Break 1 – London

Not Your Average Bowl of Cereal 

I enjoy a serving of cereal every now and then, and I love milk, but I do not like my cereal in my milk.  Where some may find the two a perfect pair, the solid and liquid complementing each other to create a both filling and hydrating breakfast in a bowl, I much rather grab a handful of cereal and wash it down with an ice cold glass of 1%.  All cereal preferences considered, I was still curious to try the Cereal Killer Cafe.

Initially, creating cereal concoctions with a crazy collection of cereal, an assortment of sugary treats, and a multitude of milk seems like a fun snack.  The nostalgic décor and literal beds for a seating option created a one-of-a-kind atmosphere.  Unfortunately, on a Monday afternoon, the Camden location was out of many menu options and lacked cleanliness in their establishment.  I could not enjoy half of the toppings that I had hoped for, and sticky tables and unwashed silverware was unsettlingly obvious.  As a result, I only ordered Lucky Charms with Oreos (a “magically delicious” combination), but, for sanitation reasons, I was too apprehensive to drink the milk out of the bottle.  Perhaps there is better luck at the Brick Lane cafe.

dsc_0088

 

Little-known London

With a few hours in between my cereal snack and my evening plans, I decided to take a trip to Harrod’s, an only-in-London shopping locale that I had imagined was England’s equivalent of Macy’s department store.  Though the establishment was technically a department store, it was nothing like Macy’s.  A cross between a gorgeous galleria and a merchandiser’s museum, Harrod’s endless emporium made my initial plan to browse the store in an hour futile.  One could spend an entire day marveling at the beautiful products and décor!  I didn’t even take photographs because they wouldn’t due the store justice.  If you’re visiting London, move Harrod’s from your “place to visit if I have time” list to your “must-see” traveler’s agenda.

I left the retail paradise for a true museum, the Tate Modern.  This attraction, granting free entry to all, presented interesting exhibits typical of a modern art museum.  It also, however, offered a rooftop view of London.  Though foggy (like my other sky-high sightseeing attempts), the panorama offered a different experience of London.

To end my time in this city, I went to Poppies Fish & Chips, a popular restaurant serving a popular English dish.  However, I dined at the chain’s Soho location and enjoyed an entertaining meal.  At Poppies’ quirky Chinatown restaurant, the dominantly male wait staff, though slightly uncomfortable, was goofy and fun.  They interacted with the Asian guests in native language attempts and were extremely attentive to all diners.  The food, too, impressed, rivaling my grandma’s own breaded Haddock fish.  I even appreciated the 50s throwback soundtrack while sipping my fresh lemonade.  In London, fish and chips is a must, Poppies is a go-to, and the Soho location is recommended!

 

“Only in London”

My motto for this trip accurately describes my English capital exploration.  London is truly home to the stylish and the strange.  Rather than investigate the history of the city, as I usually do when traveling, I decided that London just had too much “now” to see and do.  I would speculate that I could learn about London’s past on a return trip, but I suspect that the eccentric metropolis will have new quirks to discover.

 

Destination Locations 

 

Peace, Love, London

A.J.H.

Advertisements

Break 1 – London

PSA: This is not London Bridge 

Though the London Bridge is one of London’s better-known structures (thanks to nursery rhymes and Fergie), the Tower Bridge is actually much more impressive.  After marveling at the aged architecture of the bridge from Potters Fields Park on the south side of London, I walked across the River Thames to discover some of the city’s more modern sightseeing treasures.

dsc_0001

 

Anywhere Art at Brick Lane

A walk north of the Tower Bridge leads one to Brick Lane, the grounds of London’s street art scene.  Though the area offers street art tours, and specific display locations can be found online, I opted to take Brick Lane (from the intersection of Brick Lane and Hopetown Street) toward London’s Shoreditch quarter, and simply wander side streets that branched left and right to see what works I could find.

dsc_0035

dsc_0029

Some street artists’ work can be identified (Banksy, Wrdsmth), but I am at a loss to give credit where credit is due for these brick-wall masterpieces.  Though each creator has every right to be acknowledged, I found that the anonymity was alluring, making me wonder who in the world produced this piece and when, why, how…

dsc_0025

Because of London’s confusing weather that mislead many of my plans, I missed out on some weekend markets on my Monday morning visit to Brick Lane.  Regardless, I felt that the excursion was worthwhile, as I discovered these expressive designs on my own and spent my last morning in London speaking to the streets.  As for the markets, I’ll just have to return!

walll

Destination Locations 

 

Peace, Love, London

A.J.H.

Break 1 – London

god

God’s Own Junkyard

London with a Local 

Taking on the city with a 10-year resident, I met up with the brother of one of my mother’s international friends.  We began with the tourist leading the Londoner to God’s Own Junkyard, a garage gallery on the outskirts of the city center home to hundreds of neon signs; if you arrive near the dumpsters of a questionable property, you’re in the right place!  The establishment was small, but impressive.  More than just a lot of light, many of the installments were composed works, a combination of individual, glowing pieces, to create inspiring, innovative, and eyebrow-raising art.

dsc_0109

dsc_0120

“It’s always your favorite sins that do you in.”

Though there is a café area in the gallery, my new friend and I did not stay, opting instead for a greater foodie experience closer to town.

 

Camden: the Cosmic Culinary Capital of London

My guide led me to the neighborhood of Camden Town, a funky, alternative area of food and flea market vendors. Our destination was, specifically, the Camden Market, an international smorgasbord bordering Regent’s Canal.  Hosting stalls of every type of cuisine, we settled on splitting a Venezuelan shredded beef and corn bread sandwich and a Greek chicken wrap. The sandwich, from Arepa: Venezuelan Street Kitchen, was one of the best dishes I ate in London.

Next, we ventured into a store that I feel embodies the environment of Camden.  Cyberdog‘s storefront was preceded by a line to get in the door, which was flanked by two, futuristic, human-dog hybrids.  Neon lights, techno music, and cage dancers greet customers, along with the store’s least offensive merchandise. Floors below reveal risqué stock, justifying the “no photography” policy.

After visiting God’s Own Junkyard and this inexplicably bizarre but must-see store, I began to feel that the phrase “only in London” would be an appropriate label for many of my experiences on this trip.

Walking after our lunch, we took the Regent’s Canal Towpath from Camden Town to Primrose Hill in Regent’s Park.  On a clear day, one finds a panoramic look of London, but as typical of viewing experiences of my journey, the city fog took over and obscured the overlook.

 

Lights of London

While visiting a new city, I like to explore the same place during the day and during the night for a different perspective.  Each experience is beautiful in its own way.  I was able to end my third day in London with a return to Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and the London Eye to enjoy these London landmarks illuminated along the River Thames.

dsc_0103

“Second star to the right and straight on till morning.”  ~ Peter Pan

 

Destination Locations

Peace, Love, London

A.J.H.

Break 1 – London

Here I Come, Hogwarts!

With an entire day ahead of me after a morning of yoga at The Shard, I headed to King’s Cross train station’s Platform 9 3/4 for Hogwarts, Harry Potter’s school of magic and wizardry.

A large crowd called attention to the site, complete with a photo-op and gift shop.  The photography center employees were committed to serving tourists an authentic experience, providing wands, Hogwarts scarves, and assistance to make it seem as though one was truly in action running through the platform.  The gift shop was as equally as impressive, complete with Hogwarts school robes and a cabinet of wands.  Though I didn’t wait in the “queue” to take my turn journeying to Hogwarts, I did buy a pack of Every Flavor jelly beans for my future train travels.

 

Today, I am a Tourist

I spent the second half of the day visiting London’s typical tourist sights: Buckingham Palace (where I discovered that, unfortunately, the iconic, red-jacketed guards wear grey in the winter), Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament (viewed best from the St. Thomas Hospital Gardens), and the London Eye.  With a good attitude and a good pair of shoes, it’s possible to walk all of these sights in an afternoon.

hole

Big Ben from the St. Thomas Hospital Gardens

dsc_0069

The London Eye and the Boudiccan Rebellion statue

screen-shot-2017-02-25-at-11-10-07-pm

Walk it! Click here for directions

Destination Locations

Peace, Love, London

A.J.H

REVIEW: Yoga at The Shard with Yogashpere

Version 2

Saturday morning greeted me with a cold fog as I made my way to The Shard, Europe’s tallest building, for a sky-high yoga class hosted by Yogasphere on the 68th floor of the tower.  On a clear day, one can see nearly 40 miles out.  How often do you get a clear day in London, though?  Not worrying about the nonexistent view, and embracing the fog as a zen-like haze, I chose a mat and began to unwind for class.

As soon as the instructor began speaking, though, I knew relaxing was not going to happen.  Though there are pleasant accents found in the U.K., the accent of this woman was coarse, unpolished, and not conducive to a yoga class.

img_9167

I understood that this was not YogaMos, my local, family-owned studio that I know and love, but I was disappointed to realize that the Yogasphere class was clearly a choreographed yoga highlight reel.  At home, YogaMos teaches yogis to look inside oneself to find one’s center, and to use this inner-self recognition as strength to carry through breathing, poses, and reflection. With Yogasphere at The Shard, we hardly had a moment to center ourselves when we were off completing speedy sun salutations and dramatic balancing poses.  As YogaMos instructor Chris would say, it is all part of the practice; one must endure any yoga adversity through self-centering, for it is the essence of the practice.  This class at The Shard, however, was a spiritual challenge.

I expected a yoga experience similar to that of home, or even classes that I’ve done at school, but Yogasphere only seemed to be interested in the yoga that sells.  Had it been a clear day where I could see over all of London, I probably would have looked more favorably on the experience, but poor weather and poor practice made for a mediocre morning.

 

Destination Locations

  • The Shard
    • 32 London Bridge St, London SE1 9SG, UK
  • YogaMos
    • 410 Main St, Hellertown, PA 18055, USA

 

Peace, Love, London

A.J.H.

 

Break 1 – London

10 Days, 3 Countries, 1 Backpack and Me

Reaching a traveler milestone, I am taking my first solo trip!  We have a week-long break from school this month, which means time to travel.  First stop: London.

dsc_0059-recovered

I traded sunny Nice for snowy London, which I discovered was unseasonably cold even for the characteristically dreary city. With inspiration to tour London from a friend who studied abroad there last semester, I approached the city with a insider list of things to see and do.

I took the tube from London’s Heathrow airport to the city center, which took longer than I expected. Nonetheless, I was very happy with my hostel location, as well as with my overall experience. Because of my solo status, I stayed at St. Christopher’s Inn London Bridge at the Oasis, an all-female section of the hostel.

img_9179

With many places to visit and only a few days to do so, I set out to explore the city.

House Hunting

For reasons I can’t quite explain – maybe it’s the soundtrack, maybe it’s Dennis Quaid, maybe it’s because my sister and I bond over every line – The Parent Trap (1998 version) is one of my favorite movies.  Because of my love for the film, I had to visit the James’ residence, or the home of the London-living Lindsay Lohan.  Though under construction, the home still transported me back to movie memories.  At 23 Egerton Terrace, it sits in one of the most wealthy neighborhoods of the city.  The James’ were living large in London.

Covent Garden

I spent my first evening in London in Covent Garden, a district near the center of the city. Getting to the area, the Covent Garden underground stop only offered options for the “lift” and for the stairs.  Rather than wait in the large crowd for the elevator, I decided to walk, and soon realized why there was a crowd for the lift.  With 193 spiral stairs, equivalent to 15 stories, I felt like I was climbing up a lighthouse!  Fortunately, Covent Garden was worth the effort. A mixture of luxury stores and artisan shops, the neighborhood was the perfect place to wander after a morning of travel. There were multiple indoor/outdoor buildings, including the central Covent Garden Market, of stalls of pricey perfumes, homemade crafts, and food vendors scattered in between.

DSC_0044.jpg

Nestled within the criss-crossing streets, Homeslice Pizza‘s golden-lit glow invited me in for some Friday night pizza.  I got there at 5:30 p.m. and snuck in at a table alone, but by the time I finished, there was a crowd at the door.  As for the food, the paper-thin crust was dusted with a salty pizza flour that added a punch to the incredibly fresh ingredients. One could taste the quality of the basil leaves, tomato sauce, and mounds of mozzarella, a filling end to a full day.

Travel Tips

  • Two words: Oyster Card.  The Oyster Card is the tourist payment card for those who plan on utilizing public transportation while in London.  This card was a life saver!  I put about 30€ on it at the airport when I arrived and it lasted all trip.  The highlight of this system, though, is the daily charge cap.  While the capping calculations themselves are a bit complicated, depending on where and how you travel, the idea is simple— travel more, spend less.  I reached my spending cap each day I was in London, and was always thrilled to realize when I was no longer being charged for my travel.  Tourism done right!

 

Destination Locations

Peace, Love, London

A.J.H.