November 6, 2018

Travel Diaries: My Very First Trip to London, England 2012 Throwback

I love London! Serious...I really love London and wish I could live there.

Ever since the first time I visited the UK, I fell in love with the city of London. Everything was so different. Europe in general has such a different vibe than what I am used to in Canada, or even North America in general. London in particular I found to have a cool European vibe that intrigued me.

Since My very first trip, I have visited London a number of times. I even traveled to London a few years ago to celebrate a milestone birthday. Therefore, I will be sharing a travel diaries series on the blog recapping each of my trips to London. So, to start things off, here is a look at my very first trip to London back in 2012...

Airport lounge chillin, waitint for my flight
I has always wanted to visit London, but never knew anyone there. However, this all changed when my very good friend Amina moved to London to do her masters at King College. Finally, I had someone in London to visit so was definitely not going to pass up on this opportunity! Therefore, in July 2012, I booked my Air Transat flight and off I went to London to visit Amina. This happened to also be a a week before the hosted the summer Olympics so knew the place would be buzzing with people, which made it event more exciting.

Arrival in London
Amina :)
Waiting for train from Gatwick Airport to central London
Arriving in Central London
Upon arrival, my first impression was that the weather was pretty gloomy. I had always heard that it rains a lot in London, but I though in the summer it would at least be warm and sunny. Boy was I wrong lol. Seeing the British double decker buses was dope, and gyal dem was on a budget, we also hopped on one to make the remaining journey to my friends place in Kings Cross where I'd be staying.

After settling in, the first 3 things I wanted to do was to try the traditional Bristish breakfast, take a picture in one of the red telephone booth and visit Buckingham Palace. And we did exactly all that!

For breakfast, Amina suggested we go to The Breakfast Club restaurant, as it was a the main popular breakfast spots in town.

Of course, I chose the full traditional breakfast including the black pudding. I did not know what black pudding was and after they explained that it had something to do with pigs blood, I was like ewwwww...but still give it to me lol. I mean go big or go home! I am a firm believer in you can't knock it till you try it, so even tho it sounded nasty I did not was to judge before trying it.

Full British Breakfast
So...some of it was aight. The eggs and potatoes were fine, however I could not finish the rest of it. I'm not a big fan of baked beans only ate a bit of it. I like sausage and bacon, however theirs tasted a little different so just had a bit. Finally, the black pudding! Ummm...all I can say is NEVER AGAIN lol! Well, at least I can say I tried it though. Not knocking British breakfast, but it was just not for me, Real Talk.

Black Pudding
After that, off we went to find a red telephone booth to take a picture in. They are not on every street corner as one would think, especially since a majority of people have cellphone now so there it not really a need for payphone. It seems like they probably just keep them around for tourist as I doubt the phones event work, however I didn't check.

When I finally found one, I was excited to look inside and check out if there was actually a phone inside. There was an actual phone inside, however what I did not expect was for it to smell so bad in there. It smelled so bad! The smell almost knocked me out, however I braved it out to get my picture. By force, the picture must be take ohhh lol.

Next up was visiting Buckingham Palace. Saw one of the British Guards as we walked the long road towards the palace gates. The palace was huge and had a lot of interesting statues in front of it. All in all my first day in London was great as I was able to accomplish the 3 things I had set out to do.

For the rest of the trip, I did a lot of exploring town with Amina, checked out some spots and of course turned up! As part of my exploration of the city, I rode the underground tube as well as the overground trains to get around. We visited Kind College campus, check out the London Bridge  and Piccadilly Circus, as well as visited Camden Market which had a lot of food vendors.

Over-ground train station

Camden Market

My attempt at a British style inspired outfit lol

After all the roaming, one works up an appetite, so I took this as an opportunity to try British McDonalds. The menu was a little different but still more or less the same. Tasted good and they had better options for dipping sauces than we had in Canada.

In addition, while in town we also checked out a theatre show. Lion King was showing, so I though why not experience the British Theatre as well. When we went, turned out, they only hand standing tickets available. I was like, WTF is that? It essentially meant they reserve space at the very back behind the last for of seats for people to watch the show while standing. Since we were already there, and the standing tickets were mad cheap compared to the regular tickets, we got them.

I really enjoyed the show and it was not that bad standing to watch it. The main think that threw me off was that all the actors spoke with British accents which was kind of weird to me lol. I thought it was the American cast that was showing in London, but then realized that each country must put on their own production of Lion King.

During this trip, of course we went to explore the London nightlife. I was definitely tryna see what the turn up was like in London. When I tell you Londoners know how to party, I mean they really know how to party! I had so much fun going out at night and met so many cool people. We went to a variety of spot including bars, lounges, urban clubs and upscale clubs. I must say the British men are very friendly and the love Canadians haha.

Another thing I loved about the British nightlife was that they played Afrobeat music in the regular mainstream clubs. They would play just a 2 or 3 song, but the simple fact that they event played it in the club blew my mind. I was so surprised when I first heard D'Banj's 'Oliver Twist' song when we were in an upscale club and everyone was dancing. A that time, this was unheard of and would never happen in Toronto.

In the Tube on the way to Piccadilly Circus for first night out

Turn up was real! LMAO!

I also had the fortunate experience of pretending that I was driving on the other side of the road lol. I was too scared to actually try, plus all the cars are manual, so ISSA definitely a no for me.

Me, Amina & Ehi
I also had a few other university friends that were living in London that we made time to meet up with for drinks. It was nice catching up with Ehi, and also met up with my friend Khota who came down from Leeds. She also introduced me to the British Pims drink, which is really good. While in town, I was able to check out a black comedy show as well which was really fun.

Presidential Suya
As it was getting toward the end of my trip, I knew I could not leave town without trying an African Restaurant. From being out and about in town, I notice that there were A LOT of Nigerians, therefore I know there had to be a Nigerian restaurant I could go to. Luckily, one of my friends was able to bring us to one and it was really good. I wonder if its still open.

Sorry, took a pick after we already ate most of it lol.

One more thing I cannot forget to mention is shopping in London. This was the trip where I first discovered Primark and it was love at first sight lol! The prices were unbelievably cheap, even after converting was it would be in CAD. I bought so much things from there that I still wear today.

And that brings us to the end of this trip. I had such a wonderful time and wish I could have stayed longer. I think the main thing that won me over was how big of an African presence there was in the city, both the people and culture, as well as the presence of African music in the mainstream entertainment industry. This blew my mind and really showed me how far behind we were at that time. Of course, I absolutely love the accents so that also has a role to play in my love for London lol.

Since then the presence of African music, culture and people has grown event more, and some may say event dominates a lot of the urban culture in London, which I love. The African fashion market is huge there, Afrobeats music is big on the airwaves there, there are a good number of Afrobeats clubs in the city and there seems to be a big community of young Black British professionals. This makes me want to move to London event more, just to experience all of this, even if its for a short while.

The only negative I can think of is the weather and how expensive everything is, however I thinks these are 2 thinks I could manage lol.

Hope you enjoyed this recap. Will share another recap of the other trips I have taken to London since then, therefore stay tuned!

Have you ever visited or lived in London? Comment below and let me know.