I come from a very small family in Canada with no one other than my parents and sister. No grandparents, aunts, uncles or any relatives live in Canada or even on the same continent for that matter, so you can imagine my surprise when I was messaged by my cousin (whom I’d never met before) inviting me to visit him in London for a few days. While I can see how such an approach would seem rather strange to many and perhaps even result in declining the offer, once I was told I had accommodations in one of the most expensive and coolest cities in the world, I was sold. Especially with a flight to the UK that cost only 65 Euros roundtrip, I was more than willing to make a weekend out of it. It would also give me the opportunity to finally rebuild my connection with my European relatives; something I haven’t done in over a decade.
As always is the case when I use easyJet, flying to London was trouble free (I love this plane company). It was actually the trains that caused the confusion! Stemming from a miscommunication, our group got directions to go on a train headed to the centre of London rather than to my cousin’s house as we had originally arranged. Making the best out of this, we decided to hit up some landmarks that were at nearby train stations on our way back.
The first stop we got off at was St. Pancras station, which is right next to the King’s Cross station and home of the iconic 9 ¾ platform from the Harry Potter series. I had my fun with this.
I then had the opportunity to ride the Underground metro (aka the Tube) as well as see London trolleybuses for the first time!
Arriving via another train, my cousin at the station greeted me with excitement and right away I knew that I was in for something awesome. He had a fantastic personality and was so hospitable for the duration of our stay. From having meals and alcohol prepared to having his living room arranged for sleeping, he was ready to have us over and make our stay as comfortable as possible. So the rest of the evening was just catching up and chatting in his house eating pizza, drinking gin tonics and having awkward British comedy play in the background.
Having someone who knew the city well made planning the itinerary for the day quite easy and encompassed a lot of landmarks to make up for our short stay. The bad part about sightseeing that day was that it was raining a lot, as it usually does in England, and would make it difficult to capture everything digitally. But this was expected weather in the UK and in fact the gloominess actually made for a more realistic experience, and arguably some cooler photos.
Starting the day by riding the London Eye, we got our first real look of the city with a fantastic bird’s eye view.
Then proceeding to the Palace of Westminster, viewing the sights here were stunning. The palace is an absolute beauty and I was thrilled to finally view the iconic Big Ben tower clock with my own eyes!
Next were Westminster Abbey and Westminster Cathedral.
Buckingham Palace, Queen Victoria Memorial Statue and the royal gates of Green Park.
Yet, the best part of our sightseeing was the travel between two of the most iconic bridges in not only London but in the world; London Bridge and Tower Bridge.
The walkway between the two bridges was appropriately called Queen’s Walk right along the River Thames and boy was it ever nice! Lots of fanciness went into making all the establishments and buildings on this walk look incredible! The following is what’s called London Bridge City — a shopping and business district with a glass ceiling that’s completely opened to the walkway.
Walk a little bit further and you’ll get a vantage point like no other. By rotating yourself 360 degrees, you’ll see London City Hall, The Scoop amphitheatre, and financial firms all pointed toward the Tower Bridge and the River Thames where across you’ll see a skyline of the London Tower and the Gherkin among many other landmarks. It was photograph heaven.
Not only did we take pictures in front of the brightly illuminated Tower Bridge, but we also crossed it! The various coloured lights made the bridge incredibly prominent on the water.
Later that night we went to a pub called the Cheshire Cheese and purchased ridiculously good food with an offer of 2 plates for £8.95 (great deal!). I highly recommend checking this place out since our service here was fantastic and the booth we picked was excellent, not to mention free brownies.
Afterward, we headed back to my cousin’s house only to figure out he went to a pub… so we made our way there too. This pub was super cool, separated by two floors and even a dance floor. Yes, a sit-down pub with a separate yet attached dance floor playing electronic music and dubstep… whaaatt! We then crossed the street to another club where we all got free entry (gotta love connections!) and spent the rest of the night there. Many innocent beers were devoured that night and it lead to some very good catching up and family talk between my cousin and I. It felt like a new chapter of my life had began as I spoke to him; like the first piece in reconnecting my family had been put in place.
The following day was spent nearly all in the Camden Market; a place where lots of small shops and department stores sell clothing, souvenirs and various knickknacks at low prices. It felt a bit like Morocco in the sense that people were haggling for deals! For myself, I bought a pair of awesome leather high-tops from Aldo and tons of souvenirs from various small shops. I can’t seem to get over how awesome stuff from London looks, whether it be clothes or something as simple as a button; it just looks good.
We then all headed to the Piccadilly Circus, which basically looks like New York’s Times Square mixed with old architecture. This place was full of night life energy and there were endless amounts of people on the street swarming to their venue of choice.
There we spent the final hours of London at O’Neill’s, an Irish pub with live music, and it was AWESOME. I literally went crazy head banging and air guitaring to covers of Oasis, Green Day, Guns’n’Roses, Rage Against the Machine and the rest. Once our night ended at 3:30am, we stumbled to a trolleybus and then taxied straight to the airport where we flew back to France in the morning, still buzzed.
It all happened so fast but I know I’ll return back to England and see everything I missed. My cousin made my trip here awesome and left me with the best impression of London I could have asked for. I thank you so much for your hospitality, Tomas! Cheers, mate!
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This blog entry is part of the publication Robert Cekan Travels & was originally written on October 24, 2012
Robert Cekan is a young entrepreneur and proud Hamiltonian. He is the founder of the Hamilton discovery website True Resident, as well as Cekan Group, a property management group. He is also a Hamilton REALTOR® with Ambitious Realty Advisors Inc., Brokerage and an active blogger.
For all of Robert’s projects, please visit robertcekan.com