Big Ben, Westminster, London Bridge, blah, blah, blah. The list of sights to see in this city goes on and on. You walk up, see tons of people in front of some old, classic building, take a picture, then walk away. Googling an image of Westminster Abbey is more fulfilling than waiting in line for tickets with fat German tourists. But, let's start from the beginning.
I arrived after an amazing stint in one of the most livable and comfortable cities in the world - Copenhagen. London, on the other hand, is jam-packed with people racing around the city, bumping into you on every corner. Similar to New York, the tube is cramped and sweaty, where everyone looks miserable. But coming from LA, I actually enjoy the tube and the feeling of being in a "real" city.
Things took a turn for the worse when I checked into my hostel, which somehow had a 90% rating - six people cramped in a tiny, hot room, half of whom don't speak any English, where the bathroom smelled like mold, and this one dude coughed his lungs up all night. A nightmare.
After getting maybe an hour of sleep, I went to the front desk at 6am, demanded my money back, and started looking for another place to stay. I still have no idea how I got so lucky, but one of my best friends was staying at the Four Seasons by Hyde Park with his family and was nice enough to let me crash there for the rest of my stay in London.
Let's just say it was a little bit nicer than my hostel - complimentary chauffeur service in a Bentley, marble floors in the room, rooftop views of the city, a gym (my body has been falling apart while traveling), and a spa with some sort of magic hot tub massaging jets with a bed inside of it. Ah, the good life.
Having all been to London before, we realized that other than the sights, there wasn't much to do. The city is so big, like LA, that you really need to have it planned out or know locals who can take you to the best spots. After a day of hanging out and drinking in the park and trying to find a good party in SoHo (which just feels like you're partying in Times Square), we had almost given up on London - it felt too similar to America too much like a regular city.
The real energy of the city, lies in East London, which is where we spent the last couple of days. Shoreditch is filled with a much younger crowd, tons of rooftop bars, street art, parks, and live bands. Now, this is my kind of city. Just a 20 minute ride from the center of the city, and you're in a whole new world, packed with much more life and culture.
The thing I loved most about this area, was the fact that by 5pm, when everyone was done with work, literally every single bar, restaurant, and cafe was packed with twenty-somethings just taking a load off. I don't know if this is just me, but in LA I'd fallen victim to a static weekly routine: wake up, go to work, go to gym, maybe meet for a drink in a half empty bar but most likely just watch TV and sleep, then repeat. Maybe I'm doing it all wrong. Maybe New York is different. But all I know, is that I was completely jealous of this lifestyle. Take my favorite place, for example, Red Market - it's a huge outdoor venue called Red Market, that opens at 5pm and serves pints of beer, has a bunch of ethnic food stands, huge wooden tables and beach chairs to sit in, and a DJ or band to boot. It gave me the same feeling I get when I'm at a music festival with friends, just relaxing outside and forgetting the real world for a while.
The East London Hit List - If you go to London, skip the city and head here: -Ozone Coffee -Hoxton Park -Dishoom -Box Park -Red Market -Ace Hotel -Brick Lane -If all else fails, look up - there will probably be a rooftop bar somewhere around you.