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Week 15: April 28th- May 3rd
The city that stole my heart and my wallet. I fell in love with London. It's a big city place with a European feel. A perfect combo where I can definitely see myself living in. London is a very unique city with many different cultures and atmosphere.
You have the central part of the city with all the touristy sites. This is where all the shops are too, around Oxford and Carnaby. Then you go east to Shoreditch and Brick Lane and it turns more grungy and hip. There are a number of food markets and good Indian food in this area., Also a lot of graffiti and vintage shops to discover. Similar to this, you can go north to Camden and get lost in their market filled with an assortment of clothing, accessories, and knick knacks. It is a huge maze filled with endless shops. Then if you go to the west end, it gets really posh and elegant. This is where you can experience the posh London vibes you see in movies and in the media. From the people, buildings and restaurants. Explore the streets of Kensington and Nottinghill, it will not disappoint. You will also find Hyde Park around here and the beautiful department store Harrod's. Last, you can go south to Brixton and more south to experience the grime scene and experience London grime. A lot of famous rap artist came up from here, such as Giggs, Skepta, Tempa T, etc.
We were really lucky with the weather in London. We were there for five days and the first three was bright and sunny. The following days were cloudy but still nice outside. I bought a trench coat on exchange and got to use it again since February. I actually enjoyed the London weather, it was cool enough for me to layer, which I really enjoy doing. 

The first thing we did in London was go to Shake Shack haha. It was my first time eating Shake Shack so I was really excited. It was good but In-and-out is definitely better in my opinion. I was surprised that London had a lot of American restaurants and chains such as Krispy Creme, Cinnabon, etc. However, it is best not to eat them as they are priced a lot higher in London. 

We stayed at Astor Victoria Hostel which is pretty close to the centre of the city. On the first day, we walked around the centre to get our bearings. We walked to the Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square, Trafalgar Square, and to the Big Ben, Westminster Palace and London Eye. 
 
We also stopped by Chinatown and my eyes lit up. Honestly, I miss Asian food so much...that day we got bubble tea and Chinese takeout. It definitely made my day. 
The next day, we did a little shopping in Soho. Actually more like a lot...Toronto does not have any flagship stores for street wear clothing so I was super excited to go check out the Stone Island, Palace and Supreme store. I ended up snagging a couple things. My wallet is crying but I am very happy I got it haha. 
 
I also finally the watch I have been wanting ever since grade 10 (when I was 15 years old) from Larsson and Jennings. I remember discovering this brand on Tumblr back in the day and falling in love with the simple and elegant aesthetic it holds. They are a London-Swiss brand and only have flagship stores in London and New York so I could not go into the store to see the watch in person. When making big purchases especially for accessories as such, I like to try it on in person. So I told myself that when I go study abroad, I will visit London and purchase this watch for myself. It finally happened on this trip! I purchased the gold Lugano watch and also a black suede strap. 

Then for lunch, we went back to Chinatown for dim sum. You can never have enough Asian food. My cravings were definitely satisfied. 
Afterwards, we just roamed around and got Indian food for dinner. It was my first time having Indian food, except for this one time I had Indian food at a buffet for a girl's birthday party in middle school (didn't really count). We ordered butter chicken, lamb saag, and chicken biryani. My favourite was the chicken biryani. 

The next day, we discovered the east end. It was such a cool vibe and it was so different compared to the central part of the city. This was around Brick Lane and Shoreditch. We got street food and it was so tasty. The food market they had was so diverse. There were different cuisines from all around the world, including Ethiopian, Korean BBQ, Greek, Turkish food and much more. We got this Korean BBQ dish and it was so good. 
Afterwards, we went to the west end to Nottinghill and Kensington. There we had afternoon tea at The Ivy- Kensington Brasserie. It was the best meal ever and such a lovely experience. I thoroughly enjoyed it. We had English breakfast tea, scone with clotted cream, small crustless sandwiches, and everything else afternoon tea would have. We then walked through Hyde Park. It was a nice stroll around the park. It was a full day of things so I was exhausted by the end.
On the fourth day, we explored Oxford and Carnaby street. We went to the Topshop store on Oxford and it was insane. This flagship store had four floors of merchandise. It even had exclusive lines and a premium Topshop line, and also a bomb ass jewellery section with really cool brands. Inside the store, they also had a Brandy Melville, bubble tea store and a cafe. It was super cool to walk around and see everything. You can see how much better the brand is in London (given that's it originated from there) and how much the brand has developed itself.
In the afternoon we stumbled upon a festival the city was hosting near the London Eye called the Underbelly Festival. It was a chill place to grab a drink and hang around in the day. We met some locals and bonded around Pimms, London's sangria. It is their summer drink that taste like a sweetened lemonade. It is super tasty, I would definitely recommend trying it. The people we met were super cool. They basically shared how London is such a depressing city that it hosts festivals and street markets for the people to be 'happier'. Which I see some truth in it. The weather here is pretty gloomy and living in a place that hardly has sun can really have an affect on your mood. They weren't wrong about the festivals and markets too. There's always something happening in this city. London also has these buildings called Box Park which host a bunch of pop-up shops and a rooftop patio with bars and food stands, which is super cool. 
In the evening, we went to see the musical Wicked! It was so cool. Wicked tells the story of before Wizard of Oz. The Wicked Witch of the West is not wicked she is just misunderstood. Watching the musical reminded me of when I was in a musical in high school, West Side Story, and how fun it was. We bought our tickets for a pretty good price. If you go to the Leicester Street there were booths that sell half priced tickets. We bought it in the morning and got good seats too. 
The last day of this wonderful trip has sadly arrived. On this day we hit a few big spots such as the Tower Bridge, London Bridge, Kings Cross, Borough Market, Camden Market, Harrod's and Wagamama for dinner. 

Borough market was another food market that held many different types of food. When you go there were multiple 'markets' so make sure to walk around and discover the area. 

Camden Market was super cool. It had a very grungy vintage feel everywhere. When you get off the station from the metro you have to walk down the street for a bit and then you'll enter a world of shops. The market has a food market but the main attraction is the clothing shops. There's an abundance of things you can look at and buy. From vintage clothing to antiques. It was super cool. They also have high-end vintage clothing such as Burberry trench coats and mink fur coats. I found a Lee's denim jacket at the market and am quite satisfied with the purchase. I have been on the hunt for one for a while and it is quite hard because I was looking for something very specific. Pro tip: if you are ever looking for a denim jacket, try to find one that has an inner pocket. It's so handy and great to have this feature. 

To end the day we discovered Harrod's. It was so crazy to walk through. Everything was so pretty. I was astonished...the presentation of the merchandise and the way the store layout was designed made the 'window shopping' experience to die for. Too bad I can't afford anything haha. 
Lastly, for dinner, we went to a known London based ramen restaurant Wagamama. It was surprisingly very good. I enjoyed their fresh smoothies and ramen bowl. Lately, I've been obsessed with any smoothie that has ginger or beet in it. 
On this day we maxed out our Oyster card. If you use enough trips that it's over the price of seven euros or so, all the other trips you take afterwards will be free. We used this to our advantage and travelled all around the city. From the east to west end, north to central where our hostel is. 
This trip made me fall in love with this city. There is definitely something for everyone here. I personally love the west end and the streets of Kensington. I could definitely see myself living here for a bit, maybe in the future when I can afford it haha. 
 
Thanks for reading, 
Sam

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