In a rather impulsive decision, I decided to extend my 3 hour lay-over in London to a 28 hour express visit. How much of London can you experience in a day? A lot. Especially when you have a good friend who lives in London, offers to be your tour guide and give you a place to crash for the night.
By the time I got to his place and he shook off his hangover and I woke myself up fully from the travel daze it was 11AM and time to get walking. We started our walking tour at the London Bridge and spent about three hours touring the main sites in London: the tower bridge, the tower of London, South Shore, the Globe theatre, St Paul's Cathedral, Big Ben and Winchester Abbey. I opted out of Buckingham. I'm not so into the royals unless maybe to go for drinks with Harry and the chances of that happening were slim to say the least.
Instead, I asked him to take me to some of his favourite places to hang out. We started our culture tour with a visit to the Sunday market in the East London neighbourhood of Shoreditch. There are two sides to this coin: the tidy and organized Old Spitalfields Market and the slightly more chaotic and less shiny market The UpMarket. Both have independent food, fashion and craft/art vendors and are really fun to have a walk through. Also, I double dog dare you to check out the far side of the UpMarket and not get anything to eat. Seriously, I can't remember the last time I was surrounded by that much deliciousness.
We grabbed a snack and then headed up the street lined with vintage stores, musicians, street art and all of the London fashion you see in magazines, but never thought people actually wore. I loved it! Call it hipster if you will, but I think it's great to have people feeling free to express themselves.
We headed back to the Stratford area of London which received a major revamp with the summer Olympics. We headed past the O2 arena and down a path that lead us to The White Building. The White Building is designed to serve as a local hub of creativity with workspace and classes available. However, we were more interested in the music, pizza and beer provided by the Crate Brewery. Delicious! But perhaps the most interesting thing to me was the canal culture. We sat on the patio watching the canal boats cruise by, some of which would pull up to the patio to join the party. It all just seemed so easy. There were people of all ages, all different kinds of styles and boats and no one seemed to pay any mind to any of it. I loved it.
So if you're in London and are looking to get away from all the main tourist attractions, be sure to check out the Sunday UpMarket and the Crate Brewery.