You always hear about London in books, movies, on the radio. Well, it was one of the pioneers of pop culture, whether it was films or music. There were the English Mods in the sixties, the Punks in the seventies… I mean England gave us the BEATLES for crying out loud.. They gave us BOWIE.
Also, don’t even get me started on the fashion side of things. To put it short, Brit fashion paved the way for so many groundbreaking looks and trends. So many emerging designers are born out of this big city and the world of la mode would never be the same without them.
With all the hype and universal applause for this mega capital of the world, the intrigue was growing and I could not wait to feed these curiosities and determine whether London really lived up to it’s name. As I arrived in The Old Smoke, my heart was beating with excitement as I saw double decker buses turn the corner and tea houses left and right.
While my trip plans included a lot of sight-seeing, it included a lot of family-seeing as well. I was fortunate enough to have my auntie Phyllis to stay with, as she dwells in Croydon – a borough in South London. It’s a nice little town.
You may have heard of Croydon from the 2011 London riots which is an interesting story altogether, one that for some reason I had missed on the news. The riots were in response to the fatal police shooting of a black man, Mark Duggan, while he was getting out of a taxi. There was a lack of information and evidence that Mark posed as a threat so residents took to the streets of Croydon to protest of yet another racial injustice and unfortunately over 100 buildings were lit on fire and 5 people died. This incited even stronger racial tensions within London and the poverty gap is larger than ever.
I came across this powerful mural while in London and I felt that it thoughtfully illustrated these tragedies. I first assumed this was Banksy’s work but then discovered it was a street artist named Bambi.
Across is written:
“You abuse your powers again and again
Another innocent unarmed soul is murdered in your name.
Filthy blue lies flow and flow
You shot him six times for just jaywalking home
Left in a pool of blood on the street
But you think it’s just another day on the beat
Come on justice must be done or anarchy will bite you on the bum”
I stayed in London for two weeks in total so I could really get my fill of the city and also give myself enough time to plan my next move. There was a lot of aimless wandering, which does not necessarily work so well in huge cities like London but in the first few days I somehow ended up at Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Soho and Covent Gardens (Half an hour was spent looking for the garden and discover to my great surprise that there isn’t one, it’s just called that… oops. )
Shoreditch was your token hipster hub of the city but it was super cool, chic pubs and some nice street art too. Brick lane had the cutest shops. Lots and lots of vintage as well as some designer depots and little labels.
I’ve found that I really enjoy walking through parks even when it’s rainy. I walked through Hyde, Kensington and Regent park and then through different neighborhoods because I like observing demographics and just walking down random streets.
Camden Market was wild. Endless market stalls in every direction selling everything you can imagine. The streets were packed and delicious food could be smelled left and right. This city has so many markets and this is a definite must. Make it a full day thing because you will get lost in this world. Just steer clear of the tacky tourist stuff.
I took the train with my aunt and her lovely tenant Cecelia to visit Waterloo. We went to the Tate Modern gallery to look at some art and then walked along the South bank by River Thames to eat lunch. Finally, the sun was shining and lots of people were around taking in the sights of the London Bridge and Big Ben across the water.
Best part of that day undoubtedly went to this awesome graffiti tunnel we had accidentally come across full of skater dudes and sick street art all over the walls.
London street art actually has such a cool history, it began in the mid-1980s in London’s hip hop scene inspired by New York and began to grow in inner-city areas such as Brixton and Westbourne Grove. Robbo and Drax were some of London’s big graffiti writers known for reigning the tube stations back then and famous crews included World Domination, The Subway Saints and Drop the Bomb. I watched this documentary called Style Wars not too long ago and it just really illustrates this time period of creative expression on subways and billboards in the 80’s and 90’s as a sort of cry for change and progression from the traditional regime as well as teenagers just fooling around for fun.
Something about street art just speaks to me. I think it’s the idea that whether it’s fresh or old spray paint on those alley walls, it was done by an individual who painted their art from scratch right in that spot, usually in the middle of the night, stealthily creating a masterpiece before the cops roll by. I can’t wait to see what other street art I’ll find throughout Europe, I love it most when you’re not purposefully looking for it and you stumble across a 9 foot tall mural with words that scream at you something that makes you think hard.
While I was there, the weather was okay. Although there was some sun, for April it was pretty windy and chilly. Public transportation is not really an option to avoid this because here in London it is so ridiculously expensive. Well, the reality is everything here is expensive… The exchange rate of the British Pound is double the Canadian dollar so everything still sounds like it is priced rather fairly until you realize it’s double the damage. Burritos here are 9 pounds so yes, $18 for a burrito…
Yeah, not on my backpacker budget, so packed lunches it is.
Can the queen do something about this please???
Besides that, I like London. I like the British accents and the diversity and the street art and the double decker buses and while it might be a city that is too crowded and chaotic for me, there is undoubtedly lots of energy and motion here to keep you motivated.
London: Two weeks with you was nice, our relationship had it’s up and downs. At times I hated you, at times I loved you – or maybe I just hated that I loved you. But it’s definitely time we move on and see other people; I’ll be back at the end of the trip anyway to fly back home so until then, London!