Goodbye London, Goodbye

Goodbye London, Goodbye

I’m sitting in New York now, looking out the window of my parents’ house at piles of snow plowed up along the streets. I watched London shrink away from me on the plane yesterday, the cars turning to ants, the houses just lego rows way down below surrounding the snake of the Thames and then clouds. Big fluffy clouds. And London was gone.

But the thing is, I know London will always be there. It’s one of the absolute best cities in the world and that’s not going to change anytime soon. One thing the past four years in that heaving metropolis has taught me is that there’s a hell of a big world out there that needs exploring. London has a bite of every country in the world to give you a taster but it’s time to dive in for more.

Tomorrow will be my last London post on this blog – answering any questions you want to throw at me in a Listen to a Londoner style entry. Leave them in the comments or email me at littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk

I want to thank all of you for following this blog and your comments and encouragement. It’s been a wonderful experience and I will certainly continue a similar blog from my next destination…

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Listen to a Londoner: Paul McConnell

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you’re up for being interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Paul McConnell

Paul is a born and bred londoner. Having lived in Central London his whole life, he spent his childhood within a 15 minute walking distance of Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. His favourite thing to do in London or anywhere else is to hang out with his friends on a Saturday afternoon watching the football, or spend it with his lovely fiancee going around all the markets and shops.

LLO: As a born and bred Londoner, how has the city changed since your childhood? Anything you miss?
PM: The city has changed a ton. There is a lot more diversity now, with many different cultures, and its made london more of a melting pot. You really can get anything you like from any culture in the world in london.

LLO:Which part of the city are you most familiar with and what’s the best thing about it?
PM: I’m most familiar with central london as I’ve grown up within walking distance from Buckingham Palace and Big Ben. My favourite part of London is the Southbank and all the bridges that cross the thames – so relaxing and beautiful.

LLO: Best London discovery?
PM: Great family run Italian restaurant near Notting Hill called Ffionas. You have to be there early though because they only have 8 tables.

LLO: If you’re in the mood for some last minute live music, which venues would you check first to see what’s on?
PM: Brixton Academy have shows all the time where you can always pick up tickets on the day, or if you walk through Camden you’re sure to find something you like.

LLO: Tell us about a memorable moment that could only have happened in London.
PM: It has a be a marathon weekend which consisted of 3 live football matches, 3 nights out clubbing and about 3 hours sleep during all 3 days.

LLO: Know of any great little hole-in-the-wall pubs, restaurants or coffee shops that are worth stopping by?
PM: The Black Horse just behind Oxford Street is a great pub, great food, all fresh the same day.

LLO: If you were to leave London in the near future, what 5 things (people not included) would you miss the most about the city?
PM: 1.) Arsenal football club 2.) The London Eye (near where i proposed to my fiancee) 3.) Being able to hear Big Ben on a quiet night from my house 4.) Fish and chip shop on Sutherland Street in Pimlico (best fish and chips on earth) 5.) My mum’s roast dinner

LLO: Best pub to watch your favourite football team on match day?
PM: Either the Barley Mow in Vauxhall or Victoria’s Sports bar above Victoria station

LLO: What about a great venue to go watch some live sport (not necessarily football!)?
PM: Wembley or the Emirates Stadium, or Battersea Power Station where they have live festivals, extreme sports/extreme Winter sports.

LLO: Share a random London fact that not many people would know.
PM: The actual City of London is only 1 square mile. All other major roads such as Oxford Street, Piccadilly and Regent Street actually come under “The City of Westminster”.

Even though being the sovereign of The UNITED KINGDOM, Her Majesty the Queen is not allowed to enter the City of London with seeking the permission of its Lord Mayor.

Thanks Paul!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.

Listen to a Londoner: Natalie Lester

Listen to a Londoner is a weekly interview with a Londoner – someone who lives in this city, born here or elsewhere. If you’re up for being interviewed, email littlelondonobservationist@hotmail.co.uk.

Natalie Lester

Natalie has a BA in English, BSc in geography and MA in publishing; She loves English literature and her outlet is writing. Her favourite gelato is found in London at Gelato Mia in Notting Hill (dark chocolate and Biscotto). She loves the theatre and when she was younger, wanted to be Christine in Phantom.

LLO: How long have you been in London, where did you come from originally and what brought you here?
NL: I’ve been in London for a little more than a year – I just finished my MA in publishing at UCL…turned in my dissertation in September so here’s hoping for the best! I grew up in Idaho (in the US) and during my undergrad I did a study abroad in London. Ever since I have been planning to come back. In my opinion everyone should live in London for at least a little bit!

LLO: What’s your favourite way to pass a Saturday afternoon in London?
NL: Nothing beats the markets in London on a Saturday. I live right next to Regent’s Canal (Little Venice) and you can easily walk along the canal to Camden Market. If you go early enough then usually you are the only one along the canal and you get to breathe in the crisp air all by yourself. On my way to Camden I sometimes take a detour into Regent’s Park with my book… but I always make sure I get to Camden for my favourite treat in London – Chocolate covered strawberries and pineapple on a banana leaf!

LLO: Where is your favourite place to pick up an American treat if you’re craving something from home?
NL: One time I was in desperate need of some Root Beer and happened to be in the Leicester Square area so I had to pop into Ed’s Diner and pay a ridiculous price for a can of some A&W…it was worth it!

LLO: Which part of London are you most familiar with and what’s the best part about it?
NL: Well, I live on Edgware Road, which is pretty central London, so probably that area and then the Regent’s Canal area I was talking about earlier. London is great for its diversity and there is no better place to see this than Edgware Road with its plethora of Middle Eastern restaurants. And while the rest of London seems to close ridiculously early, you can venture onto Edgware at midnight and it still has the liveliness of midday.

LLO: If I told you I would be in London for one night only and wanted to get off the tourist trail, where would you send me to eat and drink?
NL: Ok, maybe this is still a bit touristy, but you can’t beat their chicken and leek pie at Doggetts Pub. It is right on the southbank by Blackfriar’s Bridge and if you want a nice meal you can go up top to the restaurant and sit by the window and watch London light up at night.

LLO: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as an expat in London?
NL: Maybe this is a lame challenge to have, but I miss my clothes dryer every day! Jeans just don’t fit the same here with nothing to dry them back into shape. Like I said, lame, but other than that…oh, and trying to find a frozen turkey at Thanksgiving (an adventure that ended with my flatmate and I carrying a frozen turkey in our arms for 45 minutes on our walk back from Camden). Other than those two things I have very few complaints about London.

LLO: Tell us about a favourite London memory that could only have happened in London.
NL: Keeping on the Thanksgiving theme, last year my flatmate and I were hosting a Thanksgiving party for a lot of people and we had purchased two turkeys. Somehow we forgot that this wasn’t America and not only did we not have room for them in our fridge, but we didn’t have two ovens. On Thanksgiving day we rang up some friends that lived about 15 minutes away to ask if we could borrow their oven. We ended up carrying the pre-cooked (but stuffed and seasoned) bird down the road and stuffed it into their oven which was even smaller than ours. Four hours later I picked up the bird—who was now full of juices and twice as heavy—and proceeded to walk down the very busy Edgware Road with a 20lb bird and turkey juice sloshing all over me everytime I placed a foot down! Surprisingly, after all that poor turkey had been through, and my arms shaking for about 20 minutes afterwards, Thanksgiving dinner never tasted so good!

LLO: Favourite London discovery?
NL: My favourite place in all of London is one I discovered with my fiancé. He is a Londoner and loves to walk on the southbank by the London Eye at night when the trees have their blue lights. While we were sitting, gazing up at the Eye through a sea of blue, we noticed that there was a break in the hedge and on the opposite side of the trees was a park…with swings. Now, it isn’t like this playground is exactly hidden, but it is further back from the main southbank walkway and I had never noticed it before. We quickly climbed over the rest of the hedge and snuck into the playground to swing (my all-time favourite past-time). In front is a large tree, and when you swing at night you catch glimpses of the London Eye lights through the trees and it looks like the London sky is full of stars that you can almost touch. I think it is one of the most magical places in London.

LLO: What would you suggest if I asked you to plan a creative, off-the-wall or otherwise unique date in London?
NL: Saturday morning head down to Borough Market, bring your appetite! Spend the first little bit just wandering around the stalls and take advantage of the free samples. Then, just about midday choose something that either a) you can’t possibly resist or b) something that is really strange and you have never tried before. Don’t eat it yet, but walk to Shakespeare’s Globe and wait in line for the groundlings so that you are the first ones in. While you are waiting break open lunch and enjoy! When they open the gates make sure that you get front and centre and you can lean up against the stage! Enjoy!

LLO: If you move back to America in the future, what five things will you miss most about London?
NL: Where do I start, once you have lived in London it becomes a part of you and I think there will always be something that I miss. But, if I had to choose 5, I would have to say 1) waking up on a crisp Autumn morning, getting a Chocolate Milano at Café Nero and crunching through the leaves in Hyde Park; 2) Big Ben at night…it just looks so magical and everytime I see it at night I think that Peter Pan will come land on the hands of the clock at any moment; 3) Amazing fish and chips the the hole-in-the-wall chippies (they are always the best); 4) Christmas time in London, from the Harrod’s Christmas Parade to the Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park; 5) Low-tide on the Thames on the southbank skipping rocks.

Thanks Natalie!

For more Listen to a Londoner posts, click here.