Life as an Expat has been quite busy this month. As in super busy. April is not even over yet but I have done loads, it was full of big things to be grateful for. One thing about moving abroad is that you get visitors. You also get more excited to travel, even if to the town next door. I remember my parents (mainly my dad's ideas) surprising us with day trips when we were small and teens. Obviously as a small child I had no say and as a teen I had a say, but I still had to go... I was not always excited to be stuck in the car with my parents and brother, but hey, these are the memories that I have now and I am truly grateful that we've had those bonding moments.
Just to make it clear, I'm a person who has some kind of cemetery fetish and goes there as night falls. But I do have to say, I've always been curious about cemeteries. In Brazil, growing up I'd see the cemeteries, I don't have any pictures of my own, but here is one I got from Wikipedia on one of the cemeteries in Sao Paulo.
In Brazil the tombs are big, it goes back to the Catholic church and how it the people would bury its family members. Especially if you're a famous politician, artist, writer or from a rich family. One of the most traditional families in Sao Paulo has a tomb that goes 2 levels underground, so everyone from that family is buried in the same place. Now, that, I find weird...
When we used to drive to school I'd see this (other) massive cemetery and outside you had a flower market, and we used to go there on the weekends to buy flowers to bring home, so I always had good memories of it. And to be honest, I find it a peaceful place, it's always surrounded by trees, plants, and silence.
In London my favorite one was Brompton cemetery. Even the entrance is nice, with 2 red phone boxes on each side of the gate, so English.
The crosses are different from a Brazilian cemetery, and of course, with all its history, depending which cemetery you go to, you have tombs from many hundred of years ago.
Very different from an American cemetery, the grass is overgrown, there are crosses with chains on them, very Gothic looking. Many of the tombs are so old that you only see pieces of it.
In DC, obviously Arlington cemetery is a huge fav of mine. It has grass all over, trees with flowers, the tombs all white and lined up in straight lines. Perfection. And of course, it has so much meaning to Americans as a whole.
So, there, three countries with three different cemetery styles, who'd have thought? That's another way to get to know the different cultures.
This is the 2nd and final installment of the series: Things to see & do in London. I could probably write a million parts to this series because it seems like choosing 21 things is just not enough for a city like London. I could go on and on and on, but this is not the purpose of this site. If you do go to London, one thing I'd recommend is to bring your best flats or trainers (tennis shoes) and do a lot of walking. This is how you really see the city. My favorite site is Walk London, they give you time frames, tube lines, maps, and sights for each of them. They're brilliant.
11) Buckingham Palace & Change of Guards
The Queen's residence, one of the most iconic buildings in the world. This is where the royal family appears on the balcony to wave at the cheering crowd during a big event. During set times you can watch the change of guards, which is also cool.
Tip: if you go to the top floor restaurant in the London Hilton Park Lane, you can see the gardens of Buckingham Palace.
12) Westminster Abbey
This Abbey is still standing after over 1000 yrs of history. If those walls could talk, I bet they'd have a lot to say. My first trip to London coincided with the death of the Queen Mother and I was right there when they were heading to Westminster Abbey for her funeral, so I got to see the royals. It was an experience. You pay to go in Westminster Abbey, but right behind it, you can walk through the
13) Camden Town
What can I say about Camden Town? I guess you just have to go and check it out. There is no place for prejudice in Camden Town. Enjoy.
Tip: It's always packed, but it's way busier on the weekends.
14) St Katharine's Dock
St Katharine Dock used to be a thriving commercial port bringing cargoes from the West Indies, now, it's still a port, to luxury boats, the home to warehouse apartments and super cute shops, cafes and restaurants. I love to walk around here.
Tip: Stop by the Dicken's Inn to have a pizza, they think it's been around since the 1700's.
15) London Monument
Very few people actually know about it. It's where the great fire of London started in 1666, which burned the large part of the city.
Tip: For about 3quid you can climb to the top and have a gorgeous view of London.
16) St Paul's Cathedral
Do you know where Princess Diana got married to Prince Charles? It wasn't at Westminster Abbey, it was here, at St Paul's. With its white top, you can spot it from many places you visit, it seems to be on every picture.
You can't go to London and not go to a pub. It's part of the culture and part of your tourist/expat experience. They're everywhere, some better than others, some are "gastro pubs" others just regular places to meet your friends and have a pint... or 2.
Tip: On a hot summer day, instead of a pint, order pimm's. A Typical summer drink in England. I'll post the recipe here someday.
18) The South Bank
Follow the Thames along, pass the London Eye and you will be in a place where the famous London Christmas market takes place, they are always hosting events, be it in the winter or in the summer, you will find something to do there.
Tip: In the actual centre, indoors there are lots of plays, classical music shows, and amazing presentations from all over the world.
19) Musicals & The West End
The West End is the Broadway of London. Most musicals are located there, in the evenings you can walk around, and enjoy the vibe. Make sure you get a ticket in advance, maybe with a concierge of a hotel, or a trusted source.
Tip: Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is amazing and hilarious.
Chinatown is Chinatown, everywhere I've been to, it's a little box of surprises. I enjoy visiting them whenever I go to a big city. Plus, you can get some really great Chinese food, just stay away from tourist traps.
Tip: Chinese NY is not the best day to visit chinatown. It gets very packed.
Previously owned by Mohamed Al Fayed, Harrods is an incredible store with some of the most expensive items in London. They became famous by having the "nothing is impossible to deliver" attitude, if you have the money to pay for it, you can get it.
Tip: Book an afternoon tea at Harrods.
Like I said previously, I could just feel this blog with things to do in London, but I won't. 21 things is enough. I hope you enjoy it.
When you first move somewhere it's all new, you go sightseeing, you get out of the house to see and visit as much as possible. After a while it all becomes very normal and you don't make as much of an effort. Life goes on as normal and you get into a routine. Sometimes where you're living doesn't have so much to do and see, sometimes you're far from everything, who knows. In London, for me it was always a "tourist day", I worked across from Big Ben and next door to the London Eye, I couldn't help looking at "The Ben" everyday, I never got used to that view. Now, London is so big, there is so much to do & see that this list will be split.
Here are the top 21 things to see & do in London:
1) Big Ben & Houses of Parliament
Although they're separate things, they're 2 in 1, the buildings are connected. Did you know that the Big Ben is actually called Elizabeth Tower? Only UK residents are allowed to visit by contacting their MP (member of parliament). If you'd like to visit the Houses of Parliament, you can do that on Saturdays or when it's not in session.
Tip: You can start your day right here and you can walk to a lot of different sights from here.
2) Tower of London & Tower Bridge
The Tower of London was where all traitors used to be hung or have their heads cut off. This is also where the Crown jewels live. It's an amazing experience, the place is massive and there is so much history, remember Queen Anne Boleyn? She was beheaded here.
Tip: Make it a day, the tower is big and there is so much to see. After, have a walk all the way the top of Tower bridge.
3) Parks (any)
For being such a big city, London is very green, it has parks everywhere. While visiting London, take a day to rest and eat a picnic at the park. A few of London's parks: Hyde park, Richmond, Green park, Battersea, St James park, Regent's park, Clapton common, Victoria park, and many, many others, everywhere. Who knows, you might see a deer or 2...
Tip: Bring a blanket or rent one of the park chairs, sit and relax. It's worth it.
The city of London is full of culture, you look around and it's there, you don't need to look very far. Museums are FREE!!!! And everyone should be visiting them. I went to the Science, National History, Victoria & Albert, British museums so many times, I've lost count, to name a few, there are many, many more.
Tip: If you head to the Victoria & Albert museum, stop by the Royal Albert Hall, it's an amazing Opera house.
5) Convent Garden
I love Convent Garden, but on nice days only. Everyone is out, markets everywhere, street artists... It's really lovely.
Tip: In this restaurant below, there are musicians, playing classical music, so relaxing.
6) The London Eye
It opened in 2000, first time I went was in 2001 and still owned by BA, but little did I know that I'd be going to it with every visitor I had in town... and as I worked at the Marriott next to it, I went many times over with clients. And it never got old...
Tip: You can get hitched or have afternoon tea up in a capsule.
Not in London, but worth a trip, if you have time. I used to like taking the clipper (an unusual method of public transport, a speed boat) and go to Greenwich. You can stand right on the line that divides E and W, you have a gorgeous view from the top of the park and visit the national maritime museum.
Tip: Enjoy the day in Greenwich. It's a village with loads of markets, cute restaurants...
8) The City
I love this area. It's buzzing all week-long and deserted on the weekends. It's the business district and I loved walking around there, it's my thing, I love the hustle bustle of it all.
Tip: On weekends even restaurants close, don't plan on going there unless you want to see a ghost town.
9) Piccadilly Circus, Regent Street & Oxford Street
Piccadilly circus is a circle where Regent street meets Piccadilly. The famous Eros statue is always packed with people trying to get a photo, honestly, I don't think I ever got a photo with no one else in it. It's crazy packed. Oxford st & Regent's st are shopping central. All major stores are
Tip: I advise heading to Oxford street as early as possible to beat the crowds.
10) Trafalgar Square & National Gallery
So, this guy Napoleon lost the battle of Trafalgar and the Brits celebrated it by creating Trafalgar sq. Nelson's column is guarded by 4 lions (which were cast from the melted ships from the battle above, talk about rubbing it in). The National Gallery is right there, over 2300 beautiful paintings from all over).
Tip: Climbing up for a picture with the lions is harder than I thought, but worth it.
Stay tuned for the part 2!!!
I was looking on YouTube this morning (if you can call 4am morning when it's dark outside) searching for a video while I was having breakfast and the video below was on the fist page. The name caught my attention, so I started watching it. It's about this girl's first impressions of NY, after a few weeks. I thought it was hilarious because it's so true. Not only for NYC, but London and in my opinion, anywhere you move to. When you decide to move, your mind is your enemy. It creates these fantasies on how life is going to be and it turns out the learning curve is steep. Not that it isn't worth it, if you've read any of my posts, you know that I believe that moving anywhere is totally worth it, but you will be disappointed at some point.
Like Tess, the girl in the video, you watch movies, you see all those photos on social media and you have a completely misconception of reality, the way she made the video was very smart and funny. It doesn't mean she doesn't like it there, it's just that she moved and her expectations were completely off.
Any other major differences you guys can think off?
Here is the link back to Tess Christine on YouTube.