London’s the kind of city you can easily get to, and often get to if you’re a traveler. Its a major hub for flying around Europe or the world with its 5 international airports, but its funny how you forget to ever just go to London. Its a super touristy city, and I’ve done the London Eye and Big Ben and Buckingham stuff, but I never go to London to visit London – Im merely passing through with some time to fill between flights. Ive had proper 5 day layovers, but then I get stuck in the visiting friend mode, seeing Tom in Oxford or Kevin in the city or my cousins in the suburbs. And I’ve picked up a nice collection of London-dwelling friends over the years, some old class mates that now study there, Icelandic friends who work there, or random internationals who I’ve met on the road who also put their time in for grey days in London.
Ive been through London 5 or 6 times so far this year, most of them with overnight stopovers, and its always a struggle to decide what to do or where to go. The tube is huge, takes forever, and still costs alot with an oyster card, and London city never took my heart like Paris or New York have. But I really enjoyed my last 2 visits in March and April, since I managed to do and see some things I never had before.
I couchsurfed with my Kiwi friend Bjorn who I met in the Cook islands this Christmas, and he took me into the London google offices where he works. All meals, snacks, coffee, and even beer is free for him and his guests, and he gets to chose from a handful of Ikea inspired living rooms to work or relax in. I could read books and google my heart out a dozen floors above downtown London, with a view of the Gherkin outside the balcony. Then Bjorn introduced me to some Scottish countryside traditions – Ceilidh dancing. He had the kilt and all the trimmings, but I just wore a wig to be festive. I don’t think I’ve ever danced with so many people or in spun in so many circles in any other type of dance, but it was a sweaty, good ol’ time.
The Natural History Museum was exhibiting National Geographic’s wildlife photographer of the year, and me and two friends played a game where we had to guess which country each photo was taken. I can’t remember if I wont, but I definitely guessed all the Iceland ones right. Strangely enough there were lots of photos taken in the UK, and I’ve never really thought of London as a gateway to wildlife destinations, but I may have to change my mind. I hear they have one hell of a mounted fox hunt on boxing day in Essex, so I might need to find some shiny boots and chocolate port and plan my next visit to London.