The beginning of our travels: London

IMG_1937Puerto Rico 2017.09.27.

Before you start reading the following series of blog posts we need to mention that our Puerto Rican holiday was pretty unusual and had little or nothing to do with the usual Caribbean ‘dream holiday’ accounts (which I have to add was what we were looking for after such crazy years finishing our studies). As our holiday took place during the hurricane season, we were ‘lucky’ enough to experience hurricane Maria and her wrath. So, our blog series will elaborate on how we felt during and after the hurricane as well as our perspective on the preparation and post hurricane events.

Irma and our London layover

Our flight to Puerto Rico was to leave on the 13th of September and included three stops: Stockholm, London, and Miami. The day before our flight we received a message at Budapest (our starting point) saying that our flight had been cancelled and we were rebooked for Saturday the 16th (this was of course due to hurricane Irma). However, the cancellation only influenced the flights from and everything following London, meaning we still had to leave Budapest (Zsiga’s home) as scheduled and head to London, and consequently spend two days there. We planned to use our travel insurance with World Nomads to cover our incurred expenses (more about our experiences with travel insurance in this situation will follow in a separate blog post).

We arrived to Stockholm as planned. Our only issue was how to deal with the layover in London. Since Ana had spent the whole last year in London, she was able to ask her former hosts (who are the parents of our former university mate, Toni) if we could stay at their place. They were very kind and said yes. From Stockholm we arrived in London with an hour delay. We took an Uber to Foresthill (our friend’s place) and our two day adventures began.IMG_1721Uk, London- Forest Hill 2017.09.14.

Ana’s perspective on London

During the last year (2016-2017), London was always a meeting point for Zsiga and I, but since both of us were lacking of time (Zsiga in the Hague and myself at university in London) it was always a rush and we couldn’t ever really take full advantage of being in London. Previously, we also had a rather negative view of London. Anytime, Zsiga or I decided to visit the other it would take longer getting to the various airports in London than the flight itself between London and Holland. These huge distances were always foreboding and quite isolating during my time as a student there. I usually couldn’t have a spontaneous meet up with a friend, because it would take at least two hours of travel time to meet. This is different of course if you meet some people who live in your neighborhood. London also seemed catered rather to young urban professionals or people working in the business/economic sectors. Everything was way too pricey to be able to enjoy the city as a student. I also dreaded the huge amounts of people at the end of a long day in the city that you would encounter in the metro. I felt like I didn’t have any time/place to even think without having some crowd or movement around me. The good thing, however, is that most museums are free and walking around London is too. Luckily, with our layover we finally got to experience London without the rush of school and planes to catch, as tourists, and it was lovely! Here I will mention a few nice areas to visit, like we did during our days there, if you get the chance to be in London for a few days.

London is huge, as I mentioned, and therefore operates mostly on the basis of neighborhoods. I lived in Forest Hill for one year, right next to Peckham, which was considered a bad area about 30 years ago, and is now bustling and upcoming with all the gentrification taking place in the area. Forest Hill and Peckham are also close to East Dulwich. When I first moved there, I was worried that it would be too far from everything, but the truth is it was lovely to leave central and crowded London at the end of the day and head to my removed, very green, and quiet Forest Hill. Most Londoners spend most of their free time in their neighborhood; those long distances between different parts of the city make it only sensible. As a tourist, with a limited amount of days, you will also have to take your pick of what areas to visit, as you just can’t fit everything in.

If you head to London, the area we are familiar with is definitely worth checking out (especially if you want to get away from the touristy areas for a day). Our first morning there we treated ourselves to a lovely English breakfast at Norris + Knight.

IMG_1699UK, London- Peckham- Norris + Knight: English Breakfast

Then we headed to Peckham Rye park for a nice walk. This park is especially nice because it is made up of different sections; a Japanese garden, an English garden, large wide fields for soccer practice and running dogs, and even a community garden which the community members can get access to and garden on during their free time. This park was really my go-to for relaxation during the weekends. Just past the park you already get into Peckham and the multi-cultural and bustling scene there is definitely worth the travel to. You can find anything from Chinese food stores to Afro-Caribbean shops. My favorite place there was Persepolis, a Persian restaurant/café. It was great for a quick, down to earth, tasty lunch or even for studying over a Persian tea.

IMG_5352UK, London- East Dulwich 2017.03.13.

Anyways, I am getting off track. Our first evening we caught up with our friend Toni, and the next day we went into London for a chill day at the Natural History museum which is always fun. Our personal favorites are the dinosaur exhibitions, the sequoia tree trunk, and the beautiful world gemstone collection they hold there, but its huge and I am not giving it enough credit by only citing those these three sections. We also couldn’t leave London without getting a quick taste of the authentic Indian food. We met a friend on Drummond street, a street filled with vegetarian Indian restaurants (our personal favorite was and always is Ravi Shankar), and we properly took advantage of their all you can eat lunch buffet for only 6 pounds. This street is right behind Euston Station and therefore very close to the University College London Campus which is also nice to check out, not to mention the British Library.

IMG_1724UK, London- Ravi Shankar Indian restaurant. Ana and Phill

The past year London seemed really hectic and not the most student friendly city, but it was nice to make our peace with it as tourists thanks to our flight cancellation (never thought I’d say that).

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