London, London, London!
What a historic and beautiful city you are!
London has always been at the top of my list of cities to travel to, and this past May I had the super fortunate opportunity to finally go! It was my first time not only to be in London, but in Europe! Can you believe? I still can’t believe I flew across the Atlantic Ocean and finally popped my European cherry, which I feel is unusual working in fashion at 26 going on 27.
First and foremost, I’m just gonna say that the streets of London are very heel-friendly. I mean… super smooth street to sidewalk transitions and flat pavements that know who they are and their purpose—unlike NYC. After a full day of playing curious tourist, my feet were never tired or strained and my aging knees weren’t internally complaining. The streets of NYC need to get it together!
But on a more serious note, the best part of my trip was being reunited and spending time with one of my best friends after eons apart, as well as reconnecting with old friends while creating new ones! Moments I will always truly value and remember.
Prior to take-off, everyone was warning me about the gray weather that usually stars in London’s daily forecast, but I was in such luck as it was an average of 70 degrees and sunny for a majority of my trip. I’m so glad I got to experience this beautiful city under the London sun, which apparently also entails day-drinking regardless of the day of the week, time of day, or if you’re at work. I was basically tipsy or drunk my entire trip. I probably consumed 5 months worth of my usual alcohol intake in 10 days in London. They seriously love to drink there and I loved every bit of it (although my bank account did not)!
Everything about London is so charming. It was like being in Soho and the West Village, but 100x bigger and cleaner and filled with so much history, from the beautiful and bougie white fronts of Notting Hill to the charming homes in Hackney! While aimlessly roaming around, I couldn't help but think about the fact that London is hundreds/thousands of years old, and actually an old city in comparison to the relatively young New York City. Nature is so well integrated throughout the city. There’s usually a park within walking distance from wherever you are. Then there are trees and flowers everywhere, which are a nightmare during allergy season, but the ambiance, clean air, and energy they provide for the city are so worth it.
The people in London are very polite although reserved—at least at first. This kind of surprised me, as I was expecting the streets to be constantly filled with a rowdy crowd full of eccentrics. Growing up and working in fashion, I’ve only known London to be a creative hub full of punk individuals. But I was a bit shocked by how few eccentrics I actually spotted, which reminded me of Japan and how homogenous it is over there, totally different from how it's perceived abroad. All this led me to think about globalization and how all cities are becoming homogenous and losing their idiosyncratic charm. Hopefully that’s not the case, and maybe I just didn’t explore the right areas.
While people watching on my solo afternoon strolls, I found that people aren’t as compartmentalized as we are in the US. You see people from all walks of life speaking, hanging out, and having a wonderful time together, and not just with people within their visible intersectionalities. I could see that they just saw each other as another human being, regardless of their personal beliefs, race, gender identity, sexuality, religion, and background. It was truly beautiful to see such harmonious human interaction, especially with how divided it currently is in the US. I hope the US can get to London’s level of social relations and acceptance soon.
There’s a sense of community in London that I think New York lacks. As in, people actually like to converse and get to know another instead of immediately jumping to opportunistic questions like “what do you do”-- which is nice; to be seen as a human and not just an opportunity or waste of time.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have much time to explore the LGBTQ scene in London aside from my 10 minute walk through soho—London’s gay area which is perhaps similar to the Hell’s Kitchen of NYC (which isn’t my fave place to be anyway). So maybe I didn’t miss out. But next time I’ll have to make some time to explore the London queer nightlife. I need to see their lewks!!
My experience as a visibly queer and nonbinary person in London was actually quite pleasant. People would occasionally stare despite London being a “don’t stare in public” kind of society, or so I’ve been told. But I didn’t experience any sort of hateful or discriminatory remarks, and to just be able to exist in peace was quite nice.
For this trip I planned my itinerary a bit loosely in comparison to my trip to Japan last year, as I just wanted to go with the flow and spend time with my friends. Despite being there for a good 10 days, I still didn’t get to explore quite a few places on my list! I missed the most likely tourist-infested Portobello Market, Tate Britain, Tower Bridge, and London Eye. But whatevs, I’ll just save them for my next trip there! Below, I’ve listed some of my favorite spots from my trip:
Everyone was telling me that Indian food is the best in London, so I had to try some while there! Especially since Indian food is my latest cuisine fixation. Dishoom was on 90% of my friend's list, so I made it my mission to stop by this highly recommended establishment. I made it to the Kensington location and I wasn't disappointed! The food was so good, I especially remember the garlic and cheese naan. Not to forget, the interior is so chic in this non-bougie way--supposed to be inspired by the Irani cafe's of Bombay!
Let’s just say... if you like spicy Thai food then you’ll love it here. My mouth was on fire but nothing a cocktail couldn’t remedy.
If you go to London for the first time, you have to have high tea, right? I came to Cafe Royal with a good friend after a few locals recommended it. The interior is gilded with gold and mirrors and is like a scene from Marie Antoinette or a piece of Versaille. High tea came with champagne, one round of 3 tiers of sandwiches, and then a round of various desserts on 3 tiers. Everything was small in comparison to typical and supersized American standards
Daylesford Organic Cafe
For an easy and healthy afternoon lunch Daylesford Organic Cafe is a super cute and delicious spot to go! White interiors mixed with natural elements
This is a tapas restaurant out in Stoke Newtington, which is a bit far out from London’s center-- but if you happen to be out there, definitely have a meal at Escocesa! I rarely ever rave about anything because I’m difficult to impress, but I can say with conviction that everything my friend and I had here was so delicious!
I honestly spent most of my time drinking at Shoreditch House (Soho House’s London sibling) or at my friends’ apartments downing x amount of glasses of wine. Or, at any of the restaurants I happened to be dining at!
This department store is truly like no other. It’s not only beautiful but there is so much history behind it as well (the store dates back to 1875). I mean Oscar Wilde shopped there! Definitely make a stop to marvel at all the beauty that lies inside.
Finally, after years of putting the Tate Modern on London Fashion Week schedules for my previous bosses, I finally made it to the iconic museum!
London Design Museum
I came here for the Alaia exhibit (RIP) which I really enjoyed despite its compact size. It was amazing to see so many iconic pieces in real life. The actual museum space is quite beautiful as well, as I am a sucker for modern and futuristic design.
Buckingham Palace/Trafalgar square - path to Buckingham Palace
This one is kind of a no-brainer, but what I really loved about this sight was The Mall tree-lined path along St. James Park between Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace. It felt so regal and peaceful.
Columbia Road Flower Market
This market is definitely a tourist trap but worth checking out at least once in your life. There are beautiful fresh flowers all along the street along with some cute stores you can browse through afterwards. Be warned though, it is jam-packed! Not for the claustrophobic.
Another touristy attraction but hey, have a glass of champagne up top and enjoy the ant-sized views of London!
I truly love London and I can’t wait to be back to see everyone and this beautiful city again! Thank you so much to everyone who made this trip so wonderful and memorable.
Photography by Jarno Leppanen
Text edited by Trace Otsuka