London back in the big crumpet…. okay so that’s not actually a thing people say but I think we should make it one.
Originally I was only planning on staying two nights because I’ve already spent time in London and there is so much of the world to see in so little time. However, by the time I was supposed to check out, London was calling at the top of the dial and I that was one call I just couldn’t ignore. The sites, activities, and opportunities for cultural expansion enclosed in this 607mi (1,572km) metropolis are as endless as waves in the ocean, so I ended up floating on for another four nights. The most glorious aspect about London is that there is truly a niche for everyone. London is divided into many boroughs and districts, each with a personality much their own.
I divided (my time) and conquered the city with old friends and new ones because if Girl Scouts taught me anything it was, “make new friends and keep the old because one is silver and the other’s gold.” (Yes that is really a song we sang at every meeting. No I have no idea why that’s the only thing that stuck, but trust me it sure as hell wasn’t any wilderness skills.)
One highlight was seeing this girl right here!
Hollie and I met during my junior year at UNC where she was studying abroad. Little did I know her home uni was the University of Sussex where we ran into each other in the library during one of my first weeks. Now we take turns whose home country we hang out in. (Tag you’re it) She took me to the Portobello Market located in the Notting Hill district. Open every day, this market is a long series of stalls that completely line Portobello street, from which you can purchase anything from household goods to vintage clothes, not to mention some hella rad street food. Saturday is by far the busiest of days, so steer clear if you suffer from enochlophobia.
I met up with some old high school friends who also happened to be back packing through Europe and we partook in two timeless English traditions, drinking beer and watching football… not to be confused with the American traditions of drinking beer and watching football. It was the Liverpool vs Manchester match. I’ll be the first to admit in general I’d rather knit, memorize tax codes, watch grass grow, or really do anything else for 90 minutes than watch a “soccer” match. However, that night I thoroughly enjoyed it. (Yeah the beer helped,) but being that this is the biggest match of the year, the atmosphere in the pub was like nothing else. When we arrived it was standing room only and with every close call the excitement was palpable. The only way to really break down the wall between being a tourist and a traveler is to remember, *cliché alert* “When in Rome do as the Romans do.” In order to get a true sense of another country’s culture it is essential to engage in the traditions of the people even if they aren’t necessarily up your alley… take it from me sometimes you’ll be presently surprised where you end up!
Surprisingly I did not step foot in a single museum while in London. Cue gasps, don’t panic the world is not ending, pigs aren’t flying, hell has not frozen over. Instead I dedicated most of my to taking a self-guided rock history tour of the city. (See the world is still in perfect working order.) In fact it’s actually your lucky day because you get the virtual version fo free!… I won’t even charge you a penny for your thoughts.
Everyone grab your Oyster card and let’s ride the tube to the Chalk Farm station.
Stop one: The Round House. Located on Chalk Farm Road Camden, London. Once a railroad turntable, once a warehouse, now a performance venue of epic proportions. I could go on and on about all the influential artists who passed through these doors (one of them being the Doors) but instead I will leave you with my favourite fact. In 1966 a radical underground paper, The International Times, held their launch party here, with a performance by a little known band at the time, who was none other than… wait for it.
*fun fact* In London roads have a pesky habit of changing names even if the road itself doesn’t veare in any direction. Walk straight down Chalk Farm Road (it will become Camden High Street) and we have stop number two: an old brick set of stairs. Why? Because I read this was where the cover for The Clash’s 1977 debut album, The Clash, was shot, so naturally I was on the case. Literally.
Keep on walking down Camden High Street and you will reach stop number three: the KOKO. An establishment that plays a eerie part in rock history.
This was the last place late AC/DC lead singing Bon Scott was seen alive after dying of alcohol poisoning or “death by misadventure” in February of 1980. Today the KOKO is still a happening concert venue and club.
Camden is one of the more central boroughs located just north of Westminster, it is over-flowing with quark and zany charm.
Moving right along, stop number four: Abbey Road. This infamous strip of asphalt is not much more than a simple crosswalk shorter than your standard game of corn hole. With no lights or markers I’d say you could easily overlook Abbey Road and not realize this was where one of the world’s most iconic photos was taken…. but the endless stream of tube sock clad tourists walking across it is a major tip off. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this is actually a functioning street so if you try and recreate “the shot” cars will most likely fill the backdrop.
They say a photo is worth 1,000 words and I’m guessing in photos such as these 999 of them are English profanities muttered under the breath of angry drivers. (Unsurprisingly) Abbey Road studios is located next to the road. Make sure you bring a sharpie along because, as long as you stick to the white painted area, the studio is cool if you write a message on the outer wall of the fence.
Floating on air thought I heard a Mary, but it was just the wind as I breezed on down to 34 Montagu Square for stop number five. At various times this was the house of Ringo Starr, John & Yoko, as well as Jimi Hendrix. Within these walls Hendrix composed The Wind Cries Mary and McCartney wrote Elenor Rigby. I’ve never been jealous of a fly before, but the ones on these walls are a different story.
Grab your freeze dried food and space pants because stop number six is 23 Heddon Street aka the place where the Ziggy Stardust album cover was shot. Close to the Piccadilly Circus tube station, you’ll have to do a bit of searching for the plaque as the area is a bit more built up than it was in 1972.
Being big on Bowie, it would be Rock & Roll Suicide not to head on down to Suffragette City (Brixton) to see the Bowie mural. This will be the last stop on our tour. Conveniently enough Brixon is the last stop on the Victoria line. To find the mural take Peter Pan’s directions, “second star(man) to the right and straight on till mo(u)rning.”
When you walk out of the tube station the mural will be straight across from you on the other side of the street, just to the right of electric avenue.
But wait there’s more! What better way to cap off a rogue rock tour than with discovering a new rocking artist? Quick Segway (see what I did there?) Recently a friend asked, “what is the coolest thing I have done since being abroad?” Answer: Magical Mystery Tour, but truly may favourite aspect about this trip has been meeting and vibing with fellow travelers. In Liverpool I met the lovely Laurel Perri who is also chasing the endless summer. She met a few Canadians in Scotland, and we all happened to end up in Neverland at the same time, so on my last night in London the five of us “lost boys” saw Jeremy Loops preform at the O2 Forum Kentish Town in Camden.
Backed by a sax and drums his powerful tracks will have your feet stomping and hips moving. Loops himself played lead guitar and harmonica. Brimming with charisma, it was clear his heart and soul was in every song. I would absolutely recommend giving him a listen!
TBV Travel Tips
1. If you are going to be in the same city for multiple days and it has a lot of hostel options consider switching it up after two or three nights. I ended up staying in three different hostels while in London and it gave me the opportunity to meet more travelers, and make more (hopefully) long lasting connections.
2. I stayed in The Generator, The Clink 78 (which was once an courthouse complete with prison cells. I solemnly promise this will be the only time I spend in a foreign prison whilst traveling) and St. Christopher’s in Camden. All I’d recommend but my favourite was St. Christopher’s.
3. If you are going to be in London for more than a day go ahead and buy an Oyster card. The tube will become your best friend when trying to get around this city that’s so large it could be its own country. You can buy a card at any station and it’s easy to top up as you go along. Oyster cards also work for the busses too.