London: Nothing Particularly Exciting

11 Mar ’15 by Sara Travel
About seeing gorgeous, wonderful friends in London - and forgetting about the ideals of traveling.

As I’ve grown older, wiser and fatter, I have realized that there are many different ways to travel – and not all of them have to be particularly exciting. I mean, most travels are primarily exhausting. And most of the various attempts in discovering different countries & people have a lot to more do with blown up expectations of one’s self and the world (“I will find the real me on the way! I will fall in love on my journey! I will discover ancient traditions and top secret cultural stuff! Oh wait, I ended up binge drinking from a bucket with other tourists, shite!”) than with actual vacations. But me? I am totally over the excruciating philosophy of backpacking off the beaten track! One of my newest hobbies is going away and ignoring everything that’s supposed to be really cool or necessary. I don’t go sightseeing, I don’t look for the hottest spots anymore, I don’t search for the scene; instead, I travel to see friends and do exactly the same thing that I do in Berlin (but not in Berlin): hang out and eat a lot of food and go to bed early.

I know that London is an exciting city, with plenty of tourist-material, exceptionally good food and a mad music & party scene. Last time I visited for a longer duration was during Notting Hill Carnival 2011, but honestly, I haven’t seen anything of the city yet. Not even London Bridge. NOTHING. And when I visited two weekends ago with my flatmate Tandiss (whom I’ve also spent my vacation on Ibiza with; she thinks I’m smelly, but I like being insulted on a constant daily basis), we had absolutely no plan in mind. We stayed with her friends and mine and even the laziest resolutions of our trip (“WE ARE DEFINITELY GOING TO TOPSHOP AND WE NEED TO SEE THE TATE MODERN!”) were pretty much forgotten as soon as we arrived; we unbottled some Champagne (we didn’t have Champagne but it sounds better than “Tesco’s Special Sparkle Selection”) and got wasted laughing about stories of the past and what life is like between Berlin and London. That’s pretty much it. I like this sort of uncomplicated traveling, thanks to cheap flights and international friends. God bless the people who decided to move to London so I don’t have to do it.

There’s one thing I learned in London: Berlin is the odd one out. It’s perfectly normal to live in a big city with five other flatmates in a shithole for a lot of money, because that’s what you get for being a single person in their twenties, still hustling for a career and a family. That sounds a little elitist, true, but I’ve always taken Berlin for granted in that regard. I always thought: every city should be like Berlin! Affordable and spacious. But Berlin really is tiny compared to London. It’s just crazy how different the attitude is here: people complaining because their 70 square meter, 3 room Altbau apartment with Stuck & Balkon right in the best part of the city costs them 700 bucks a month. What luxury we’re in, and no wonder people from other crammed, urban areas are flocking to Berlin by the busload. But that’s not the standard, and maybe it shouldn’t be. I am going to leave this statement here to be discussed in another place.

Anyway. So what do you do in London for four days when you’re really doing nothing? I am not ashamed to say that we hung out in the Friedrichshain of London, namely Shoreditch and Dalston. It’s funny how my mentality just switches around 180° when I’m not in Berlin (and not traveling for work/adventures): bright flashing neon lights and tourist traps? Yay what is this Disney World paradise I AM TOTALLY IN!

There’s one thing about London that you cannot possibly go wrong with: the food. OH MY GOD. THE FOOD! We keep applauding the growing food scene of Berlin but after literally eating everything in London, I have decided that Berlin is a lightweight in culinary experiences. I mean, EVERYTHING tastes good in London. Wherever you go – the most dubious pub will prepare a classier meal than some of the fancy Berlin restaurants. And NANDO’S! AND THE CHOCOLATE! AND THE CAKES! I truly cannot believe how much I was able to cram into my mouth in those four days (with the help of many various beverages). PIMMS! PALE ALES! The curries! The fries! The MERCYLESS BANANA BREAD WITH SALTED CARAMEL THAT HAS FUCKED MY PALATE UP FOR ETERNITY!

I am dying just thinking about the food. And to think we didn’t even bother to actually see what’s recommended – we simply kept ending up at places, and we were never disappointed. We had fun wherever we went, and we probably spent more money than we should have. But that’s really okay. I think I found my favorite way of traveling: doing nothing exciting, eating most of the time, enjoying my time with lovely people, basking in the sun, ignoring life, being a proper tourist who buys souvenirs and goes where other tourists might go (literally Friedrichshain).

Four comments

  1. Please discuss that statement further! I’ve been wondering if there’s a danger to staying too long :-)

  2. Oh I don’t think there’s a danger in staying too long. I just meant to say that the way people are behaving in Berlin – as if everyone is entitled to a beautiful single household – is probably what’s driving the prices up, while in cities like London and New York (and everywhere else in the world for that matter) it has become the standard to live in shoebox rooms shared with many people. If people in Berlin did the same thing, the prices wouldn’t go up as quickly, as more living space would be available and probably affordable. But here, everybody is taking the single household for granted. That’s my reasoning, anyway.

  3. I fully agree to your first paragraph (and the rest kind of as well). Doing touristy essentials is so boring. Best times I had in London were spent wandering around, getting the occasional pint of beer in a pub and discovering what’s going on and what delicious food will be stuffed in my face later that day.
    I just disagree with the “becoming a tourist” bit, this is what I usually try to avoid, as in not going where the crowd goes, unless it’s food.

  4. Yeah I can see how contradictory that seems. But what I meant by saying “becoming a tourist” is that I just don’t care about what’s cool or not.. not in the sense of going to see all the landmarks :)