Things so far in London

Disclaimer: I’m still a huge London stan right now. I really am loving my time here and enjoying myself. Do I miss my friends, my apartment/personal space, and general working knowledge of how NYC operates? Yeah sure. But I’m really liking the people I’ve met (interesting range of characters) as well as the city itself. However, I must give you my unbiased opinion of London so far.

Trains

This might be a long one because it encompasses price, etiquette and general poop.

They run when and where they want. One moment you’re waiting for a train scheduled to depart in 5 minutes, the next thing you know the schedule says its 10 minutes a way, followed by delayed, followed by cancelled.

I get really annoyed when this happens. Not only is my plan or schedule to get somewhere (or just home) on time thrown off, but I’m left struggling trying to piece together a new way home or wherever based on my limited (but slowly expanding knowledge of the city).

Another thing that grinds my gears, they are so expensive! You can buy a monthly pass but they are all priced depending on what zone you’re in. The city is separated by zones! Let’s just say a monthly from Zone 1 to Zone 6 (living out there) is upwards of $300 US dollars. And then, even when you think you’ve covered yourself, even if your train runs through a zone that you don’t even get off in, you still have to pay for it so watch out.

Last train gripe. Etiquette of the people on it is surprisingly terrible. People don’t say excuse me or tap you to move out of the way, they push pass you, swipe by you and even somewhat knock you over without as much as “I’m sorry.” I was really caught off guard by this because I expected a certain level of manners but I was mistaken. Shoveling myself into a rush our overground train, I soon learned. A man got so mad at me for trying to squeeze myself in. I apologized (unlike usual etiquette) and said I was trying to make it somewhere on time and he was sort of taken aback. Maybe it was my apology or my accent but I think he got it.

My Chip Though

So I prepped and got myself a travel credit card (great for avoiding those international fees) but for some reason, even though I have my chip in my card and everything, I am forced to feel like an outsider when making a purchase.

My card is accepted most places (Thank DA LORD) but I have to sign every receipt. Like every other EU person gets to tap and go or swipe and go but I get made to feel less than by signing a paper. Ok. Maybe I’m a drama queen but still. I feel awkward because no one ever has a pen behind the register and I have to dig around for one in my bag and stuff.

SUN, Where you Be?!!

I thought coming in summer would mean more exposure to sun in London. I mean, I know the city is prime for rain. I was expecting it and was fully prepared but man, I’ve been to London during the summer many of times and the weather I’m getting is meh.

Not awful but like I could use a day where the sun is out all day and we get close to 80 F (or 30 C for your brits). I want to wear my shorts and dresses! I’m still going to wear them though, I just need to be extra prepared.

So yeah, those are a few things about London so far. I still love you and the random things you throw at me but make those small tweaks and I’ll lust for you. jk

Adventure in Amsterdam: Only 1 Day?!

I’m planning to take quite a few European excursions while staying in the UK. The first excursion on that list was a trip to Amsterdam.

Amsterdam – home of the legal weed and endless canals!haha

Both statements are true. Canals are EVERYWHERE and so are Coffee Shops where you can purchase and smoke weed. I went inside one out of curiosity and let me just say, I’ve never seen so many flavors/knew there were so many flavors of weed. It reminded me of the back of a Jelly Belly box.

That wasn’t my first stop though. My first trip was to my hostel after a hellish flight just to get into the country (see previous blog). I was staying at the Generator – right behind Oosterpark.

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Classic closed eyes while smiling pic.

After a pleasant stroll through the park (there were ducks, little bridges, greenery, etc), I came upon my hostel building. It was large and the outside gave me the feel that it might have an old vibe to it.

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As I got closer however, I realized I was wrong. It was really modern on the inside. So modern, I couldn’t even figure out how to press the button for the elevator and instead walked the extra four flights to my room.

I originally wanted to cut down on my stay and get a bed in a shared room but due to the nature of my booking, went with what was free – a private twin room. It was great. My own space, my own bathroom, my own air! It was nice change of space after going from living on my own to staying with relatives while abroad (privacy is a beloved thing).

With literally one full day to tear through Amsterdam before my 7 AM flight, I started off by taking a two hour power nap in my room (partay animal). haha

10:30 AM – Get in my belly!

I’m starving. The last thing I ate was a bag of crisps and a bottle of fanta at around 1 AM during my awful airport experience. I needed a real meal. I pulled out my Google Maps (dude, I’d be LITERALLY lost without it) and looked for some places to sit and eat. I had croissant on the brain so was ideally looking for something in that alley but after a long and arduous eight minute search I said, forget this, let me just walk to the streets with all the shops and try my luck.

I wasn’t staying in city center, so I was clear of the tourist traps. I figured I could find something. I did, it was Maxwell Cafe.

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The space was beyond cute and they had a nice little selection on the menu at a reasonable price. The only draw back? The menu was completely in Dutch. However I did have enough brain power to figure out what some of the dishes were like Tosti’s (basically panini) or used Google to translate for me. In the end, I went with something I thought was traditional which was Garnalenkroketten – shrimp croquettes. The aioli drew me in but the whole dish was quite tasty!

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Highly recommend coming here if you’re near Oosterpark. The staff was very nice and the food was great. The only thing was after awhile, I wanted the check but it never came. I soon realized you had to go confront someone at the counter if you wanted to leave. Wish I had figured that out 15 minutes earlier.

1 PM – Weed Muffin Anyone?

Ran out to explore the neighborhood and look for a coffee shop that sold weed in edible form. Was curious on the offering as well as price. I also stopped in this cute chocolate shop called Van Veleze and got two chocolate lollipops. Tasty! Again, the staff was really nice and they had a slew of other desserts I wish my stomach could have handled. haha

3 PM- Time to get into city center and ride a bike!

It’s clear upon arrival into the city that biking is key. It’s no joke. There are actual biking paths just for bikes and tiny slivers of sidewalk for people. Biking is key and pedestrians must jump out of the way for them. With that in mind, I too had to explore Amsterdam by bike and ring my bells to make tourist hearts quiver with fear.

I rented a bike from this guy who told me that they take non EU visitor’s passports as collateral just because we look like easy targets for bike thieves. He also said we tend to get in more accidents. Nice boost in confidence guy. Any way, he shows me how to use the bike and I set off to check out the city.

During this ride I encounter the Heineken Factory, Endless Canals, A Mock Fifth Avenue, and more!

Later, I continue to stroll and find the Banksy exhibition, Ruk Museum, Van Gough Museum, etc. Everything was so perfectly manicured and maintained – the picture of perfection.

Eventually I ended my day with the items that were on my mind at the top of it – croissants – and chilled out at the hostel to check out some of the late night events happening there.

All in all, it was a fantastic trip filled with unexpected adventures and people watching. I definitely recommend you visit Amsterdam!