Today I was supposed to be saying farewell to the fair shores of Australia and soaring through the stratosphere at 30,000 feet en-route to London. If you read last week’s Postcard, you’ll know that I’ve been delayed by two weeks waiting for my student visa to be processed. As such I’m sitting in my family hometown in five-degree weather dreaming about the adventures I would have been having in London’s 25-degree weather. So here’s a virtual visit to London with my list of the five ways I would be enjoying the last of the British Summer this week if I were 17,000 kilometers away on the other side of the world.
1. Notting Hill Carnival
Every year at the end of August, the fashionable streets of this central-west London suburb come alive with the vibrant celebrations of the Notting Hill Carnival, one of Europe’s biggest and most renowned street festivals. I would love to witness the exuberance and spirit of the many participants in the festival who come together to celebrate London’s multicultural past and present. The Carnival has a Caribbean theme, and the famous parade boasts a spectacle of decadent costumes and a sea of brightly coloured floats. What an experience it would be to see live music bubbling out of smiling faces, and smell the tantalising fusion of flavours radiating from the food stalls! Maybe next year.
2. Covent Garden
Undisputedly, this is my favourite place in London. A former fruit and vegetable market turned contemporary shopping precinct, home to some of London’s quirkiest and lovable boutiques. I love wandering through the arcades hearing glimpses of the many street performers outside, before ducking into a quaint bookstore or cafe for a cup of tea. Here you can also find the most delectable cookie known to mankind at Ben’s Cookies. You’ll be seeing me in two weeks, Ben.
3. Hyde Park
Stretching over 600 acres, Hyde Park is one of the many beautiful parks in London that offer a calm place to escape amidst the city’s concrete jungle. In the summer, the park transforms into a makeshift sunbathing district with iconic striped deckchairs appearing in the fields so flocks of Brits can come to relish in the few moments a year when it’s not actually raining (we’ll cut them some slack, they don’t really know what the sun is). It’s also home to the infamous Speakers’ Corner, where public debate and discussion occurs, often contentiously, each Sunday afternoon. Although after discovering that the Speakers’ Corner will host a Marxist Platform this weekend, perhaps it’s a good thing I won’t be there.
Does anyone really need an excuse to rejoice in the wonder of apples and their alcoholic properties? Well, in
North London a quintessential pub called The Alma certainly don’t, and they’re hosting an event called Ciderfest this weekend. Pub culture is an inseparable part of British identity, and when the sun comes out in London, the pints go down a lot quicker. I may be missing Ciderfest this weekend, however I’m sure that my student exchange experience will not be lacking in drinking adventures.
5. Brick Lane Market
Another of my most loved places in London, the Brick Lane Market every Sunday is a treasure trove of secondhand clothes, unusual bric-a-brac and kitsch handmade accessories. Nestled amongst these stalls are plenty of food stands selling fresh, cheap and authentic ethnic food – from Mexican, Ethiopian, Bangladeshi, Polish, Lithuanian, Peruvian, Korean, Thai and Japanese to name a few. The possibility of strange discoveries and bargains is always exciting at Brick Lane. I’ll have to leave enough room in my suitcase (and stomach) for the many inevitable purchases.
Ah, London. Your prospects are endless. I cannot wait to explore you until my feet ache and my pockets are empty. It really is true what Samuel Johnson uttered in 1777, “when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford”.