As the four month mark rolls ever closer, I can’t help but think back over my time here in London; all the amazing things I’ve seen, stunning places I’ve visited, the lovely friends I’ve made and the fact that I actually live in London! Along with it comes the family I long for, the special occasions I’ve missed and the far away comforting memory of home.
I am absolutely in love with London and right now there’s nowhere I’d rather be. Since day one, and even more so now, I’ve feel lucky, settled, excited, relaxed, adventurous, optimistic, hopeful but most importantly happy.
I truly believe that everything happens for a reason and that you will always end up where you are supposed to be. For me, that’s right here, right now, living an amazing life of a young 25 year old with the whole world at her feet. I can do anything and everything, and I plan on embracing this exciting adventure that is life.
London is my dream come true. Here I am, commuting like a local, exploring like a tourist, smiling like a child and laughing like a child! Work is work; I’d rather not have to be there, but getting to cross the Thames on the train every day, see the London Eye every morning, travel through underground stations that are 100s of years old, passing beautiful old churches and walk streets dating back 2000 years, it’s hardly a horrible experience. One Tuesday I was greeted with hugs, smiles and high fives simply because a group of young people wearing bright clothing, playing loud 80s music and waving ‘Happiness in Gloryville’ banners painted onto sheets wanted to wish the commuters of London a ‘Happy Tuesday!’.
Not a second thought is given to travelling everywhere via foot, bus or train. It seems like such a lonely and boring concept now to simply drive everywhere, as taking public transport (and oh how amazing the public transport is over here!) is such a huge part of the London experience. Not a second thought is given to making an over hour long journey to visit a friend, whereas back home a 30 minute drive seemed like a mission. Each journey is easy and exciting and different as you take new bus routes past streets and parks that you haven’t seen before, change at different underground stations which are all stunning in their own right, listening to talented buskers (or the crazy homeless man who humms the tune to the Flintstones into a orange road cone every morning), every square inch of London is a work of art and I love it.
I feel like a real local in my gorgeous little suburb of Clapham Junction. Each morning on my way to work I stop by the best fruit stall to buy the freshest fruit for the day. A short stroll across the common (aka park) takes me to the netball courts where I play every Monday evening with my lovely new team members. I can see the common from my bedroom and often take my book across to read in the lush wild grass or to exercise on the free outdoor gym equipment, complete with cycles and cross trainers. Of course if there was going to be a cat in the neighbourhood I would find it, and that I did. Yet to be named, she will often follow me half a dozen houses home and sit at the front door meowing.
Additional wildlife includes squirrels who still take the number one spot at ‘most interesting animal that we don’t have at home’ and foxes, who despite looking cute walking on their tip toes, they are actually freaky as f*** and make the most horrendous screaming sound.
London is really putting on a show; there has been the most amazing weather for the past two months, with the sun shining most days and evenings warm enough to not even take a jacket out. It’s hard to believe it’s the depths of winter back home, as London basks in long beautiful summer days, stretching on into late dusky evenings with the sun keeping a presence until almost 10pm. With the daylight stretching to over 17 hours each day, I’ve been making to most of being out in the sunshine. I’ve been told that this isn’t typical London weather, but whilst the sun is out, so am I. It’s my mission to swim at every lido in London; so far I’ve been to the amazing Tooting Bec Lido with its iconic changing sheds painted in alternating Pantone colours, Brockwell Lido in Brixton which has large sunbathing terraces and a gorgeous ivy covered cafe, and my favourite, Hampstead Heath, which are fresh-water swimming ponds set in a beautiful and large park in the north of London. There are three ponds; a ladies, mans and a mixed which I found very odd at first, but now I am the biggest advocate of a day spent at the ladies pond. I’ve had a few lovely afternoons with friends, picnicking on the grassy bank and jumping into the cold fresh ponds, swimming amongst ducklings and reeds.
Perhaps my favourite thing to do in London is to find new and hidden places, especially underground cocktail bars tucked away behind non-descript doors where if you blink you’d walk straight past them. Some amazing one’s I’ve visited so far include:
- Gordon’s wine bar, the oldest wine bar in London, is a wine and cheese tapas bar set in underground cellars which have exposed stone walls, low ceilings and only lit by candlelight. The communal vibe extends to the company as well as we were invited to sit at a large table with some other people we didn’t know, who asked us to join them afterwards as they continued their night at…
- An amazing club in Covent Garden called Foundation. The group of people we met at Gordon’s had been in London for a while and were excited to take us newbies out to some of their favourite places in London. We walked through Chinatown and Covent Garden, both vibrant and buzzing on a late Friday night, to another hidden underground masterpiece. Lots of dancing and singing later, we found ourselves in one of the circular red velvet lined booths, hidden away behind a massive old wooden barn door, laughing with an amazing group of people that I hadn’t known a few hours earlier. It’s the nights where there are no plans and no expectations which end up being the best.
- Summer in London means pop up bars, and my favourite straight after work is to head to one in the sun on a roof top. My friend Kim and I went to a great pop up roof garden just off Oxford Street, which again you wouldn’t know was there unless you were looking for it. Another old family friend took me to a large roof top bar on the Southbank where we sat at a picnic table amongst a lush landscaped terrace overlooking the Thames.
- Perhaps the most unique place I’ve visited was disguised as a detective agency. Evans and Peel detective agency is hidden from the main street in Earls Court behind a non-descript locked door, in which you must ring the buzzer to request entry, and you’re made to wait on the pavement for a further 10 minutes. Greeted by a stern looking ‘detective’ we were led down a few flights of stairs into his office, completely themed all out with old newspapers, large bookcase, mahogany desk, briefcases, magnifying glasses – everything you’d expect of a good detective. In hindsight we should have done our research about the place as you’re meant to turn up with a good story to tell and convince the detective why you need to hire him. It was still a hilarious experience, with him asking us what we needed with his agency, why we were there, what crime needed solving – we came up with something ridiculous about a murder, which was luckily good enough for him to grant us access to the bar. The bookcase opened up and we were led into an underground speakeasy, well hidden from the street with no windows, only dim lighting and candles everywhere. The cocktails were some of the best I’ve had, and the food that the boys ordered was very much ‘theatre’ food with it being delivered in old cigar cases, with lots of white smoke escaping when they lifted the lid
- On par, but completely different from Evans and Peel is Cahoots in Kingly Court. After a disaster visit to the Experimental Cocktail Bar in Chinatown (I learnt my lesson to always listen to online reviews and yes rude door men can totally ruin the whole feeling of the place) we walked to Kingly Court where we stumbled across an old tiled sign saying ‘to the trains’. This could have easily been missed as the entrance and sign are quite tucked away. The whole experience of the place is what makes it – from the door man who reminds you to stay behind the yellow line after passing you your train ticket, to the coat man who swaps your bag for an old fashioned newspaper which lists all their signature cocktails. Cute waiters dressed in 1940’s wear complete with suspenders led us to a table within the train, the whole place themed to look like a 1950’s underground station platform and part of a carriage. This again was a fantastic night with new friends, completely unplanned and unexpected.
I constantly feel like there isn’t enough time to do all the things I want to do. Choosing between swimming and dog shows and KIL (Kiwis in London) events and roof terrace parties and outdoor screenings and theatre productions and street markets and comedy shows and picnics and music shows and brunching in amazing cafes is quite a task!
On top of amazing nights out, I’ve kept busy during the evenings after work and on the weekends with playing in netball tournaments, watching a hilarious comedy show in Brixton, attending more yoga in Regents Park, seeing Mamma Mia on stage, stumbling across the Lambeth Country Fair where more than 30,000 people were in attendance (and the promise of camel racing which unfortunately we couldn’t find!), exploring Brixton Pop which is a small food and craft market made out of two levels of old shipping containers (not unlike that in Christchurch), lunching with my colleagues in the beautiful grounds of St James’s Park, joining a book club with a group of other girls my age, exploring the V&A museum, watching Wimbledon finals amongst 100s of other fans, watching a Hitchcock classic in a cemetery of the town where he was born (a little spooky!) and finding the best curry I think I’ve ever eaten at Brick Lane (yes I finally found a butter chicken, yes it was made from butter and not tomatos and yes it was the best of my life).
Before I left NZ my amazing surgeon arranged for me to have a appointment with a lady called Sue Clark, who is the leading surgeon in the world for the surgery that I had a few years ago. Finally the day rolled around and I was excited to journey out to the hospital to meet with her. It was a real honour to be able to chat with her about my health issues and I was so grateful with how much time and attention she gave me. Whilst I’m over here I will be under her care which is incredible considering how well known she is. After visiting the hospital, that same evening I had a bad fall at netball and spent 6 ½ hours in the hospital with a suspected broken arm. After hours of waiting and multiple return trips to the X-ray room, it was determined to just be a nasty sprain, which has caused me much discomfort over the last few weeks. Luckily it wasn’t broken, as the last thing I want is to spend my summer in plaster! A few bruisers, scrapes and tender areas later, I’m glad this injury falls as netball takes a two week break. I can definitely say I’ve had enough hospital time in London for a while and don’t plan on returning there any time soon.
For now my adventure continues. I’m so lucky to be able to stay here for as long as my heart desires, and with that I feel like a carefree, wild-spirited being who just wants to live life to the full. Plans of spending some time in Europe next month, soaking up the end of summer goodness are creeping in my mind. I want to make the most of this weather before it makes way for a dark, sparkly Winter, with it bringing its own beauty and adventures.
Life is great and exciting and everything it should be when you’re 25. I just need Taylor to write a song about it now.
I love it here and I wouldn’t swap it for the world. Yet.