Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Camden Markets / shameless touristy things.

On Sunday morning I headed to the Camden Market with Claire, a fellow solo Australian traveller I met on my flight, for what would inevitably become a day of wandering around that side of London. 

As soon as I exited the tube at Camden Town I realised why tourists were so drawn to this place- it’s absolutely crazy and completely different to the prim and proper London most people imagine. It definitely gives off a bit more of a rough-around-the-edges vibe and from what I’ve been told is more of an alternative area of London. The atmosphere was just vibrant, especially in the food section which offered meals from practically every country or culture you could imagine. I paid a few pounds for some really delicious bliss balls (you would have loved them, Ally) and got a plate of Peruvian rice and potatoes. Choosing what sort of dish to eat at the Camden Markets is a burden I wouldn’t place on any man.

I mean, just look at those donuts. I saw those after I had eaten and promptly vowed to return at some point on my trip to try one (update: I returned again today and they weren't there. Somebody hold me)

After we were done looking through the jewelry/clothes/knick-knacky part of the market we decided to head towards Primrose Hill, where we had heard you could get a great view of the city. 

So then, obviously, we walked for 20 minutes in the wrong direction before enlisting the help of a friendly couple passing by who told us basically to go back to where we started. It was at this point though that Claire and I agreed that it’s not really a burden to be lost in a city as fascinating and beautiful as London is. 

I just loved this street because it seemed so typically English, like you would see in the movies.

When we finally made it to Primrose Hill though, we knew that the good 40 minutes of walking was entirely worth it. The view was spectacular, the park was beautiful to walk through and there was an ice cream van stationed right outside. Honestly, London, you do things right.

As we walked through the park we noticed that right next door was Regents Park, where Queen Mary’s Gardens were and decided to take a look. Basically the most beautiful landscaping I’ve ever seen in my life and grass so green that it would put my dad’s backyard to shame. And, might I add, not one piece of rubbish in sight. The optimist in me would like to think that people are respectful enough to throw away their rubbish after they eat, but most of me just thinks everyone is terrified of what the Royal Family would do if you soiled their garden. At one point I accidentally walked on a piece of grass I wasn't meant to be walking on and I thought police officers were going to jump out of the perfectly trimmed bushes and send me back to Australia.

After Claire and I did a bit of shopping on Oxford Street, we said goodbye and I went home to make myself somewhat presentable before meeting Katie, who flew in that afternoon. After getting some dinner we went on the London Eye, which was spectacular. I had heard mixed reviews about how worth while it actually was but I really enjoyed looking out over London’s incredibly diverse city of buildings that varied greatly in terms of age, architecture and historical importance. We were lucky enough to be on the last ride of the night, which meant that the sun was setting just as we were at the top and made for an absolutely beautiful view. On our way to catch the tube home we got a few snaps next to Big Ben and then called it a night.

In conclusion, London is beautiful and if you can manage to get on the final spin of the Eye (at 9pm) when/if you're here, I'd recommend it.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Hello Brighton.

The morning after I arrived in London I jumped on a train to the seaside town of Brighton with a few new friends. As we're all from Australia (albeit opposite ends, which sometimes makes it seem like we're from different countries anyway) the hour long train ride flew by as we joked and shared stories that probably annoyed and lowered our fellow passengers opinions of Australian tourists. 

The weather was perfect and we strolled down to the beachfront to find that the locals had let loose- a scorching hot temperature of 24 degrees seemed to be more than enough reason for them to get in their swimsuit and jump in the water. Those Brits, so thankful for the mid-twenties weather we take for granted back home.

Walking along the boardwalk was insane. The only thing that outnumbered the shops, stalls and food vendors was the amount of people trying to weave their way through the crowds. And it's easy to see why so many tourists flock to Brighton- it's gorgeous and has an incredibly fun and creative atmosphere. There were a lot of people selling really lovely handmade items (like the post cards below, which were £4 each and made me laugh all the way to a generic corner store to buy a 30p post card to send home instead. Sorry mum and dad- I love you but not £4 for a rectangle piece of cardboard worth)

Eventually we made our way onto the famous Brighton Pier, where we promptly bought an overpriced ice cream and strolled around singing to the One Direction songs that were being played (I knew there was a reason why I loved this place so much) Although we didn't go on any rides or play any games, it was nice to just stroll up and down the Pier in the sun, people-watch and take it all in. It could be said that this part of Brighton- arguably the most famous part- is a tad tacky with all its stores selling cheap and yet overpriced items to wide-eyed tourists, but I think that just added to my love for the place. It has a carnival vibe to it in that it was quite loud and obnoxious and yet incredibly fun at the same time.

Then Jess saved me from drowning.

After we were done on the beachfront we walked back into town in search for The Lanes- interweaving little passageways filled mainly with jewellery stores, cute little cafes and small stores selling creative little knick knacks. Being the brilliant tourist I am, I didnt take any good photos of these lanes.

We then slowly moved our way through the rest of the town, and I say 'slowly' because there is just so much to see in the streets of this city. Practically every time we'd turn a corner there would be another street full of eclectic shops and random little markets that cluttered the street. You had your regular clothing vendors, your Bob Marley themed shop, your man doing nothing but holding a Herron he had apparently found the day before and decided to bring to work with him, your tarot card readers, your three story adult store which would probably even make Samantha from Sex and the City blush. This is perhaps the best way to convey what Brighton is like- it's an eclectic mix of everything you could think of, all working together to make an incredibly interesting and fun experience. 

We spent a full day in this town and left feeling as though we had barely scratched the surface of what it had to offer. If you're ever in London and have the time, I would definitely recommend making your way down to Brighton for a day of wandering through the streets and debating whether or not you should pay £2.50 for an ice-cream with a flake in it (granted, they are about 10 times better than McDonald's 50 cent cones).

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Fear and Opportunity.

Over the past couple of years it's become apparent to me that if you open yourself up to embrace new things, you will create opportunities for yourself that once seemed implausible. My 24 hour solo journey from Melbourne to London completely reaffirmed this and reminded me of how important it is to take these opportunities and roll wIth them.

When I was initially faced with the option of either spending a week alone in a foreign city or changing my flights to be with my friends, a lot of me wished that I had a legitimate reason to go with the latter. But I didn't have a legitimate reason other than fear, and while fear is a legitimate emotion, it's not something that should hinder you from embracing opportunities.

There were so many things I was afraid of; missing one of my connecting flights, having my luggage misplaced, losing my passport, not being able to figure out how to get from the airport to my apartment. But then I was reminded of how kind and comforting perfect strangers can be. Before I had even gone through security at Melbourne, I met a well-traveled lady who was on the same flights as I and who was happy to answer all of my annoyingly detailed and often entirely unnecessary questions. When I got to my seat for the first two flights, I found that I was next to the kindest woman who was happy to chat away with me for the following 13 hours and who collected my between meal-snacks for me when I was sleeping and the air hostess tried to skip over me (in all my uncultured and untraveled-ness I didn't realise that they wouldn't wake you up for food. I just thought everyone would want to be woken up for food). On the last leg of the flight and upon hearing that I was by myself for a week, the London-native woman next to me gave me her phone number in case I needed anything. And finally, an hour before we landed in London and just as it began to dawn on me how completely alone I was in the city below me, a girl from two rows in front told me she had overheard that I was traveling alone like she was and we promptly agreed to navigate the Heathrow airport tube together and meet up the following week.

Reading all of these things probably doesn't convey how relieving and important it was to me at the time. More than that, a lot of people reading this are probably thinking "uh, why is traveling alone such a big deal? This girl is a freak", but it was a big deal to me and it's something I never would have thought I'd have the courage to do. But alas, I am in London and I just had the greatest first day abroad in the seaside town of Brighton with some wonderful new friends (post on that to come later).

To conclude this very long and probably very boring post, I will say this; I think there is good and bad fear. The bad one is obviously when we are in legitimate danger and our body/brain is like "dude, I don't think this is a good idea." The good one however, is the fear of the unknown and the different, and that's the one you need to look out for because so often it can disguise itself as bad fear and stop you from living and growing. Do the things that scare you, you'll be better for it in the long run.

(P.S I promise that all my travel posts won't be this philosophical, it's just that I think I've beaten jet lag and now I feel like I can solve every and any problem in the universe.)