Disclaimer: This post might be kind of boring.
I awoke at 4:15 AM on the morning of my flight from Reykjavik to London. Strategically re-packed my backpack, pulled on its rain cover, stepped into my boots and headed out into the pouring, freezing Icelandic morning in pitch darkness. I had my pepper spray in one hand and a damp (soon soggy) paper map in the other, my hiking pack on my back and my Camelbak – nicely balancing me out – on my front. I left with a good 35 minutes to find the bus station, which was supposedly only a 25 minute walk. I trudged along quite quickly, despite the high wind, pouring rain, and weight of my bags, and after just a few missed turns, found my airport shuttle bus behind Reykjavik’s fluorescently lit bus depot.
At this time, I thanked myself for making these excellent pre-adventure purchases:
- rain coat that was out of my price range
- waterproof adventure shoe-boots
- rain covers for both my hiking pack and my Camelbak
Waterproof gear: Frequently required on this big, cold island in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Exhausted, with soaking legs but dry everywhere else, I boarded my shuttle, made it to the airport, and safely departed for Gatwick as the sun began to melt the mist off Iceland.
Once we landed, I navigated my way from the airport to the train, then the underground to reach central London. I had about five hours to kill before my Couch Surfing (CSing) host, Wilson, was available to meet me, so I did a little exploring and ate my first non-Icelandic meal in 8 days (quite happily, might I add).
After sleeping only about 3 hours the night before and then lugging my packs around on foot all day, I was excited to finally meet Wilson and change out of my travel clothes. I made my way to Bethnal Green in East London, and Wilson and I eventually found each other and we walked the five minutes to his flat.
I’ll pause here to note that Wilson was an incredible host. My CSing experience in Reykjavik had been pretty weird (though still totally safe), so I was relieved to find Wilson’s home tidy, and his demeanor friendly and welcoming. Thanks, Wilson!
After I chilled out for a bit, Wilson and I walked from Bethnal Green down to Brick Lane, a quirky, edgy area bursting with art galleries, vintage shops, pubs, and Indian restaurants, all covered with incredible and, according to Wilson, ever-changing graffiti:
We also walked down a side street to see one of Banksy‘s pieces:
Wilson introduced me to several of his favorite places, and we enjoyed some beer and vegetable chala before heading back for the night. At dinner, Wilson and I exchanged (albeit brief) life stories, and I learned of his incredible adventures in Portugal, New Zealand, Australia, and beyond. I knew I’d struck CSing gold with this fellow camper and adventurer!
Thursday, I had the day to myself to explore on foot, so I left Wilson’s after a long sleep and trekked back over to Brick Lane with no plans other than a map of the London tube with several “stops of interest” circled in pencil by my helpful host.
I walked and walked, wandering in and out of art galleries and coffee shops.
I eventually found myself closer to central London, right in front of the famous Gherkin.
Next I made my way to Camden Town, to explore the markets, the canal, and a vegan café Wilson had recommended called inSpiral. inSpiral is awesome. They have a live DJ all day, and everyone working there had dreads and tattoos, and all the food looked (and was) amazing. Still exhausted from the day before, and seeking shelter from the sudden rain, I enjoyed soup, coffee and hot chocolate and finished up my last post on Iceland.
Eventually I meandered through the ridiculously massive maze that is Camden Market. Vendors were selling everything imaginable, and it’s a good thing that 1. I have to be careful with money and 2. Anything I buy, I have to lug around in my pack. This kept me from making any unnecessary purchases.
But, I’d lost one of my favorite silver snake earrings, so I broke down and bought a bird to replace it:
After Wilson got out of work, we met and explored central, downtown London together in the dark. I always find cities prettier at night, and Wilson had just picked up his new iPhone, so we were both excited to take pictures of the sights.
We started the night with beers at Oxo Tower Bar, a fancy place on the top floor of the Oxo Tower with a view of the city (and I once again awkwardly found myself as the only person in the room wearing what I have come to call Adventure Apparel…read: treads, dirt, sturdy, layers, not at all “posh” bar attire). Whatever, the hot bartender didn’t seem to care…(or he did and that was actually the stink eye!)
Following some simple Italian food, Wilson took me to one of his favorite pubs – Gordon’s, London’s oldest wine bar, which is underground, and partly in a cellar. It was really cool.
We drank some really delicious Spanish Malbec before heading home to sleep.