I’ve been in London for a little over a week now. The air is fresher than I expected and the people are friendly. The first week in any new place tends to be full of adjusting and refinding that thing we all call “balance.”
Balance is something I’ve never seemed to achieve, in anything. If I’m going to eat healthy, I’m going to eat raw veggies and no sugar until I break. If I’m going to exercise, I’m going to exercise for two hours twice a day. And if I’m going to live in a new place for three months, I’m going to see something new every single day and spend as little time in my apartment as possible. I’m sure you said “that’s a problem” the entire time you read that. Me too.
So, upon leaving for London, I promised that I’d try to find balance during my time here. So far I’m doing a pretty okay job.
On the first day, we explored our neighborhood and moved in. I have two wonderful roommates and a flat in the Shepherds Bush area. It’s about 10 minutes away from Westfield, a huge shopping mall. There’s not very much space in our flat, so I’m glad I packed somewhat light for this trip. More to come on what I packed and what I wish I hadn’t later. Exploring was a lot of fun. It was cool to meet some new people and get a feel for the neighborhood. It’s a less than exciting place to live because everything fun seems to be in East London and we’re all the way in the West, but it’s safe and quiet.
Orientation came quickly and kept me from doing too much exploring. I found “my coffee shop” in the neighborhood. It’s called Swallow. The baristas are kind and the americano is pretty good.
In a recent post for CAPA World, I talked more about Swallow and why I choose to find a favorite coffee shop in my neighborhood in all the places I go. You can see that here.
We explored quite a bit during orientation as a group, and while they gave tours, I found that I’d done just about no research on London before I actually arrived here. I bought a plane ticket, I applied for the program and I left my home country knowing nothing. I’m not sure if that means that I’m becoming more comfortable with my ability to travel, or if I’m becoming more complacent in my schooling. Either way, the tours gave me a good idea of what I absolutely need to see while I’m in London, most of those locations being art galleries or museums.
Buckingham Palace was a fun stop during our tour; however, The London Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral were both destinations that I would say are much more beautiful.
If you’ve never read Edward Rutherfurd, you should give him a try before you travel again. He’s written historical fiction about a few of the major cities, and reading the story and seeing the scene of these stories is such a fun way to learn about the city you’re in.
I’ve done a little exploring around Notting Hill, most of that was done while searching for a copy of The Goldfinch. I’m finishing up Call Me By Your Name and needed another book to begin. Books are my safe place when I move to new cities because I can take them with me anywhere I go and be safe from the fear of looking lonely, but can also relax with them and shield myself from the crippling feeling of laziness. So, always have a good book.
In addition to searching for books, I also searched for good wine. Wine is easy to come by here, and apparently, a large portion of it is good. They have organic wines from all over the continent, each one more tempting than the next. One of my goals while in Europe was to learn how to actually taste and enjoy wine. With so many outlets here, learning how to articulate what I’m tasting and how to pair the different palettes is high on my bucket list.
Hyde Park was probably the best little place I found during my time in London this week. It’s a huge park, full of animals and citizens looking to get some fresh air. I was able to stop and smell the roses, enjoy the gloomy skies and hang out at the pond with a peacock. I have a feeling I’m going to become very familiar with that park in the weeks to come.
I’ve learned that exhibitions in London come and go very quickly, so my to-do list is piling up quickly. After spending a week in this city, it’s becoming clear that maintaining balance between art, school and lots of good wine to try is going to be difficult.