My home away from home

On the eve my big adventure, I’m keen to sum up my last two weeks in London as to not forget any of the great things I’ve done, but to also clear my mind and be ready to enjoy my travels.

In between planning my big adventure, I’ve been lucky enough to continue to experience all the London has to offer. One Friday night we went up to the Kensington Roof Gardens (one and a half acres of manicured perfection) and met some Italians in the Spanish themed area (think draped curtains, religious statues, plush sofas , bright cushions and lots of plants) who were fun to talk to and get some ideas of my adventure into Italy next week.

Almost the opposite of the elegance of Kensington was the Jack the Ripper tour that we went on through White Chapel. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) London has changed a lot since the murders in the 1880’s, so it was difficult to get a real feel for the airiness of the area, however our tour guide was a fantastic storyteller and didn’t fail to draw the crowd in to be hanging off his every word.

Finally, on my last Friday in London it seemed fitting to do something completely crazy, and crazy it was: we attended ‘Boylexe’: a male strip tease in an underground gay bar right in the heart of Soho. Not quite delivering what we expected, but should have considering the venue and location, it was an interesting mix of drag queens lipsincing to Katy Perry, buff policemen, a flamboyant circus mime and an underappreciated (but very talented) cleaner boy. I probably wouldn’t recommend it, but it was a fun night followed by a visit to Cafe de Paris – another hidden underground bar which, upon descending the grand staircase, made one feel like they were in the Great Gatsby.

Notting Hill carnival has been on my list of ‘must dos’ since I arrived here in London. I went with my beautiful Italian friend, Anna, arriving early-ish to avoid the crowds and enjoy the bustling streets of the stunning area. By 3pm the streets were insanely packed with people waiting to watch the carnival make its route around the suburb – it was a fantastic array of bright colours, feathers and body paint combined with loud music, good food and masses of people (over 1 million attended over the three day weekend). After a few hours we were desperate to escape the crowds (which were like nothing I’ve ever experienced before) and walked to nearby Kensington to a secret Thai restaurant situated within the Churchill Arms Pub. This is no ordinary pub – the facade is covered is blooming flowers, and inside the ceiling is covered with hanging pots giving the illusion of being in an overgrown glasshouse.

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Two of my good friends from home spent a week in London before heading off on their own European adventure. It was great to be seen as the ‘local’ and take them to some of my favourite London spots, including a local Vietnamese restaurant, Camden markets (where we had the best pasta followed by an amazing chocolate cover fruit skewer!) and a walk along the canals to Regents Park, squirrel spotting, watching the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, an amazing dimly lit underground Japanese bar on Charlotte Street (where they cut the 1/2m cube ice cube with a huge machete right in front of us!) walking the full length on the Southbank and a (BIG) night out at in Shoreditch. Shoreditch never fails to impress, and this time we went to Cargo which is located in the arches under the train line. We had a great night dancing beneath the high arched brick ceilings and strobe lights on the huge dance floor and twilit terrace.

I’m very excited about my European adventure, and as I say goodbye to my gorgeous bedroom, flat, job, netball team (mid-season!), Clapham and London itself, I really feel like London has become my home (or home away from home!). I definitely won’t be upset when my adventure ends and I have to return to (a somewhat darker and colder) London.

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