London - The World Cup, UK Black Pride, and Culture!
London always brings me back to life! This is my 3rd time here and every time it NEVER disappoints. I hate to admit, but I never wanted to got to London due to this very wrong perception of the UK being just like America. I figured, why would I go to a place that is just like the US when there are so many other cultures and countries I haven't visited? Let me tell you. The only thing that is in common with the US and UK is the English language. Even that, the British accent is so much cooler.
Everyone always asks me how I travel so much on a medical school budget. It's definitely not easy! But it is doable. You literally have to finesse. I am beyond lucky and grateful because I have flight benefits until I am 26 (my dad works for the airlines). I knew I was going to be on a tight budget, so I choose my destinations wisely. My twin brother, Bryce, is in law school and this year had a summer internship at the University of London studying entertainment law. Bam! I could fly to London for the free, and stay in his flat for the free. The ultimate finesse.
After my last day of interning for the psychiatry ED, I headed to London from EWR on a red-eye. 6.5 hour flight, it was so short and sweet! Customs was a pain, took over 2 hours, but once I got through, hopped on the "tube" which is what the subway is called in London, and 12 pounds later I arrived at University of London. My best friend Brandon who lives there didn't give me any time get my life together. Within an hour I was dressed and ready headed to a very special event that only happens once a year- UK Black Pride!!
I usually go to pride in the US. I missed pride in NYC this year and I was so bummed. To catch a pride parade in another country focused on blackness! Huuuuuntey I was through the roof with excitement. I met up with Brandon and Kamilla and we first ate brunch at Red Rooster. Well known soul food restaurant in NYC, but totally not the same! Lol UK breakfasts' are just a little different.
*Travel Tip when going to European countries. If you order breakfast items, tell them to scramble the egg hard and fry the bacon hard. Trust me. Or else you will have watery runny eggs all over your plate, that’s just how they eat it. Don't say I didn't warn you*
UK BLACK PRIDE ! I literally have no words. The energy and excitement. The colors. The melanin. The gender fluidity. The food and drinks. The performances on stage ranging from drag shows to slam poetry. I was in love. Love with celebrating and being an ally. I felt empowered being there. Celebrating with my best friends who identify as LGBT. The pictures and videos will do it more justice than my description. All I can say is I left sweaty, dirty, a flower crown, and tons of new UK friends. I went home to shower and quick change around 9pm, and went right back out to an after hours club in London. We danced, vogued, and drank our life away all night. I did my usual sneak away to an outside area and sparked up a really dope conversation with some locals. We ended up discussing the differences between racial relations between the US and UK. Some would call this a party foul, but I literally LIVE for nights like these. Drunk, friendly conversations exchanging and learning about each others cultures on some real shit. Heaven for this former sociologists! Headed home around 5am on the bus with Brandon and Kamilla. Searched around for food to ease the drunkness, and slept until I could recover the next afternoon. Keep in mind I had been up since I got off my flight at 7am. Partying from 11am-5am, I barely got up for dinner time the next day.
The rest of the trip was much more chill! I walked along Oxford Street which is filled with my favorite UK shopping. I was too broke to actually buy anything but the window shopping gave me lots of future outfit ideas. Snagged some dope pants at a vintage shop and some sunglasses but that was about it. Had dinner at one of my favorite chicken restaurants in the UK- Nando's. Peruvian style rotisserie chicken. So bomb. Headed to try Ben's Cookies which my brother suggested would take my life away. It did. Took it easy that night, went home early and caught up on some much needed Zzzzz's.
A huge highlight of the trip was watching the World Cup for the London vs Croatia! Every pub was overcrowded with lines hanging out in the streets. It was bigger than the super bowl. People were so ready to see their country win! I met up with Bryce and a few of his law school friends and we watched the game at a local pub. I'm not much of a sports fan, but I'm all about a good event and team spirit. Unfortunately, London lost, and the city was mad DEAD. What a bummer. I was hoping for one of those party until six in the morning type of nights…but no one could handle the loss. We even had someone apologize when they realized we were from the US, saying this would have been the best night if they were victorious. Oh well, I still enjoyed the spirit of the city!
Public transit: Uber is definitely a thing, but the tube and buses are the way to go. I was lazy and last minute, so Ubers helped, but get an oyster card and ride the tube! It is so convenient and "cheap". The times that the tube isn’t running, the bus is, so you will never end up stranded!
Currency: Boo you better have your chips right, because the UK pound will have you in your feelings! I exchanged my $400 USD and got 200 pounds back. My heart. I probably shouldn’t have waited till the airport to exchange my money, but still. I thought 400 USD would survive me 5 days in London (especially since I wasn't paying for flights or my place to stay). Welppp. I went over budget. I did a little shopping for myself, my dads, my boyfriend, etc. Just come prepared and have a trip savings that you can pull from.
Suggestions for future trips to London:
Shopping- Boxpark Shoreditch- vintage clothes, pop up stores, & more
Duck and Waffle- rooftop bar, very expensive, make a reservation
Elan Café- rose covered café filled with pastries and yummy drinks
Bens Cookies- Bruh. Just go.
The Breakfast Club- cute brunch spot, long line, 'affordable".
East London- such an awesome vibe, so much to see!
Primark & New Look- cute and affordable clothing
Top shop- go and get your nails done on the bottom floor, the nail techs are bomb!
Gigs Restaurant- Best Fish and chips I ever had !
Tombo- Poke & Matcha Bar
Queen of Huxton- Bar and Club in Shoreditch, good music, free entry
Nando's- Home of Peri Peri chicken!
So basically, when's my next trip to London? Because I'm already missing it and all my friends there! Take me back ASAP!