Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thinking about living in London? Here's my experience

Big Ben, one of the most popular landmarks of the English capital
I've lived in London for two years, and one of my favourite aspects of the city was that it has direct flights to all major destinations in Europe and all over the world. And if this isn't enough, from London I've always found the best deals, both with British Airlines and with other companies.

From London I traveled to wonderful Istanbul, to Abu Dhabi, and finally to Shanghai to learn Mandarin Chinese, where I stayed for a year. I've always used the metro to get to the airport, but who owns a car and plans a short vacation can consider some of the convenient options at Heathrow Airport Parking, so that you can leave it either inside or outside the airport without spending a fortune.

A similar opportunity is also at Manchester Airport Parking, and from Manchester too you can find great flights to the major European destinations.

I have lived in many places, but I've always found London the most convenient stopover, to the extent that now, even if I'm currently based in Italy, when I have to fly outside Europe, I would always consider London before Rome.

Actually, I've lived in Rome much longer than London, and I even know Rome much better than I know London, but for some odd reason that I can't even pin down, I feel more familiar in the airports of the English capital.

I have a controversial relationship with London. In the two years I've lived there I've had great experiences, met interesting people, participated to many demonstrations, felt its underground society, and also worked like crazy.

I took a Master in London, but was my second, so I wasn't exactly the carefree young student like many of my colleagues. I worked and studied at the same time, and at the end of my degree I launched with my freelance activity, meaning that I had to have also a part time job in order to pay bills and rent.

Needless to say, the beginning of my freelance career has been very hard (not that now it's a walk in the park), and being London so expensive didn't make things easier.

Nevertheless, I did enjoy the city, walking along the South Bank, where there is always something to see/do/buy/photograph, going to the Globe Theatre to see Romeo and Juliet, visiting picturesque Covent Garden and ethnic Brick Lane, and also clubbing a bit.

London is indeed expensive, but it's also possible to find very good deals quite often. For food I don't remember spending a fortune, neither for my daily grocery nor for eating out. What can affect your budget is certainly the rent, the bills and the transport, especially if you take the train, but other than that you can pretty much afford an enjoyable life.

I spent in London two years and then went back a couple of times, if there is something you feel I omitted and you would like to know, I'll be glad to help!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The UK and my missed chances

I've lived in London for two years, I can say I know the city quite well, went out day and night, explored it, enjoyed events, museums, demonstrations, conferences, seminars and anything the English capital can offer.

So what's bothering me?

I didn't travel throughout the UK as I would have liked. In London I was working, the city was expensive so the little I managed to save was spent in trips outside the country, whenever I could take some time off

First of all, I would have loved to visit Scotland, Edinburgh is possibly my biggest regret. Actually I had already started making some plans of going there, and since I doubt I would have gone around by car, first of all because I'm a big fan of public transport, and also because I'm not really a great driver, I would have organized in a way to leave the car at the Edinburgh airport parking and hang around by bus.

I would love dawdling around the city's castles, exploring its fascinating history, experiencing its lively society, discovering little by little the UNESCO World Heritage Site situated on the very heart of the city such as the medieval Old Town, the Georgian New Town and the famous modern architecture.

I have by all means enjoyed my stay in London, but other than that, I didn't visit much. I went to Swansea and Cardiff, Wales, for a weekend, unfortunately only once and needless to say, it was pouring. Ok, I also went to Oxford, but for a conference, so I didn't get to see the city much, only a small walk at night just to have the time to see it's a lovely town.

Admittedly, in the public mind the UK is not a dream tourist destination, and weather-wise it's kind of understandable, but nevertheless, Scotland has always captivated me. Apart from Edinburgh, another city I would like to visit is Glasgow. Of course here too I would travel by bus so I would leave my car at the Glasgow airport parking.

Although the Scottish capital is Edinburgh, Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland and one of the most cosmopolitan in the country. Situated on the River Clyde, it developed from the medieval Bishopric of Glasgow, becoming a major center of the Scottish Enlightenment in the 18th century.

Even if little of the old medieval Glasgow is still available to visitors, there are many places I would love to see (and take photo of), such as the fascinating Provand's Lordship, commissioned in 1471 by Andrew Muirhead, Bishop of Glasgow, as part of St Nicholas' Hospital, today's oldest remaining house in Glasgow, while the nearby Cathedral is the oldest building.

Edinburgh and Glasgow are some of my biggest regrets of my two years in the UK, but now that I'm back to Europe after a year in China I'm planning some trips around the Old Continent and certainly Scotland will be included.

Photo credits kevgibbo.
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