“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the most pleasant sensations in the world. You are surrounded by adventure.”
― Freya Stark
Day 1: London
We arrived in London just before noon with two heavy backpacks on our shoulders (also, tip #1 – don’t choose backpacks) and excitement in our hearts. I certainly looked like a fool emerging from the subway, jumping up and down when I saw the first double-decker heading our way. And they really drive on the left! Everything was fascinating – how the taxis looked so retro with their curvy design, how people just casually exchanged lovely British-accent conversations, how the traffic lights turned yellow twice (before turning green and before turning red),… I wasn’t even listening to what the birds were saying. I was floating.
After dropping off our hefty partners and freeing our poor shoulders, we went straight out to see London. The subway system, called “underground” or “tube” here, isn’t terribly hard to figure out, especially with the help of CityMapper (more below). The transportation in England is so good that you can get to wherever you’re going with minimal walking. However, walking is the best way to see a new place, they say. Followed that advice, we got off a few stops before Westminster and walked toward the Thames River. Emerging to the heart of the famous Oxford Street, we were quickly lost among roads filled with people. Everyone looked happy enough to be there. After all, it was a sunny day in London, in October. I guess that’s enough reason to be happy.
We made it through this famous shopping area without purchasing a thing, followed paths toward the river, and stumbled upon a few sightseeing on the way. It wasn’t a stroll with a purpose to check off items on our list but we ended up crossing a few places – St. Jame’s Palace, Victoria Memorial, Buckingham Palace, St. Jame’s Park – before arriving at Westminster Bridge. Here, we let ourselves be disappointed with everything being under maintenance, including the Big Ben.
As the sun slowly descended toward the horizon, we took a walk along the Thames, taking in the beautiful view of the London Eye right across the river before hurrying to grab dinner in Chinatown. Coincidentally, it was Mid Autumn Festival so the whole area was packed with people (think Friday night plus festival). Thankfully, we found a place to eat without having to wait in long lines, quickly revived after a decent bowl of duck noodle soup, and were ready to explore SoHo at night. By the way, am I the only person who was fascinated by London having a neighborhood called SoHo, just like New York (or the other way around)?
If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, be sure to check out House of MinaLima on Greek Street in Soho. It was found by graphic design duo Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima who worked on the graphic design for Harry Potter film series. This place has four floors filled with distinctive designs from the graphic art of the Harry Potter movies and also Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Really cool!
I had a long debate weeks prior to this trip about what to bring in term of cameras. I had never traveled without my Canon DSLR before. However, due to the possibility of being constantly on the road, I didn’t want to add more weight to the already heavy backpack and decided to go with my Fujifilm XE-2 + 35mm f1.4 lens. Some wider angle photos in this and upcoming posts were taken with my iPhone.
I’ll have a separate post on tips for the UK as well as a review post on traveling with Fujifilm XE-2. If you’re interested, don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter to make sure you don’t miss any future blog posts!