Out of the Kitchen: London, United Kingdom
Well, this is it! The final post in the series recapping my honeymoon. We’ve been to Spain, France, Portugal, Germany, and now we’ve finally landed in the UK. At this point in the trip, we were EXHAUSTED. Two weeks of nonstop flying and sightseeing can do that to a body! But we were in a place of comfort, in a way. London was a place where both my husband and I comfortably spoke the language, and was a city within a country that we have a long history of fanboying over. From Thomas the Tank Engine to the Spice Girls; from Girls Aloud to The Great British Bake-Off, British exports have been a part of who we both are for as long as we can remember. Everything was familiar and yet foreign, like we were part of a Doctor Who episode where we journeyed to a planet in which everything was “normal” but just a bit off.
Our AirBnb provided us with the perfect base of operations while we were in town. It was just about as centrally located as we could have asked for – our Tube stop was King’s Cross! We loved it, as we could get to almost anywhere in London within minutes. It was also nice to be in such a bustling station on the regular. Watching people rush to make connecting trains, listening to conversations in 18 different languages at once outside cafés, exploring all of the shops and eateries… King’s Cross is one of the best people-watching opportunities you’ll ever get. It makes you feel connected to a million different stories in passing, which is so powerful to me.
On top of being in a great location, the apartment was located in a modern high-rise, and had some amazing views. And our hosts were so sweet! Claire and her boyfriend provided us with plenty of tips and suggestions for what to do during our stay. They left us an adorable surprise for our honeymoon, including flowers and prosecco. Overall, they just created a comfortable environment to stay in, making us feel like their high-rise apartment was our home away from home. I can’t recommend them enough, and we certainly appreciated being able to rest and relax in such a nice place!
After we had taken some time to rejuvenate ourselves, we had a lot of fun exploring London. We spent the first day exploring the trendy area around our apartment before heading to see Wicked in the West End. The area around King’s Cross is really building up, and there are bunch of great places to visit. Chief among them is Dishoom, an Indian restaurant that has rave reviews on every website out there. The line was always out the door, even on rainy afternoons, and while we didn’t get to try it, we are dying to go back on our next visit to see what the hype is all about. We did get a chance to explore a farmer’s market near the station, which gave us a look at what locals are growing and producing. It was so nice and refreshing to see a focus on authentic food in a large, bustling city.
To fuel us up, we stopped at one of our favorite restaurant chains that we can’t get at home: Nando’s. If you’re American, you may not have much experience with this chain unless you stumbled upon them in Chicago or the DMV area. But believe me when I say that it’s something worth experiencing. Nando’s is a cultural icon in the UK, helped along by the meme about “popping ’round for a cheeky Nando’s.” I thought that meme was dead until the table next to us took a selfie and proclaimed “I’m gonna caption it ‘Cheeky Nando’s with my mate!'” The specialty here is roasted chicken, slathered with spicy and acidic sauce that’s addicting (and available at your local grocery store here in America, in case you want to see what it’s all about). Started in South Africa, based on Portuguese-style chicken, and using a famous Spanish symbol (the rooster of Barcelos) as its logo, Nando’s popularity in the UK makes sense to complete the picture of its multi-national appeal. 10/10, would pop ’round for a cheeky Nando’s again.
The next day, after a stunning night in the West End, we did some more sightseeing and stopped by our local supermarket to stock up on snacks to watch the Eurovision final with. Remember that part in the first Harry Potter when he sees the snack trolley on the train, gets overwhelmed at all of the new things, and buys one of everything? Well take my blood sugar and call me a wizard, Harry, because I’ve never related to a fictional character more than in that moment. With a mostly empty wallet and a full supermarket snack aisle in front of me, I did the most logical thing: I bought any and everything that struck my fancy. Tyrrell’s crisps? In the cart. Jam’n Cremes? That’s my jam. Every iteration of Cadbury chocolate we could find? Why not?? It was a smorgasbord, and one of my favorite memories of our trip. In fact, the recipe that I create for London will likely end up just be me trying to recreate one of these treats, like Claire from Bon Appétit.
In London we ate a lot, walked a lot, and saw a lot. But no one memory stands out above the rest as my absolute favorite of the trip. Instead, it was the experience itself that made me fall in love with the city. Living like high-rise hot-shots and looking off our balcony to see the lights of the city at night. Browsing all of the tourist locations, with our umbrellas in tow. Spending our last pounds on Primark and snacks, and people watching like we were regulars at these cafés and parks. I think by the end of our whirlwind two weeks in Europe, we were so exhausted that we stopped trying to make an experience of everything and just started letting the experiences happen to us. We almost started to feel like locals, and I remember thinking that this is what I wanted travel to be like always.
When it came time to get on our last train and make our final mad dash for an airport, I remember feeling that my wanderlust had not nearly been sated. I was tired, I was stressed from our frantic pace of living, and I was longing to stop running my credit card bill up. But I wasn’t done traveling. We spent our layover in Iceland watching more Eurovision, learning more about the places we had been, and making plans for places we wanted to go. Since returning, Michael has planned a dozen road trips (including one exploring Eastern Europe), and I have decided to pick up a few words in Serbian in case I ever find myself in the Balkans (an area of the world that I want to learn increasingly more about). We thought about going to Eurovision in Israel this year, and are dreaming of going to the Olympics in Tokyo next year. We’ll probably revisit Cuba this summer. Bottom line is: we’re not done.
So if you’re considering a trip, or are curious about the world at all, my advice is to just go. Find a way to get some time off of work, bring whomever is crazy enough to join you, drop off your cat at your neighbors’ house, and just go. You’ll never regret going out on a limb and trying something new, because even if it’s not what you expected, it’s a story and a thread to add to the tapestry of your life. My generation complains about never receiving our Hogwarts letters, but I’ve come to realize something throughout this journey: the only difference between a train ride to Scotland and a trip to your dream destination is just the author of the story. There’s magic in the churros you eat for breakfast in Barcelona; there’s magic in the way a pâtisserie window looks in Paris; there’s magic in a fado singer’s voice in Lisbon; there’s magic in the art that sprung up in the rebuilding of Berlin; there’s magic in a bit of cheeky Nando’s with your friends. Stop waiting for a letter to tell you when your magical journey can begin, and starting writing the story yourself.