Posts Tagged ‘city’

Sundays in the East End

As someone who grew up in quite rural areas, when I applied to universities, they had to be in London. Spending half my life in Cornwall and half my life on the Isle of Wight, I really wanted to move to a big city.

I’m not going to lie, it was a big change. There are so many more people, it’s easy to get lost and not everyone I meet smiles, says hello and asks me how school is going. Shops are open after 5pm (this is still a fact that I sometimes have to be reminded of) and there is always something to do, even on a Sunday. Plus, being in the East End, there are a lot more quirky things to occupy your time with. One of my favourites is something me and my house mates like to refer to as “Brick Lane Sundays” where we go to the Sunday market to browse and get food, sometimes venturing as far as the flower market at Colombia Road.

Map of the East End with Queen Mary, Brick Lane and Colombia Road circled. (courtesy of google maps)

Map of the East End with Queen Mary, Brick Lane and Colombia Road circled.
(courtesy of google maps)

As you can see from the map above, Brick Lane and Colombia Road are both fairly close to the university. It’s about a 30/40 minute walk, which is also quite enjoyable if you want to look at all the shops along Whitechapel Road (the main road running between the uni and Brick Lane), or you could take the bus or the tube to get there even quicker.

Colombia Road is a personal favourite of mine. It’s a small, narrow street (top left of the map) where every Sunday, flower sellers fill both sides of the road and thousands of people turn up. The crowds are insane, and it gets so packed that you have to shuffle along the road, like you’re at a festival. There are also loads of unusual little shops selling cute bits and bobs for home decoration, garden ware, art, antiques and food and drink. Even if you’re not a fan of flowers, it’s worth seeing all the people, enjoying some of the music from the buskers and looking at all the shops and flowers. Also during the lead-up to Christmas, the shops open late on Wednesdays and they have carol singers and Christmas trees out, which is great for picking up any unique Christmas gifts.

Some of the flowers in Colombia Road market

Some of the flowers in Colombia Road market

My mum and sister clutching some flowers from Colombia Road

My mum and sister clutching some flowers from Colombia Road

Brick Lane is also another great place to visit on a Sunday (bottom left on the map). Every Sunday, the road and a number of halls on the road fills with stall sellers, selling everything from festival sunglasses with interchangeable lenses to an adult-sized peperami costume (no, seriously). They’ve also got, you know, normal stuff too, like books, vintage clothes, antiques and jewellery. They also have an incredible food market, selling food from all over the world for really reasonable prices. Brick Lane is also famous for its beigels, sort of like bagels, but they’re incredibly cheap and really delicious. There are also all sorts of different musicians that perform every week, from full live bands to a guy who beatboxes with a harmonica, and for those into art, there is a load of street art all along the road that photographers come to capture every day of the week. Again, just like with Colombia Road, the spectacle is worth seeing, even if you’re not a big fan of the sort of stuff they sell. Plus, outside the Sunday Market, Brick Lane is around every day. There are a huge number of shops including the Cereal Killer Cafe, a cafe that (you’ve guessed it) only sells cereal. There’s also an incredible chocolate shop called Dark Sugars that often hands out free samples (yum), loads of cafes, a bowling alley, a record shop and so, so much more.

Some of the street art along Brick Lane

Some of the street art along Brick Lane

The Thirst performing on Brick Lane

The Thirst performing on Brick Lane

Some more Brick Lane street art

Some more Brick Lane street art

Going from never really having anything to do, to having so much to do and see it’s almost overwhelming is a big change. Despite this, it’s sometimes easy to forget that I am living and studying in one of the biggest and most impressive cities in the world. In between studying I like to try and explore as much as I can and try and see something new. London caters for everything – last weekend I went to a cat cafe! And the crazy part is that that wasn’t even the first cat cafe I’ve ever been to, but TWO are also within walking distance from the uni. You think of it, London probably has it, and whilst I’m here I’m going to enjoy and do as much as I can, and potentially stay forever!

One of my favourite cats from Shoreditch's London Cat Village

One of my favourite cats from Shoreditch’s London Cat Village

That’s why I’m so grateful for the opportunity university has given me – to go and live somewhere new. If you’re not ready for that yet, you can always stay at home too (as long as you’ve got a university fairly nearby), but it’s nice having that freedom of choice. You can even choose to study abroad for something even more different! In fact, Queen Mary offers study abroad programmes and the Erasmus Programmes also offer this study abroad option. You can choose to move as little or as far away as you like, and I loved having that choice. Although it’s hard being away from home, London is a big transport hub, so it’s not too tricky to get home, even though I do have to get a boat! For now I’ll just go on exploring London in whatever free time I get – in fact I heard there’s a jungle themed cat cafe opening in West Hampstead…

Savvy city-dweller… or ignorant newbie?

Sometimes I feel like I’m a confident Londoner getting the grasp of the ins and outs of the city, but that’s usually when something happens to remind me of my own ineptitude. Last week, for instance, I was taking a bus to go visit the library when a woman sitting next to me asked if the bus was going to Oxford Circus. I said yes (it was the 25, I was going to Holborn) and we rode on comfortably until the bus stopped at Bank Station (an uncomfortable distance from either Oxford Circus or Holborn) and announced it would go no further. As we exited the woman looked at me with some reproach. I smiled uneasily and walked away as fast as I could.

I learned that day that just because a bus is going in the right direction, does not mean it will go the distance. Instead of getting on another bus, I decided to walk to my destination. I had no idea where it was, but I figured that if I walked the direction the bus had been traveling until I found a map, I would get there eventually. And, eventually (about an hour later), I did. It was a beautiful day, though bitterly cold, and I enjoyed being a little lost and finding some things around the city I might not otherwise have seen. I stumbled onto Fleet Street, for instance, and found some fantastic street art.


Being able to find my way, and without the aid of an Internet map on top of that, reestablished some of my confidence in my knowledge of where things are in London. So the following Sunday, after going with a friend to the Museum of Childhood (another amazing free London museum), I realized I recognized the area around Bethnal Green Station and thought I could find my way to the Columbia Road flower market, which happens every Sunday and is entirely delightful. I convinced my friend I could get us there and she bravely followed me down numerous twists and turns which I somewhat vaguely recognized. She started to get a little doubtful towards the end, but luckily we spotted a couple carting away a bundle of tulips, and knew we were headed in the right direction. We made it to the market just as they were closing up, and were able to sniff and admire the flowers in the fading sunlight.

That little adventure also offered up truly incredible art spray-painted on the walls of an ally, this time of bees. I’ve decided to never worry again about getting lost in London, as my lengthy detours always turn out to be worth it.


The Real Rewards of Studying in London


My whole life I was told to just get that little bit further with education. I’d always hear; “Just get your GCSE’s and it’ll be fine”, followed by; “After A-Levels, you can stop” and finally; “I swear university is the last step”. And as far as a formal education goes, it probably is the last stepping stone for most. And as far as educational institutes go, for me, it’s been the most enjoyable by a long shot.

Flat Party on top of London

If you’re looking for the traditional university experience, London is NOT for you. Because London doesn’t offer the traditional university experience, it offers something far greater than that. When you’ve finished your coursework for the week, where do you want to go? You local pub or the student union down the road? How about into one of the best cities in the world?

A city where the night is exactly what you make of it.

Spontaneous Night in Paris

Spontaneous Night in Paris

Last Saturday I committed to a small social experiment. If you’ve ever seen “Yes Man”, it followed the same concept, it’s a simple one.
Say Yes to everything.

Meeting celebrities mikill pane)

Meeting Celebrities (Mikill Pane)

Now to do that forever is difficult and impractical (I tried). But for one night, it was so much fun! We started at a Jazz Club in Dalston, before going through Shoreditch, Brick Lane and Whitechapel. We did the whole East End in one night!

I could talk about the spontaneous adventures I’ve had in London forever, but I think I’d labour my point.

In summary, London is a completely unique experience, it could be argued that it’s the best city in the world. Why wouldn’t you want to spend your prime years there?

I want to.

Thames Boat Party

Thames Boat Party

Hello . . .

My first blog post! I guess I’ll just make this a quick introduction. I’m Sami, and I’m a sophomore at Lafayette College in Easton, PA. I row and I’m attempting to make my comeback in football (aka soccer) after my untimely retirement two years ago. I’m studying History and Drama, and back home I also minor in Geology and help with Studio Art classes.

Today is Wednesday, which means I don’t have any classes. Wednesday afternoons are basically set aside for the sports clubs to train, and normally I would be at the London Regatta Centre right now however I’m sick once again and I’ve decided to rest a bit. Also, I’ve got concert tickets for Walk The Moon at Scala London tonight, and I do not want to miss it! Living here is great – I really miss being in a big city. I’m originally from Singapore, but I moved to the states when I was about 7 years old – hence my obvious American accent. I actually moved to Easton, PA and haven’t left since . . . so basically coming to London was my big escape from the town!

As far as classes go, I’m really enjoying the classes I took, especially for this term. I’m taking two final year history courses: Cold War America and Film History of Post-War America. My drama course is a Group Practical Project and it has been amazing so far! It’s a lot of fun, and we’re putting on a performance in May for it. I’m looking forward to the rest of term too – especially for the Boat Race in March! Then training week in April, maybe a bit of travel, and finals in May! I’ll be going back home in August just before my junior year starts.

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