It’s hard to believe that this was my first time in London since it’s one of those cities that everyone seems to have have stories about visiting or living there for what they’ve often described as one of the “best times of (their) lives”.
But before I share my own London tales, I have to begin with what was my most bizarre passport control situation to date. I arrived in Standsted Airport, one of London’s smaller regional airports, which is often preferable especially when Heathrow is a notoriously challenging airport to navigate. The line was short and there was only one baggage claim area, so I was feeling pretty great about Standsted. That is, until I got to the passport control window and the immigration officer began asking me a series of personal questions that I found not only intrusive but downright ridiculous. Here’s an annotated version of our exchange:
Officer: “So, I see that you’ve been traveling the past few weeks. What brings you to London?”
Me: “Yes, I’m lucky enough to travel in Europe for the summer!”
Officer: “I see. What is your occupation? Are you married?”
Me: “Well, I worked for a media/entertainment company, but I don’t anymore. Um…no not married.”
Officer: “Why did you leave your job? Do you have a boyfriend? How long are you traveling?”
This interrogation went on for about 10 more minutes until I found myself confessing to this officer about how hard it is to meet a good guy and that it was a really tough decision to leave my job but it felt right and as if that wasn’t enough, I also had to let her know how much money I had in my personal bank account. WTF!! I realize that everyone is locking down on immigration, but this seemed over the top.
OK, back to the part where I love London. Thanks to Facebook, my old high school friend Tuyen generously connected me with her sister and I stayed the first couple of nights with a wonderful couple named Jolie and Zack and their adorable baby girl Lavender.
It’s easy to see why so many people, especially New Yorkers, are obsessed with London. There’s a familiar energy, incredible ethnic diversity (in fact, I’m pretty sure I saw more interracial couples here than any place I’ve ever been), the hustle of people rushing through the streets, theater everywhere (side note: if you’re wondering what The Game of Thrones cast does when they’re not shooting the show, they’re performing in London theater), restaurants and bars and yes, it’s expensive so it felt a bit like home, but much more scenic. Sorry NYC, it’s just the truth.
Here are some visual highlights to my time in London Town.
I stayed a few days in Shoreditch, also recommended to me by many friends. It’s a hip/happening neighborhood full of bars, street art, and as one friend described it “is bit more gritty” than other parts of the city. I particularly enjoyed my lunch at Dishoom, an Indian restaurant that has an incredible local and US following and it did live up to the hype. If anyone is visiting, I recommend you go to the one in Shoreditch for lunch where you’re less likely to deal with long lines. I also made a new friend from Spain living in London and over a couple of beers we traded stories about work, travel, his love of Americans and our open/warm personalities, my love of Spain and what it’s like to live in London (not easy).
It’s impossible to see all of London in just five days, but I certainly got a good feel for the city thanks to new friends like Jolie and Zack who gave great recommendations, as well as so many of my friends from the U.S. I’m excited to be part of the “I Love London” club and look forward to returning to this beautiful, big city.