7 Less Touristy-y Things to Do in London

less touristy things london.jpg

Whenever I go away to places, I like to try and find actual advice from people who live there. I think it’s really cool to try and get more authentic idea for what the place is like, and it’s one of my favourite parts of travelling! I also think London is pretty cool, and I think it has some really underrated activities, so I thought it would be fun to share some things that I like to do up and about town. 😀

1. Do a scavenger hunt

If you’re with a group of people and have some time to kill, them scavenger hunts are a super way to get out and about! You can find a selection for different areas and themes here, and once you’ve picked one you’re good to go. As well as little tasks like finding street names or counting things on the outside of buildings, the hunts that I have done also give you some information about the area you’re in. You can check the ones that i have used here — you have to buy them, but it’s not much, especially split between a group. There are also some free ones here!

 2. Visit the Southbank Centre

In general there are just SO MANY good things to do spread all along the south bank of the river. Stuff happens in the Southbank Centre all year long, from the Festival of Love to fountains to Women of the World to the Christmas market. The National Theatre nearby has some great shows — if you haven’t booked you can queue up on Friday mornings (I think?) for tickets if there are any left, or try and get a Friday Rush one — as well as some free things to look at and somewhere warm to sit. You might also want to pay a visit to the Globe Theatre, BFI, Tate Modern, or second hand book fair thing. Just. SO MUCH STUFF NEAR THE SOUTHBANK. It’s always on my list for a day out!

3. Go to a book event

I am an ENDLESS ADVOCATE for book events! I love them! They’re normally really cheap or sometimes even free, and they really give me something to look forward to. I don’t think everyone always knows that they exist, so…? Of course it depends on which events are on and whether they coincide with your visit, but a quick browse on the Waterstones website will do you no harm. (Basically all the events I attend are run by Waterstones, since they tend to have the YA ones. But there’s other stuff out there too, including various cons!)

 4. Enjoy some art at the Tate(s)

I know I already mentioned Southbank, but there was too much squeezed into that short space and I LIKE ART THINGS. Some things are better than others at the Tate — the descriptions can tend to overanalyse a bit in my opinion post-capitalist modern critique or whatever I DON’T CAAARE @ CONCEPT ART but there’s so much choice as well as great permanent collections. The buildings are well worth a visit on their own, too! Tate Modern is home to the Turbine Hall which has different installations inside, and the new Switch House building is cool too. If you visit the Tate Britain then your #claimtofame can be standing at the site of Lauren Aquilina’s live Echoes video, ayy. 😉 At the moment Tate Modern has a really good Rauschenberg exhibition, by the way! I like going to see art just on a day out because I don’t feel any pressure to analyse it or whatever; I just like to try and enjoy it and consider how it makes me feel.

5. Visit Covent Garden

Covent Garden has a bunch of shops, from the wonderfully cute Moomin shop to the Whittard’s tea shop where I normally just go around testing EVERY SINGLE ITEM in their cute plastic glasses. (I have actually bought stuff from Whittards so I don’t feel too bad. It is fun to taste all their things.) Sometimes there’s street performers or market-y stalls, and in general it’s just a nice place to visit! There are also some cool quirky shops around the general Covent Garden/Seven Dials area such as Tofu Cute and Tatty Devine.

6. Do a fandom tour

London is the home to lots of cool fandom things! Of course it depends what you’re into, but some internet searching can prove very useful should you want to explore some fannish London locations. For Harry Potter, you can go on a self-guided tour or an actual professional walking tour, which  really sounds like a job I should be applying for haha. A Doctor Who tour is available (though I hear it’s more focused on Classic Who), and as well as visiting the Sherlock Holmes museum you can take a look at one of the Sherlock tours. (That link is really good; it has locations for a self-guided one as well as organised tours.)

7. Trawl through the bookshops of Charing Cross Road

Charing Cross Road is well known for its second hand bookshops — even if some of the prices might make your eyes water, it’s so atmospheric to look around them at all the old books. (I love old book smells.) Sometimes you can find real gems! ayyy my 19th century copy of Les Mis The really big Foyles is also there if you want a different selection to Waterstones, and Forbidden Planet is around the corner on Shaftesbury Avenue. 🙂

have you been to london? done any of these things? do you have any underrated activities for where you live?

what’s it like in new york city?

new york

As you guys might know, I was lucky enough to visit New York over Easter! This was a really big trip for me, and I was crazy excited beforehand. And now I am lying in bed and listening to Hey There Delilah on repeat. But whilst I was away I wrote in my travel diary — yes, I did actually remember, gasp — and I thought it would be fun to share everything I did! (To flail about New York, mostly.)

To reduce the chance of me relaying every single detail down to you in a very very long post, I put my pics + words into some handy little categories.

➝ sights & art (statue of liberty, ellis island, empire state building, moma, the met, the guggenheim, the natural history museum)
➝ wanderings (the west village, lower east side, new york public library, the high line, various cute shops)
➝ broadway (the phantom of the opera, fun home)
➝ events (winner’s kiss launch with marie rutkoski & renée ahdieh, mocca fest)

sights & art

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The Guggenheim Museum

We got a pass which allowed us to go to most of the major sites & museums for a slightly reduced price each. Except for the Empire State Building, the queues were actually pretty good and we got to see some amazing buildings + views! I hadn’t known the Statue of Liberty was a gift from a French guy, so that was cool to find out. (Even if the audioguide narrator was intensely irritating. Please go away, Cynthia.) There was a museum about immigration on the nearby Ellis Island — we had to take a ferry between Manhattan + Liberty Island + Ellis Island. It was an immigration centre until about the 1950s, so we got to hear a lot about immigrants coming over to America.P1000237[1]

 

THE ART WAS HONESTLY SO COOL GUYS. I saw Van Gogh’s Starry Night! IN PERSON!! There were so many famous works of art, particularly in MoMA & The Met — argh, it was absolutely amazing. I wish we’d had more time to look around. The Guggenheim had a slightly odd main exhibition but the building was stunning. The Natural History Museum was pretty similar to the one here in London, but we saw a beautiful video with photography of National Parks in the USA.

wanderings

We were staying in the West Village, which is basically where Manhattan starts to become a lot less grid-like. I hadn’t realised the city was so near the water! Because mostly the streets are straight, you can see water at most points — it was really cool. And the area we were staying was lovely and old, as well as being home to a) the flat from Friends and b) a house from Sex and the City. I don’t watch either but there was a surprising amount of people taking photos.

 

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New York Public Library, AKA the prettiest library I have ever seen
The West Village is also at the end of the High Line, which is a park walkway along an disused railway track above the city. IT WAS SO COOL. I can imagine it would be absolutely boiling in summer.

 

There were various cute shops around, like a lovely stationery one, and we also passed the Stonewall Inn. (Overall very cool.) I visited Strand Books, which had SUCH high bookshelves and asdfjkl it was amazing. I was definitely wrong in thinking that books are cheaper in the US, though. Most of the books on the shelves were hardbacks! Whereas here the hardbacks are mostly reserved for display.

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Wall Street. Ahaha.

The other area we spent some time in was Lower East Side, where we took an all too brief visit to the Tenement Museum. We ended up there having taken the wrong subway to Brooklyn Bridge, but we decided to wander around anyways.

broadway (!!!)

So. No, I did not see Hamilton whilst I was in New York. Trust me, no one’s more sad about it than I am. I tried super hard to get tickets, but they were completely sold out except for $2000 dollar resales and I didn’t win any of the lotteries.

P1000221[1]HOWEVER I did go and see two other stunning shows! I GOT MY BROADWAY EXPERIENCE GUYS. The first one was Phantom of the Opera, which I’d listened to but not in great detail. It was on a pretty loud train journey and even from the start of the show I knew that I’d missed a lot. The set was so cool and asdfjkl the Phantom’s mask and PARIS and GHOSTS and OPERA it was all amazing.

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The other show I went to see is Fun Home! Fun Home was pretty different from Phanton — I mean, it isn’t really your classic Broadway musical. It was set in the round, and the songs aren’t exactly your tradition Andrew Lloyd Webber style. But I think I actually preferred this… I mean, I’ve talked about it a lot. It’s based on Alison Bechdel’s autobiographical graphic novel Fun Home, and there are three Alisons (child, college, and now) throughout the show. There are upbeat songs and super gay songs and sad songs. I just…I really want to be back there watching it.

 events

In addition to those Broadway shows, I also went to two events! That was a book event at the bookshop McNally Jackson with Marie Rutkoski and Renee Ahdieh. I actually was sitting next to two of Marie’s college students which was pretty cool. (Can I get please an author as a teacher?) I got both authors to sign my books and eep it was very fun and they were lovely.

I also went to MoCCA Fest, which was a sort of mini-con for illustrators! I did already talk about it in my March Favourites, but it was sososo amazing to have Noelle Stevenson sign my stuff eek. I was slightly overcome with adoration. There was a TON of other awesome art (including lady knights, which is my aesthetic) (have you seen Morgana in armour? HAVE YOU?) and asdfjkl it was very fun.

I’ve basically been jetlagged for the last two weeks, but I WOULDN’T GIVE NEW YORK UP AT ALL.

are you filled with wanderlust like me? any places you’d love to visit? any new york themed-songs to share!?

La Vie Parisienne

la vie parisienne

If you missed my incessant flailing over the last few months: I WENT TO PARIS!

squeals

If I ever learn French and aren’t bankrupt then I am SO MOVING TO PARIS. I’m honestly so in love with it – I’m still in love with London, but Paris. I just want to sit in a café eating croissants and writing sappy poetry in cursive script for ever and ever. The architecture makes me weep. It was just such a lovely place to visit – if you squinted, maybe some parts could be London, but it felt a lot more…warm. Like cartridge paper in comparison to printer paper? SEE, PARIS JUST MAKES ME WANT TO WRITE SAPPY POETRY. God.

I went with Girlguides i.e. a large group of fellow excitable girls – we usually go camping, but we went upmarket this year?! *shrugs* I’m not complaining. 😛 I was especially excited for this trip because I recently fell head over heels for Les Mis, and about half the book takes place in Paris. There’s a great Les Mis in Paris tour that I took with me, if you want to visit any of the sites in the book! My misplaced French patriotism was really having a moment. (VIVE LA FRAAAANCE!)

les mis paris

We took the Eurostar from St Pancras, where I stalked the bookshops and flailed because ‘Lauren Aquilina played on that piano’. My friend attempted to teach me backgammom, but it was the teensiest magnetic version known to man. I was an utter failure. By the time we arrived at the rather fancy youth hostel near Gare du Nord, I was a strange combination of ridiculously excited and dead tired? I don’t recommend it.

paris The first day was pretty much the only day we woke up promptly. We headed down to the river to look for the boat-bus. Whilst we were waiting, we took photos of all the love locks on the Passerelle de Solférino bridge. I got very excited by Paris architecture, because have you seen the buildings in Paris today. They’re so beautiful. Curling balconies feature greatly.

love locks solferino paris

We took the BatoBus (what have they done to you, lovely French bateaux?!) > up to the Natural History Museum and wandered around the gardens eating lunch and getting lost. After that, we took our sweltering selves back on the horrific pun of a boat-bus and went up to the Eiffel Tower!
paris eiffel tower
We didn’t actually go up the tower, but I took a ton of photos and basked in my general Paris feels. The fountain across the bridge started to look very inviting. Though you I’m sure you weren’t supposed to, we paddled in it anyway. I figured it was one of those things like climbing the lions in Trafalgar Square: you’re technically not supposed to, but everyone does it anyway.

The second morning was filled with a tour of the Paris sewers. That sounds gross but, ya know, feel some sympathy for Jean Valjean. (Thank you, Victor Hugo, for the lengthy description of the sewers using information from your friend Bruneseau.) (Actually, it’s a pretty great historical reference. And sewers can be exciting too.) They had a part of French Les Mis in the gift shop, so I took a photo of that next to the copy I was carrying with me. Everyone told me I was mad but I WAS I PARIS and I’d be darned if I wasn’t going to carry my book to weep over. (Anyway, all the best people are mad.)

pontoon island paris sewersWe had lunch on some lovely mini forest island pontoons down the road, and I sang a lot of Les Mis. Afterwards we visited the Arc du Triomphe – weird stuff happened and we weren’t allowed to buy tickets as a group so we didn’t go up it, but I looked at all the fancy flowers and names. EEK IT WAS SO BEAUTIFUL. Later on we went to the fountain again, and most people got…well, utterly soaked. We were rocking the drowned rat look. 😉

paris arc du triomphe

However fashionable drowned rat look may be, isn’t actually that great for travelling on the Metro. It was really cool to see the Underground-y system somewhere else – THE CARRIAGES WERE DIFFERENT AND LIKE ACTUAL CARRIAGES and also you had to open the door yourself so, like, sometimes you could jump off whilst the train was still slightly moving. The wonderfully safe things we did. (I think the line we took back to our youth hostel wasn’t the most well-looked-after, though. Some of the others were less dishevelled.)

paris sacre coeurWe might have missed going up the Arc du Triomphe but we did visit the Sacre Coeur! It’s at the top of a hill – as well as a horrific amount of steps, yeuch – so the view over Paris is pretty great. Another 300 steps up the tower and PANORAMA HEAVEN. There was also a weird amount of graffiti up there. I didn’t know whether to scream in anger or empathise because…you know, I can see it would be a romantic place to ask someone to prom. (I kid not. Someone had scratched ‘Prom?’ into the wall.)
paris louvre
After a somewhat distressing shopping break where we managed to lose my friend (never fear, we found her), we returned to the youth hostel for lunch. Later that afternoon, we set out to the Louvre and for a birthday dinner. We actually had two birthdays on our trip, which I thought was rather impressive timing.

It was our final day so I thought I wasn’t going to be able to see any sites on my Les Mis tour, but it turned out that we were eating just round the corner from the site of the Corinthe/barricade! Yep. THAT BARRICADEEEE. *screams*

les mis barricade film

In the movie/musical, the Musain is mushed with the Corinthe, but they’re different places.

I think I passed on some excitement to my friend
I think I passed on some excitement do my friend
Where the Corinthe would have stood
Where the Corinthe would have stood
Me being excitable and flappy
Me being excitable and flappy

paris notre dame

That definitely deserved full size photos, right? LES MIS TAKES PRIORITY OVER THE EIFFEL TOWER. Duh. 😛 Anyway, we followed that on with a trip to the Notre Dame – we were looking for a lights show, but after watching a film about organists for half an hour we realised this was a complete lie. So that was a great success, haha. It was fine, though, because then we all got glowsticks and started a flashmob with a street performer in the square. *coughs* All casual-like. (I’ll never be able to listen to Cheerleader again, argh.)

Unfortunately, that was the end of my trip! PARIS, MY LOVE, I SHALL SEE THEE AGAIN. NEVER FEAR. *sheds a single tear* Maybe I’ll join in with all the weddings and get married to Paris. 😉 (Though, of course, London remains in my heart too.) I had the most amazing time, and there was so much still to explore. If I ever get the chance, I would definitely visit again!

Have you ever been to Paris? Are there any places you’re just dying to visit? Would you want to see more London-y things on my blog? TELL ME ALL THE TRAVEL FEELS. 😀

P.S. Here’s the final call for my blog survey! Seriously, I will send you love and cookies forever if you fill it out.

Snooping Around #3: Sam Wanamaker Playhouse

Exams are still being pesky little things, so apologies. Here, in light of the somewhat depressing General Election news – have a nice post of me fangirling about architecture!

snooping around

Snooping Around is my somewhat erratic series where I spot cool things on my travels and share them with you.

If you’ve heard of Shakespeare (because Shakespeare) then you might have at least heard of the Globe in passing. It was the theatrical home of many of Shakespeare’s plays, and it’s still there to attend shows – although the current one is a reconstruction. Much of its rebuilding is due to an American actor and director called – you guessed it – Sam Wanamaker. (Yes! Parent of the actress who played Madam Hooch! My ability to reference fandoms in supposedly serious posts is never ending 😉 )

sam wanamaker playhouse2

The project took over 20 years and was finished in 1992, the year before he died. We don’t really know if it’s an exact representation, but it’s still an awesome place to go and see some theatre.

sam wanamaker playhouseWhilst the Globe is a bundle of fun, it isn’t actually my focus today. Instead, I wanted to talk about slightly newer building: the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. It’s been a work in progress for some time; the shell of the theatre was built during the reconstruction of the Globe and before construction for the Playhouse began was used for workshops. It’s based on Jacobean theatre drawings originally thought to be by Inigo Jones by now known to be the work of John Webb. And look! It’s. Candlelit.

Not only is this awesome because, hello, interior decoration and dramatic chandeliers, but it also means that you don’t get wet whilst going to see a production. Hopefully it’ll allow the Globe to continue their performances even through the rather unwelcoming British weather. All that groundling business is lovely, but it isn’t awfully comfortable. (Plus, it means a lot of interesting stage effects and asdfjkl awesomeness.)

Just being inside the theatre is an experience. It’s above the kind of shop/modern area of the Globe, but walking inside is absolutely insane. It’s just…ARGH. Amazing. I’ve only been to one show – that was the Passion Play, but it was with cool lady God and Singing in the Rain Noah’s Ark and the spread of Christianity as a hand clapping game, so – but I’d love to go again. I don’t know if they let you inside just to take a look (I don’t think they allowed photos), but if you’re ever in the area then I’d recommend. Maybe buy a manga Shakespeare play whilst you’re at it, because why not? 😛

Have you seen any cool buildings recently?

HyperJapan | Homesick??

WARNING: this post is pretty picture heavy!

I don’t think I’ve said this, but I used to live in Japan, between the ages of 3 and 7. It’s not that much compared to how long I’ve been back in England, but I do think my time there helped form me as a person.

A lot of things have been coming up recently that remind me of Japan: frequent trips to sushi restaurants, my friend eventually getting me to watch some anime, being bought some of those Chocolate Koala things I used to eat, re-watching The Wind Rises, and some of my friends actually going to Japan (!). This isn’t really the right word, but I guess I was feeling kind of…homesick?

You’re no doubt wondering how I could be homesick whilst at home, and I’m not really sure myself. We haven’t been back to Japan since my return for the start of Year 2, and basically I just really, really want to go back. I’m probably looking at things through rose-tinted glasses, though; most of my friends moved away after the tsunami and earthquake, and it’s just not the same when you go there as a tourist. Still… NB: I’m actually feeling okay now 🙂

Anyway, I usually visit the Japanese Matsuri, a free market sort of event, in late September, but for some reason we missed it this year. To make up for it, I took a trip to a different event called HyperJapan with my awesome friend Anna. I didn’t buy that much, but I took a lot of leaflets so that I can visit their shops or online shops myself in a less busy environment. But, seriously, look at those cat ears! THEY’RE HAIRCLIPS. BUT ALSO CAT EARS.

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Hyper japan haul

 

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you who celebrated it yesterday! Have you guys ever felt homesick at home?

(And guys, I’m sorry about the state of my blog. It pains me to see it so aesthetically displeasing. IT WILL BE FIXED SOON I PROMISE!)