London In Living Color

Dear London,

It’s true, they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder and that’s exactly how I feel about my relationship with you.

My mother was my first country, the first place I ever lived (Nayyirah Waheed), and then I spent 16 years living in Island Paradise where life was a beach, lest I lived on the beach.

 Big Ben and Westminster Bridge

Big Ben and Westminster Bridge

…and then you happened, London. A rare glimmer of hope, in the midst of my saltiness, I was given the opportunity to move to the big city. You were my first big city and the first of many new adventures outside of life as I knew it. London was the first place I traveled to outside of a small island. For the 1.5 years I stayed there, I seriously thought I was trapped in a dream. London is the place where I saw my first live show, Chicago at West End. It’s the place where I had my first train ride, the first place I listened to Norah Jones (random, I know) on my first mp3 player (remember those?). As you can tell, there were many firsts and I am yet to scratch the surface, but I will stop here. 

 From Southwark, St. Paul's Cathedral in the distance

From Southwark, St. Paul's Cathedral in the distance

When I lived there 10 years ago, I remember walking the streets of East London feeling so confused. Really, nothing made sense. Think little fish in big pond scenario. I could not understand why most people wore black, after all I’m an island girl, we naturally gravitate towards colors, almost always. For us, black represented death and mourning. Returning after 10 years, almost feels like an awakening. Everything makes so much sense. Having lived in New York City for over eight years, I can relate to much of the big city way of life. I too, now wear black, way too much for my liking. What?! During my short visit, I saw the big city, London with a clear mind, fresh eyes and from new perspective. I saw London in living color.

 I too, now wear black, way too much for my liking.

I too, now wear black, way too much for my liking.

I’ve really missed London, my friends and loved ones there. My visit this time, was super chill. More resting instead of rushing since I did not have a full itinerary. I wanted to be present in every sense of the word. I got to see my old friends and family again, the ones that call me by a different name, Sabrena, sometimes Bre, other times Brena. I wanted to be silly with them, and laugh till I got weak in the knees, just like old times.

 Reunion with my sixth form besties

Reunion with my sixth form besties

Now that you’ve read the brief version of my history in London, here are a few things I did during my recent visit. 

I spent the first day becoming familiar with the pretty city again. I made my way down to Westminster Bridge to get a few early morning shots of Big Ben. It was the perfect start to my day.

I then made my way to the London Eye and of course I had to get on the wheel….why not?

The sun was unusually hot that day and I decided to take a stroll along Southwark. I walked along the Thames River bank from London Eye to Black Frias and I had the best time people watching and taking photos. 

When I purchased my ticket for the London Eye, I got a discounted Big Bus ticket which gave me a complimentary one way boat ride across the Thames River. 

 London Eye

London Eye

The boat stopped at Tower Bridge and I got off to walk across the bridge. Of course, on my way I bought ice cream from the Mr. Softee truck to cool down from the sweltering heat.

 Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

After walking for hours, I decided to take a nap on the grass at Tower Millenium Pier. In the moment it was the best feeling to be away from the mundane, to be with my own thoughts though there were many conversations around me, to be in the world, but in my own world, in my own space, just to breathe a little and to relax, to enjoy being rather than doing. It was perfect.

 Tower Millennium Pier

Tower Millennium Pier

The next day I explored Shoreditch with my gal pals. Shoreditch reminded me of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY. Gentrified, lots of grafitti, expensive pop-up shops, thrift stores, coffee shops, art studios etc. and if you’re lucky, you’ll run into a celebrity or two.

 Roadside smoothie bar in Shoreditch

Roadside smoothie bar in Shoreditch

 Shoreditch, East London

Shoreditch, East London

I love walking the streets of London!! I love walking in general. So on my third day I walked down Portobello Road, Notting Hill and Kensington to check out some hot spots in the area. I plan to write more about that in another blog post so stay tuned.

Later my sweet friend (who I met while traveling in Jordan) offered me a free VIP ticket to a Norah Jones concert at Somerset House. What a treat! It was like de-javu again. Remember, I first listened to Norah in my early London days? Not only that, but I had also recently attended the same Day Break concert in New York. Norah's performance in London was nothing short of AHH-MAZING!

 Norah Jones at Somerset House, London

Norah Jones at Somerset House, London

 Norah Jones at Somerset House, London

Norah Jones at Somerset House, London

If you’re in London a visit to the museum is a must! The entrance is free, but you'll have to pay for the special exhibitions. Thankfully, I got three free membership tickets from the same friend to see the 2017 Wildlife Photography Exhibition at the Natural History Museum. That day I also checked out the V&A Museum because it’s literally right next door. I ended the day with a Lebanese dinner from a restaurant only a few blocks away.

 Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum

 V&A Museum

V&A Museum

 The famous telephone booth

The famous telephone booth

On my last day I did the ultimate tourist tour by taking the Hop-on Hop-off Big Bus Tour around Central London just admiring the beauty of this picturesque city.

DSC_0400.jpg

London is an important chapter in my story, it’s more than what meets the eye and what was said here. For years I would relive the time I journeyed there through fond memories, music and the senses. I think they call that nostalgia. And the ones I didn’t want to remember, I filtered it and buried it deep in my distant memory. It’s still part of the story though, mostly in black and white. But today, I see London in living color.