The verdict on London: hectic yet cultural
Three days in London, plenty of free time, and the beautiful first weeks of a student loan. What more could anyone want? Well, the ability to make decisions, perhaps.
My first impression of the city was an almost unbelievable one; a train arriving on time seemed too unfeasible to be true, and the packed entrance to Euston station felt too packed and franchise filled to be practical. Despite the temping offer of "delicious" food, I knew in my heart the bill wouldn't be so sweet and I swallowed a mouthful of fume filled air to try and batter my hunger, casting my eyes above the busy square to hunt down the yellow print of a "way out" sign.
Before reaching the aesthetically appealing Generator hostel I stumbled upon a treasure of the past - a red telephone box, of which I fondly remember the days when their magic powers put the corner of a beach in Wales in touch with family in the Midlands. It would appear they've changed over the years though, as this painted black edition offered precious WiFi, posters cluttering the inside and a half beaten phone that seemed to be of more sentimental effect than actual purpose.
Once checked in, Camden was set as the destination, with its much talked about market living up to almost every word written about it, though I confess I was a little disappointed with the lack of stallholders trying to cajole me into parting with my money. Despite having never knowingly finished a burrito, I dished out £5.50 on a particularly delicious one, and carried on perusing the stalls, as easy to get lost in as a huge Debenhams store.
Of course, I'm ultimately a student, and the rest of the evening dissolved into drinks which began at a delightful Wetherspoons by Camden Lock and finished with an expensive but elegantly created mojito at the hostel leaving me so tired that my reaction to the 1am fire alarm was strong apathy.
An early start the next day saw a large group of us battle the Tube at rush hour to reach Westminster just as Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham made his way into work. After a truly inspiring and passionate talk from Stoke-on-Trent North's MP Ruth Smeeth, a determined woman with empowering views about the place of women in politics, and an accompanying talk during which her assistant Glen Watson recognised me from previous political interest, our eyes were set on Trafalgar square - and lunch.
Amid an underground gallery we found a National Trust-esque café, and despite the price I found myself baffled that anyone would choose to opt for a franchise junk meal whilst in one of the world's most cultural cities. Breaking away from the crowd I took half an hour to explore the National Gallery, pleasantly surprised to find one of my favourite works, Rokeby Venus by Diego Velázquez, on display although my all time favourite, La maja desnuda by Goya, was hiding in a paying exhibition.
A recent transfer from Music Journalism and Broadcasting to my university's straightforward Journalism course (though that might be an oxymoron), I made my way from Trafalgar Square back to where the day began by the river. Along this wander I was struck by the thought that London could be easily mistaken for an open air museum, or at best, a congregation of tourist attractions joined at the hip with real life crammed in between and underground. Reaching my destination I browsed the sights that lay along Millbank - most notably, I took a peek through the daunting doors of No.4, home to a health food hangout for broadcasters covering Westminster events. I eventually concluded I was as likely to actually go inside as I was spot someone I recognised by idly hanging around the area, so turned to my music roots and embraced the confusion of the Tube to make my way out to a music venue in Holloway.
Although the original Nambucca burnt down in December 2008 (it was rebuilt two years later) and the place is empty when I get there, with even the lone member of staff departing every so often, I relished the history that comes part and parcel with the building - all accompanied by a pint of Stowford Press, my go-to cider I see all too infrequently stocked. A handful of white leather booths, authentic wooden bar stools and café style furniture gave the place an intimate feel, with neon lights and vinyl on the walls completing the vintage meets retro look. It wasn't my first pub of the city that I'd headed to with a musical motive, the previous night landing me at Camden's Monarch, owned by Jay McAllister, a man better know known by his moniker, Beans on Toast, who coincidentally wrote a song about the original Nambucca.
My evening sees me reach to the other side of the Thames and enjoy the evening buskers of the artistic South Bank in the fitting company of an old theatre friend, before being appalled by a far too expensive meal, and battling the Tube to return to the clinically clean hostel. The News building takes up the final morning of London, with The Sun's offices' bold colour scheme and informal atmosphere contrasting those of the Wall Street Journal's, far more minimalistic and sleek. Another round of motivational talks and the story telling that comes with Q&As and it's somehow lunch again. Despite the temptation of Borough Market, the cheap scent of a trusty Wetherspoons took a small group of us for a short walk along the river before we doubled back for the mild comedy of the Tate Modern's alleged art, most I found questionable at best.
The trip wound up at Covent Garden, another hectic yet cultural area full of shops, seemingly like most of London, and as the train pulled out of Euston, my understanding of the Oyster card system might not have expanded, but my love for the city had.