early start on Sunday to walk some of the sites.

IMG_1190I was so happy to be able to speak English again, and even though everyone knew I was an American the Londoners were all so nice.  I set out for downtown London on Sunday morning as my flight didn’t leave until the afternoon.  I headed for the London Bridge tube stop, all packed up.  In my brain I thought that the Tower Bridge and London Eye/Big Ben area were within walking distance, which of course they are…if you want to walk for hours.  But since I had time, I decided to trek all the way there, I figured a few miles was good for me.  So here is my official #SelfieSunday thread of all my downtown London selfies I took, and some real shots mixed in, documenting the route I took along the Thames.

Starting at Tower Bridge:

IMG_1197 IMG_8338I then walked across the next bridge down, which is the more famous but less decorated London Bridge to St. Paul’s Cathedral.  There was definitely a service going on but the doors were closed and I wasn’t sure I wanted to interrupt.

IMG_1200From there I walked to Covent Garden, which was an awesome area for shopping and markets.  I walked through a lot of the Westminster area, and past a church that had lots of Air Force men and their wives in their Sunday church hats being welcomed into their 11 AM church service.

IMG_1198I popped into Penhaligon’s to sniff out Princess Di’s favorites and had a lovely conversation with the perfume girls.  I stopped for some fuel and had a green smoothie and quinoa salad at a cute little hippy cafe in the area.  My next stop was Trafalgar Square, but my eyes were really on Big Ben.  Finallyyyy, I turned a corner and the bam! There was the London Eye.

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I walked across the bridge heading for Big Ben, and by this time had to make my way in between SEAS of tourists I was surprised were out so early on a Sunday.

IMG_1213 IMG_1226 IMG_8361I finished with Westminster Abbey and a little more walking past Churchill’s War Rooms and back through Trafalgar until I decided I probably should get on the tube and head to Heathrow.

IMG_1232By that time my little feetsies were screamin and I was happy to sit on the metro for about an hour.  This past week when I got back I map quested my Sunday morning walk.  My good ol’ Chuck Taylors carried me over 7 miles that morning! Pretty crazy but so worth it.  Nothing a bloody mary at the Heathrow airport couldn’t solve.

IMG_8351London is such a fun city, I love it now just as much as I loved it when I was twelve.  Maybe because it was the first place I ever visited abroad, but there is some serious magic in the city.  I could definitely see myself coming back here to live at some point in my life.  But who knows where the next few years will take me.  I was happy to be back in the beautiful south of France on Sunday night, and was warmly welcomed by another killer sunset.

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Tomorrow, we fight to stay alive in playoffs against Cannes again.  And this time it’s live or die.  It’s best of three matches per round of playoffs so if we don’t win, we are finished for the season.  Crazy to think I’ve almost made it! Wish us luck! XO

 

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