London Feeling: What is our capital like to a foreign tourist?

Ever wondered what it’s like to holiday in the UK, from a non-citizen’s perspective? In the way that we appreciate the novelty of sunshine, perhaps someone who doesn’t reside in the UK would find charm in our island, despite its temperamental weather. Do they notice things that we take for granted? I spoke to Megan Bradley, who moved to France nine years ago for her perspective.

“In October 2011, I had the opportunity to visit London for a few days with my friend, Elena. I wanted to get away for a while and experience the city, because living in the French countryside can get a little bit boring on times. To be honest there isn’t much more to see than grass and cows back home.

We left on the first Saturday of the half-term holidays and took a flight to Heathrow. That in its self came as a bit of a shock, having left the tiny airport in France only a couple of hours previously, with a minimal security check and nothing more. [I can verify this, I once landed at her local airport, to find baggage claim in what can only be described as a corrugated shed, twenty steps from the plane].

Fresh off the plane, the first thing we did was purchase a Cornish Pasty, because you can’t get them in France. I sat with Elena, and the pasty, on the Airport steps watching the world go by. We took the Tube back to the flat we were staying in which turned out to be eventful. Picture my suitcase, a woman’s foot being squashed and the glaring and swearing that ensued. However we eventually made it to Elena’s relatives. The first thing that struck me was feeling claustrophobic at so many houses and people crowded together. It was a stark contrast to the little village I live in, and the wide open spaces.

Being a seventeen year old girl, the schedule for our trip pretty much went; shopping, shopping then shopping. Of course we started at fashion mecca; Topshop, Oxford Circus. I nearly blew my budget in the multi-storey style haven so we decided it was best to head somewhere cheaper. The massive Primark was great, as was dinner at Pizza Hut, neither of which we have back home. One of my favourite things about London, and the UK in general is that how everyone dares to wear new things. One of the biggest drawbacks in France, or at least where I live is that wearing anything other than pumps and skinnies leaves you ostracized.

The next day was Camden Market which was amazing. For anyone who hasn’t been, it is basically a treasure trove of interconnecting stalls and warehouses that back onto the river. You had to duck under hanging t-shirts and navigate the endless labyrinth of antiques and imported leather. I bought loads of vintage clothing at brilliant prices and Elena even found a pair of Dr. Martens for less than thirty quid. We also went to Portobello Road where you could find an entire outfit for a fiver. It was just a great atmosphere with so many cultures entwined together.

On the penultimate night we went to China Town and tried to really embrace the experience. We ate with chopsticks and picked all the food that we wouldn’t normally dream of touching. Pig hoofs and frogs aren’t exactly delicious but at least we gave it ago. I think that is the wonderful thing about travelling. When you are at home you aren’t forced to take the leap, and you often don’t discover the wonderful things that you would if you were abroad. My advice is to try and be a tourist in your own town. It is important to try new things in a new place, but what about looking for new things in a place that you are used to?

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