MY CITY: LONDON
NAME: JULIE LINDEN
Why London: I visit London to find good stories, grab a drink with friends and simply because it’s one of the greatest cities on earth. And because of the obvious: the city pulse, metropolitan feel, shopping and musicals… But don’t forget the less obvious – dare to go outside the inner city comfort zone and discover new territory. London is so much more than Oxford Street, Primark and Harrods!
My first memory: I first came to London when I was around 17 years old. One of the highlights was taking a very realistic picture with the wax figure of Tom Cruise at Madame Tussaud’s (holding his hand, of course). Rummaging around the food section of Harrods was also a treat.
My romantic memory: Beyond holding Tom Cruise’s hand? Hmm, laidback dinners in pubs go a long way.
My favourite place to eat: Hands down one of the weekend markets – go to Camden market and go crazy on cheap and good food from every corner of the world. £5 is usually the top price for a meal. www.camden-market.org
What do you eat there? Real Mexican quesadillas, Indian poppadum and spicy Thai.
Meet the locals: Definitely a pub. Find one outside the main tourist areas, grab a pint of choice and you’re in.
My favourite bar: The Cuban in Camden is amazing – and the mojitos are for real… www.thecuban.co.uk
Best place for a first date? Depends on the person you’re dating, but I’d suggest one of the many beautiful parks for a walk and talk with takeaway coffee, before a dinner somewhere in Covent Garden.
My secret place: The Folly. Great restaurant, café and bar right by Monument tube station. Nice atmosphere no matter the time of day – always a safe card. Another secret is the area around Borough, just by the south side of London Bridge. Here you’ll find quaint little cafés and shops, plus a big food market that will have you hungry (and then stuffed) in no time. www.thefollybar.co.uk www.boroughmarket.org.uk
My best advice: London is so much more than all the tourist traps. Don’t make your stay one long queue. Find a map, google around and find some cafés, restaurants and/or bars to visit outside the very city centre. Try a rooftop one for a great view!
My favourite shop: Wow, do you want the novel or just the short story? For “routine” shopping – try one of the Westfield shopping centres. All the big chains and more under one roof. For more personal gifts, try Spitalfields market. Here you’ll find everything from the handmade and unique to the mass produced and boring. You’ll soon learn how to spot the difference. www.uk.westfield.com/london/ www.spitalfields.co.uk
My funniest buy: All the signs I’ve bought at various markets that hang on my walls and make my room mine – my favourite is “coffee makes it possible to get out of bed – chocolate makes it worthwhile”. Camden and Spitalfields close to Brick Lane are the places to find them.
Taxi or other local transport: Taxis in London are dependable and often come with a chatty driver happy to tell you a good story or two. Other than that the tube is your obvious choice.
Keep away of..: Oxford Street. Always. And. Forever. I don’t care how good of a reason you have to go – just don’t.
My earliest travel memory? Disneyland Paris, and the “It’s a small world” ride. In many ways that ride is my life in a nutshell. I know my sister feels the same way.
Where next: I will meet up with my father, brother and stepmother in Bangkok. After that it’s back to London – before I go to Veneto to work on my journalism dissertation in January! I’m like Dory in “Finding Nemo”. Just keep swimming, just keep swimming… Though hopefully, a lot better at remembering the places I visit!