“Not all those who wander are lost” – J. R.R. Tolkien
I love airports. I love planes. I love the buzz of a new city where you really are anonymous, just one in the ten million or so souls that wander the streets. I love what I observe, who I meet and what I learn both about the world and about myself. On the flip side, I hate packing but it is so worth the effort to get to explore new parts of familiar places or to seek the familiar in the completely new.
For the next week I am in London – to my mind the New York of Europe and one of the world’s most iconic cities. This week I hope to create a series of posts that together create a little travel guide to the UK’s capital. Having arrived at Stansted in the early part of yesterday evening we purchased train tickets and visitor Oyster cards, making London transport fairly straight forward. From there the transfer to our AirBnB in N1 was a breeze. The place, by no means my first AirBnB booking, is also exactly as we had hoped and has the advantage of being in very close proximity to Upper Street, Islington’s buzzing high street, which has an abundance of shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. This listing took some seeking to find but it is everything we need for a fraction of the cost of a hotel room.
Arriving late, there was really neither time nor energy for anything more than dinner and a night cap so that was exactly what we settled for. We had a chicken dinner (comfort food at the end of a long day) at Hen on Upper Street. Basically the clue is in the name – so if you don’t like chicken, this is not the restaurant for you. A quarter chicken with honey and mustard glaze and a chicken fillet in brioche were both accompanied by skinny fries sprinkled lightly with herbs. A little alcoholic lemonade was a fun beverage to wash it down. The vibe was urban and buzzy, the clientele mainly professionals in their 20s and the decor fresh and funky. A fun weeknight venue that won’t break the bank.
And then for the nightcap – my husband who objects to most things even vaguely “hipster” – is a huge supporter of the craft beer revolution. Now he will argue that he has been a lover of craft ales long before they became associated with guys with beards who appear to have shunned socks for fashion (and therefore long before it became mainstream). Nonetheless, this is one trend that he is a loyal follower of, all other beers now dismissed as being of varying degrees of blandness, and so we regularly actively seek out bars that specialise in the offerings of micro-breweries from around the globe. All this in mind we made a beeline for a local bar called The Taproom to peruse their extensive selection. It was a cute spot with some business men, a few tourists and what appeared to be a very awkward Tinder date, affably occupying the dimly lit space. If you are peckish, they also serve what sounded like an interesting selection of flat bread pizzas baked in a wood fired pizza oven in the corner.
And that was it. Given that we had an early start the next day, and travel is always a little exhausting, we wandered home on a balmy summer’s evening, excited to have so much more of London to explore.