When asked my favorite city, I freeze up. I'll go all "ummmmmmmm," sputter about nonsensically, perhaps mention Edinburgh or Barcelona, oh and now Dubrovnik but of course, remember that US cities count as cities too and wax poetic/patriotic about my first love New York City and true love San Francisco (despite the rent I had to pay on Monday IT HURTS, it hurts so good), but without fail, I usually forget about London.
I love London. Nay, I fancy London to bits. I heart its slight eccentricity, its modgepodge of neighborhoods. I'm crazy about how I've never even remotely felt unsafe in its borders and its brilliant public transportation. I'm such a fan of how it's this huge, hustling, bustling metropolis, but how it stands upon a history that I can't even begin to fathom. Out of all the international cities I've fallen head over heels for, I think London would be the one in which I'd like to live.
Which is why I felt this terrible sense of gloom and doom when, at the height of my most recent visit, London felt unimpressive and anticlimactic.
I figured it out though, so no one panic. I got dis.
I didn't pile on nearly enough of a full English breakfast onto my plate. That's the reason.
The trick to falling for London is that you can't overpack your itinerary with tourist attractions, which is what ended up happening for me this go-around. You just can't. You'll spend half the time in traffic or waiting in line in torrential downpour or under the beating sun. People get pushy and rude, and seriously, why so crowded? Simply not ideal conditions for your heart to go a'flutter.
My advice: pick and choose a couple of touristy things to do, and spend the rest of your time in London enjoying the sunshine by picnicking in a park, shopping at Primark, or taking a day trip somewhere slightly more quaint. You'll be all loopy in love in no time.
I'll say only three words to you: home of Kate. Now, more words: although less grandiose than Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace is full of charm for any Kate Middleton or Princess Diana fans orrrrrrr throwin' it back now y'all... Queen Victoria fans, anyone? Kensington's garden is vast and breathtaking. Take a nice, long morning walk and then reward yourself with afternoon tea at the Orangerie. (My other favorite afternoon tea is at Fortnum & Mason, but I ain't tryin' to make you sell your firstborn child here, so Orangerie it is.)
Well, a ways out of London, but this is an absolute must for any Potterhead. End of story.
This is what dreams are made of. I made a solo sojourn to Borough Market mere hours before our train to Paris because I simply couldn't go to London and not go to Borough Market. Sample your way around the vendors (I highly recommend the grilled cheese and raclette at Kappacasein), drink some Pimm's, pick up some pastries or soaps or produce or what have you, a sausage sandwich at Brindisa, and brave the Monmouth line for a latte on your way out. I stopped at an ATM before entering the market, and left 30 pounds both lighter and heavier HAHA. HA. On a nice day, I love walking from Borough Market over towards the Globe Theater, up and over the Millennium Bridge and towards St. Paul's.
Good and gooder, my friends.
Tower of London + a river cruise down to a tour either at Westminster Abbey or House of Parliament.
This is for you history buffs out there. The Tower of London is so full of history, albeit mostly bloody, sad, or bloody sad. Catch a Yeoman tour and they'll tell you all about where Henry VIII's queens were imprisoned and/or executed. Warm and fuzzy stuff! Cheer yourself up afterwards by taking a peek at the Crown Jewels. Leave blinded. I enjoyed Westminster Abbey much more on a guided tour, but was absolutely enthralled by the House of Parliament's audio guide.
The best part is that won't even have to spend a penny. My favorites are the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert. If you choose the V&A, go explore South Kensington afterwards!
If I were a more brilliant person, I would title this edition "Retroactively" because that's a bigger and more accurate word for this right here, but what can I say. Brain cells have been zapped by too many days out in the direct sunlight. Thanks, Obama.
Without further ado... I have been:
WATCHING // so many beautiful sunsets, and so many beautiful giantesses (those Eastern Europeans! so tall! so mighty! I felt particularly midgety!) strolling down Stradun, the main street in Dubrovnik. Once back in USA Land, we beelined for the movie theater and checked off Trainwreck and Mission Impossible 5 Million (which was surprisingly impressive). Now? Finishing off Parenthood and FRIENDS.
EATING // well, everything. I went from daily English breakfasts to a personally curated Paris goodies tour to carbs ahoy in Italy to seafood in Croatia, meats in Bosnia & Herzegovina, too many brunches in LA and SF (there was one day in San Francisco that we had three breakfasts. Three.) and now to perching on the kitchen counter and snagging samples from my mom's stovetop whenever she has her back turned.
WANTING // to be on the road again, and to be moved in and settled in my new apartment at the same time. Can there be a happy medium?
PLANNING // a bridal shower! I'm single-handedly buying Etsy. Not even a tassel here and a cakestand there. No. I'm buying Etsy. All of it. And also, I'm arranging my new room, of course, so I'm also buying Amazon and maybe IKEA too because why let an excuse for meatballs go wasted.
READING // The Muse. I stumbled upon this career advice resource for millennials by accident, but think that we all need to be following it diligently. Does anyone else have any great career resources, columns, etc. to recommend? I've heard good things about Levo League as well. #GIRLBOSS. There have also been texts about Southeastern Europe, WWI, former Yugoslavia and its war in the 90s, etc. Notable: Ivo Andric's The Bridge on the Drina (a pain, but... I *heard* it gets better, *cough*) and Aleksander Hemon's The Book of My Lives, which was really engaging! And! Hemon came to speak to us in Sarajevo, which was quite the treat.
MAKING // my own food. In a relative sense. Okay so maybe not yet, but I went from Googling "how to turn on a stove" two weeks ago to begging some lessons from my mom and my friend Leah to now scrambling up some pathetic eggs, cooking some passable pasta, and asking for a Crockpot.
SAYING // "sve je dobro u mome svijetu," which is Croatian for "all is well in my world." It was on the label of a very inspirational bottled water company that always had something interesting for us to read. I haven't learned a new language since high school Spanish and I forgot how frustrating and confusing it can be, but I've got to say that it's so much more enjoyable when you're immersed in it all day everyday!
NOTICING // how, although Europe... I mean Europe is Europe, the USA can be pretty great sometimes too. Free water. Target. In-N-Out. Friends in the same time zone. It can also be pretty awful sometimes, but... aren't we all.
MISSING // that girl up there. After four years of living together – some years in one suite, some years in one room, and this summer sometimes in one twin-sized bed as she was coughing up bronchitis germs all over me but I'll take my chances because HOTELS. ARE. EXPENSIVE. – it's kind of sad-weird not being two feet away from her and our Apple TV remote at all times.
NEEDING // the heat and the humidity to peace the eff out. Sorry. (But I'm really not.)
LEARNING // not to be a broken record about this, but I spent two and a half weeks learning about former Yugoslavia – all the way, way back when it was under empire rule to WWI to the devastating war in the 90s, all from an Eastern perspective. Therein lies one of the most important lessons from this summer: to constantly challenge myself to be open-minded. I didn't ever know that I never knew. I kind of want to learn forever and forever and well shucks too bad, diploma's in hand get outta here.
FEELING // the in between. The gray area. Like I'm in transition.