I am spending my last week in London as a tourist. Tourist is a word a use very broadly in this sense because I am not in the group of people I see so often on bus tours around the Southbank, but I am touring the city in my own way. On my tour, the focus is not on the sites but rather the city that I have grown to love over the past three months. This means revisiting my favorite restaurants, parks, coffee shops, and taking the time to pause amidst the hustle and bustle to create a lasting memory.
After talking with a friend here this evening, we both realized it has been awhile since we stopped and really observed our surroundings. In a new place it is very easy to get caught up in the adjustment period, but even when we became comfortable here and began to call London home, we did not stop. In London, like any other big city, you have to keep up – rush to catch the tube, make it to class, and even make it to Tesco before it closes early on Sunday night. However, without school pressing on my mind this week, it was time to remember the little details of my favorite places in London, and finally look around.
My favorite restaurant is one not far from where I live called Churchill Arms. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in all of London that you would never run into unless you took sometime off the main street. Unlike the more common beauty of Victorian and gothic architecture around the city, the Churchill Arms is striking because it is covered from top to bottom with flowers. Imagine if you will a flower market that took root over the walls of a building and, if you know where to look, has crept its roots and vines in through the ceiling of a gorgeous dining room. Upon entering it seems like a classic English Pub, but hidden in the back half underneath hundreds of hanging plants and candlelight is a really good Thai restaurant.
My favorite market is one I was shown by a good friend I met at school here called Camden Market. Camden Locks specifically is the place I like to return to as it overlooks the water and has delicious food. The locks are at the heart of the market accessible by bridge through two huge weeping willow trees. I went there for the first time in early fall when the leaves were just starting to turn golden, but more recently I went back and got to actually see the locks in action. Although the reflection in the water creates a beautiful backdrop for the wonderful street food you can buy in the courtyard there, the locks themselves are still functioning which, to a girl who grew up on the water, is really exciting. Though very narrow, the hand operated locks can be cranked open to allow the water level to rush in and change for small houseboats to move up and down that portion of the river.
My favorite coffee shop is one that is very close to where I went to school and one of the places I will missed the most called The Waiting Room. Located just off of Deptford High Street, a short walk through the Friday market will lead you to a cozy escape with plush chairs, a book exchange, and the best latté in London. The shop itself is quite small and can only hold about a dozen people at a time, but it has been one of my favorite places to visit on a Friday afternoon to journal or meet up with friends. The wooden interior mixed with the collage like décor found in many art studios makes it the perfect place to find inspiration even on the rainiest days. This is also where I was introduced to the Flat White – London’s bitter, stronger answer to the latté.
My favorite park where I spent so much time earlier this semester is called Kensington – yes Kensington Gardens which so happened to be less than a ten minute walk from my home here. It is one of the many natural treasures inside of the city itself and a much-needed place to go for quite on the weekends. Especially in the fall it was beautiful to walk through the yellow, maple leaves lining the grass and sit bellow a large chestnut to read or sketch for a couple of hours. Unless you are someone drawn to gardens this is not often a part of the city people come to London to see, but to me the green spaces are what make this city so unique. Almost every neighborhood has a square and every borough has a huge park or garden, all filled with locals anytime the sun comes out.