Give me a campsite in the woods over a swanky downtown hotel any day. I crave solitude. Forests, mountains, rivers, wildlife and fresh air make me happy. Crowds and buildings, on the other hand, not so much. Don’t get me wrong, I love the rich history and lively culture I find in city travel, but a day or two is often all I can take before I start fantasizing about escaping to a desert island for some peace, quiet, and good quality alone time.
London is an exception. I promise you, no matter who you are, no matter your background, your personality or your interests, London has at least 10 museums and 5 events and 20 restaurants that you will LOVE. And a weekend won’t be enough. Stay a month, at least.
Like my Venice trip a week prior, I found my airline tickets through RyanAir for about 40 Euro round trip. And again, I found a great deal with Generator at their flagship location in Bloomsbury. I cannot recommend Generator enough for solo travelers. Safety, security and cleanliness are top-notch with this chain and with prices as low as 10 pounds a night, the price is unbeatable.
Now, on to the fun stuff! I opted out of the hostel breakfast this time around and instead made a Starbucks run to fuel my travels. Tall orange mocha for here, please!
Orange mocha, a regional (and deliciously sweet) Starbucks menu item
London was rainy, as it often is. Perfect for museum-hopping. Museum 1 awaited me just two blocks from the hostel: Waitrose. For those in the know, Waitrose is a grocery store chain in the UK, but I like to think of grocery stores as warehouse-sized museums of food and culture that double as extensive gift shops. I made mostly practical purchases, like nuts and fruit for snacks and breakfasts, but I couldn’t leave without splurging on some cola-infused raisins. Most of my food experiences in London were pleasant. Cola raisins were not.
Cola-infused raisins. Yes, they exist.
As you might have guessed from my gravitation towards things like cola-flavored raisins, I have a penchant for “weird.” If you’re curious like me, you’ll love Hunterian Museum in Camden. You’ll find everything from iridescent beetles to 18th century medical specimens to a reconstruction of the 7 ft. 7 “Irish Giant” Charles Byrne. The Hunterian Museum does not allow photography, so you’ll have to take my word for it and visit for yourself! Did I mention entry is free?
Another great (and also free) museum is the Grant Museum of Zoology in Bloomsbury. Make your way through a maze of displays of neatly organized skeletons, bones and preserved animals. Take in the enormity of the broad antlers of the Irish Elk or “Giant Deer” and not just one but three elephant skulls. Before you leave, step into the Micrarium, where Grant holds its tiniest wonders.
A set of bones in the Grant Museum of Zoology
The Grant Micrarium
Close-up of the Micrarium
After a delicious lunch of soup and bread at Pret a Manger, the rain let up and I headed towards Trafalger Square, a tourist favorite. The fountains and statues of Trafalger square are a feast for the eyes. I couldn’t resist a selfie with my personal favorite, pictured below.
Hahn-Cock in Trafalger Square
The London of days past had an unfortunate reputation for bland, tasteless food. Today’s London is foodie heaven. The international population is huge, and the overwhelming variety of food choices reflects it. Three meals a day was not enough to scratch the surface. Japanese, Italian, Indian, Ethiopian, Thai, British, American… the list goes on and on. To maximize my London food experience, I made a quick trip to Chinatown to stock up on snacks. Red bean mochi, dried sweet potato, watermelon seeds, matcha buns, mmmm….
As adventurous as I am, I passed on the “Sliming Herb.”
Sadly, my time in London came to an end much too quickly. Like my Venice trip, this was a journey I made on my own. Unlike my Venice trip, I stepped outside of my introvert comfort zone and made a few friends in the process. I met a Brit who was in town for a mandala tattoo by a well-known Japanese artist. I met an Argentinian on his way to Switzerland for an Erasmus program. I met a half-Portuguese, half-Russian polyglot taking a vacation from his job at a travel agency in the Netherlands. For 19 years I had completely overlooked the social aspect of travel, sometimes out of shyness, sometimes because of the language barrier, sometimes out of absorption in only my own travel party. Meeting these fellow solo adventurers changed my mind. I can’t wait to continue travelling, collecting stories and sharing my own.