Double-decker buses, Cadbury chocolate bars, the Big Ben, Platform 9 3/4 (Harry Potter) and the red telephone boxes are just a few things that come to mind when talking about England. As unique as this all sounds, the United Kingdom has more to offer than just a few red telephone boxes and I was going to prove it.
The first time I went to London, I was about 10 years old. I had gone with my family to visit a few friends and to spend a few of our vacation days away from home. As all tourists, my family and I went to the usual spots — The Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abby, Parliament Square and a few too many museums. It was a great experience and from that moment on, I had met the love of my life — The U.K. Visiting England had changed me and all I wanted to do was live there.
My love for this country took me to visit over and over again. Instead of going to different places, I would choose London as my go-to destination. However, as I grew up and transformed into a young lady, the place I knew as a kid had changed as well. It’s interesting to see how a place you frequent so often can change, but even then the same structures and touristic places still remain.
Although I loved visiting the touristic places as a kid, my adult self wanted to see more of London. I wanted to live like a local rather than to just be another tourist. So as an adult visiting England, the first thing I did was go to a pub.
I don’t exactly remember the name of the pub I went into, but I remember the friendliness of people, the merry faces, the warmth of the crowded pub and the laughter of people. The pub was small with barely any room to sit, but none of that mattered, I was in good company and with a good beer in hand.
For the next few days, I made a few more stops to different pubs and finally ate the famous ‘Fish and Chips.’ Though I am not a huge fan of the fish and chips, it never hurts to try something new and local. I do recommend having the meat pies and if you have as much of a sweet tooth as I do, go for the Cadbury bar (much better than the American version), apple crumble, or the Christmas pudding.
As a child, I had gone to a few Broadway shows in London and even made a few stops in Picadilly Circus, but not once did I ever go into London’s Chinatown. This place was filled with markets, restaurants and small Chinese stores. The newspaper was in Chinese, the flyers on the walls were in Chinese and although I have never been to China, this place felt like China.
It is rare to find a place with such authenticity, but when you do find it, enjoy it and try the things around you. Of course, I did get myself some Asian candy before I left Chinatown and as I walked along the streets, I found myself staring at a few flashing Broadway signs.
No matter how much I attempted to stay away from all the touristic sites, I couldn’t help myself. Many of the sites offered a look into Gothic architecture, the history of each building and a glance into an older version of the U.K. Every part of the U.K. crowded with people of different cultures snapping away on their fancy cameras.
It’s funny how I tried so hard to be a local and somehow I ended up doing what every ‘tourist wannabe locals’ do – try the fish and chips, go to Chinatown, go into different bars and have a local beer, admire the Gothic architecture and take a bunch of photographs of London.
I may have failed in living like a local, but if there is one thing I learned from visiting England is that sometimes being a tourist isn’t as bad after all.
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I’m going to Europe in April this year, and my first stop is going to be London before I move onto Paris, and this post has basically boosted my desire to travel right now tenfold. I have to say, I don’t see anything wrong with doing the tourist things even if you’ve been to a city before. It’s not that bad, and sometimes being a typical tourist is a great deal of fun. I’m planning on having a few days running around and doing all of the sights (Harry Potter…. here I come! Maybe I’ll finally find that Hogwarts acceptance letter while I’m in London), and then taking another few days to just settle down and soak in the culture and city without running around like some insane person, clicking my camera every few seconds :’)