First off... As I have identity issues about whether to go by Andrew or Andy, the UK seems to have their own identity issue: Is it United Kingdom, Great Britain, or England? OK, technically, it's all of the above & there's slight differences in their meanings, but you can look that up. Also, random: Am I the only one who feels as though they try to disassociate themselves from Europe? Oh, yeah...Brexit.
Fun Fact: Ireland is not a part of the UK, but Northern Ireland is ;)
Anyway, onto the fun stuff :) When in the UK, I spent most my time in Cambridge. It's a small-ish city about an hour train ride north of London. It's mostly known for its famous colleges, like, you know, the ones that people like Newton went to or whatever. It's almost like a miniature London...almost. In the UK they have dedicated parks called "green spaces" & they're usually pretty central to the cities, it's pretty neat. Tons of people hang out, enjoy the weather, and play with a weird looking football. I know most, if not all, cities have parks, but the sheer size of some of the ones in the UK make them seem unique to the country.
Why was I in Cambridge? So glad you asked. My oldest brother actually currently lives there! He was kind enough to let me have a home away from home while I was in Europe. Cambridge is actually a really great location because it's a 30 minute train ride to one of the larger airport hubs in London: Stansted. I was in and out of this airport so much that I practically made friends with the border security.
Where did I work? Other than from home, I would explore some coffee shops in the area like Starbucks & Costa (pretty much the UK Starbucks). At the tail end of my trip, I joined a coworking space: Cambridge Business Lounge. I met one of the founders & the staff there was great. Best part? They had a Nespresso machine & biscuits (cookies). Have you tried Nespresso? It's heaven in a cup & puts Keurig to shame.
What did I eat? Ok, so England does not have a very good culinary reputation. With some exceptions, this is something I have to say...is true. The biggest problem in the UK is that spice doesn't seem to be very common, except in Thai & Indian restaurants. I'm talking about even in the grocery store—you might buy a chili sauce of some sort & then find that it's been mellowed out for the palate of the Brits. So, in my opinion, the English could use some spice in their life.
BUT, let's talk exceptions. There were plenty:
One of the coolest pubs in Cambridge is the Salisbury Arms. They make some bomb wood-fired pizzas & other tasty dishes. The atmosphere is nice & hipstery: coffee shop meets pub. Then, there's one of the oldest pubs in Cambridge called The Eagle, Cambridge...and guess what? DNA was basically discovered there...forreal. There's also names on the ceiling written from US soldiers from WWII (or WWI? Can't remember). I can't go into detail about every place or this would be the 10 page paper I had to do in college. Here's the highlights:
- Unique, modern, casually upscale with tasty food & fancy cocktails: NOVI
- Hipster heaven, tasty beers & food: Old Bicycle Shop
- Really tasty Thai: The House
- Really tasty Indian: Vedanta
- Cozy pub with comfort food: Free Press
Whatever you do, do not go to the Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Kreme...you will regret it.
I visited London a few times, I could jump on the train from Cambridge and be in London within an hour or so. My good friend, Hassan, lives there so I got to get a local tour from him. We checked out Harrods—a multi-leveled mall marketed to the mega-rich...I mean, gold iPhone & real alligator skin iPhone rich. West end is definitely where the wealthy hang out. Hassan recommended that I check out Tate Modern, a free modern art museum. Oh, man...this place is amazing. If you like modern art, you need to go there & spend the day, there is a lot of floors & a lot of art. You can go to the top where they have an observation deck & cafe. Grab a coffee or beer & take in the viewz of the city.
On another visit, my brother & the girls went down for the day specifically to do touristy things. We explored the London Castle, rode in the English cab, and hung out at Buckingham Palace.
My final visit to London, I met up with an old friend, Daniel. We knew each other way back in middle school & high school. He's been in London for a while now doing some awesome stuff, check out his newest project: Experience Haus. He showed me around East London...this is where it's at. It was so crazy re-connecting after so long. If you go to London & like the creative scene, East end is definitely going to be your spot. Tons of art and fashion. On Sunday, the Bricklane market opens up with tons of vendors, you can spend a few hours out there shopping & eating.
London is HUGE, so I'm keeping this short. Here's a few of my recommendations:
- Go to Tate Modern, make sure to go to the top observation deck
- Check out Harrods & imagine what it would be like if money had no meaning (Selfridges is another mall with tons of high-end brands, including in the streetwear world)
- Hyde Park is really pretty
- Check out Camden Town market area
- Bricklane area is a must - especially on the weekend
- Check out the The Bike Shed - a motorcycle shop, cafe, restaurant & bar
- Go do some touristy stuff
- Download Citymapper on your phone - it'll help you get to where you wanna go easier
Lastly, can someone tell me why T.J. Maxx is T.K. Maxx in England? Make sure to follow me on my adventures on Instagram & Snapchat: ASWolfe91