LONDON: DAY 1 (Sept 10th, 2016)
After waiting for months, the trip was finally here! My annual ritual since I got out of college in 2011 was to take one big international trip each year, and for 2015 it was going to be a trip to Europe with 3 girl friends.
The trip was born for me when I was out with my friend Jenna and over drinks she told me that her and Lane wanted to plan a trip to Oktoberfest in Munich. Having been on my bucket list, my immediate reaction was “I want to go too.” My boyfriend Jeremy had already committed to his own Europe trip for a bachelor party, given our other travel commitments, this meant him and I wouldn’t make our annual 2-week trip this year. I had vacation time of my own to spare and I decided right then and there it was going to be in Europe.
The first step was planning the trip so we would end in Munich, Germany for Oktoberfest which starts on Saturday, September 19th. We knew we wanted to visit London, Amsterdam, Prague and Berlin, so all we needed to do was figure out our schedule leading up. The rationale was to start in London and work our way west. Having built up a lot of miles (thank you American!) the flight over was easy. It was the travel in-between that needed to be sorted.
Jenna, Lane and myself spent a couple hours at my apartment weighing the pros and cons of Easy Jet vs train travel and decided on a combination of the 2 based on cost. The next few weeks we spent many hours planning activities, booking tours and getting references from people who had been before. And now the day had finally arrived!
I had planned to arrive a day before the other girls and take a red-eye from NYC on Sept 9th and arrive the morning of Sept 10th. Having had a glass of wine at the airport bar before getting on the plane, I sat back and enjoyed my airplane meal of chicken and rice before falling asleep for the night. I woke up as the flight attendants began serving breakfast, and looked out my plane window to find an amazing view of the London countryside.
My plan was to stay with Tim, a local whom I met through my friend back home, until the girls arrived the next day. My flight got in around 10:15AM, so I planned to pick up a spare set of apartment keys from him at his office in the London equivalent of New York’s Financial District. His office building was the Leadenhall building at 122 Leadenhall, which was across the street from a new-age looking building where all the insurance brokers worked. Just around the corner was the historic Leadenhall Market, which looked like an early 19th century street market frozen in time. The 4 cobblestone streets met at an intersection which marked the entrance to the market, which included an immaculate gated archway complete with engraved stone gargoyles. The entire intersection was covered by an ornate ceiling of glass and large metal lanterns that hung down through the middle.
Along both streets stood restaurants and pubs, and the most notable pub, Lamb Tavern, had throngs of people in suits and dresses enjoying beers in front on the street. Tim had told me that the brokers go there each day to drink at lunch, and typically had at least 3-4 each. This proved to be true as I sat down to order my own Guinness and people-watch; I was fascinated by their ability to do this during work hours on a daily basis.
I finished my beer and noting the time at 3:00, decided to drop off my bag at Tim’s before going to explore more of the city before meeting up with my former coworkers at GMR. I dropped by bags at his apartment which was near the Westfeild Mall off the Stratford stop on the Central Line and headed down towards GMR which was on Strand street in Covent Garden.
Once I got off the tube stop at Covent Garden, I immediately was reminded of New York’s SoHo district with stores lining the street and crowds of people with shopping bags. I walked away from the main road and found some cool cobblestone streets to practice my photography.
I made my way to the GMR London office to say hi to my former colleagues and then went for drinks with my old co-worker Konstantin. We went to a cool eclectic bar called Mabel that had very cool decor. We then walked through Chinatown to grab dinner at a tapas spot called Pix Pintxa. It’s served buffet-style and in each dish there were wooden ‘sticks’ of various sizes that indicate the price of each one, similar to how some sushi places charged based on the colors of each plate. I loved both the concept AND the food, it was delicious!
My last stop for the night was to meet up with Tim and his co-workers at Revolution bar back in the Financial District before heading back to Tim’s. I set up my couch and as soon as my head hit the pillow, I was out like a light.