Florence Duomo

Whenever we walked passed the Duomo in Florence there were a couple of issues. The first was that I never had my shoulders and knees covered at the same time. As we all know, Jesus is particularly offended by the site of a females joints so I couldn’t possibly go into the house of god with them exposed (my dad however trotted in totally naked and Jesus winked at him on the way out). The second issue was the horrendously long line that stretched down the entire length of the church. According to online reviews the line moves quickly, but all I saw was sweaty people with screaming children standing unmoving in the line for an hour.  The third was that my favourite gelato shop was on the other side of town.

I love an old cathedral, but not enough to stand in the sun without gelato for an hour.

Then my Mum eavesdropped on an American couple who had such a good Florence hack that it actually made my trip. It was so good that we thought my Mum had got heatstroke and made it all up. We made her go and lay down for a while. But it turns out she wasn’t crazy and was possibly justified in calling us untrustworthy dicks.

Fine, I made that last bit up for comic effect, believe it or not my Mum does not swear. No I don’t know where I got it from either. #wankpuffin

Anyway the Duomo. The Cathedral is free to visit, and all you have to do is stand in a line from now to eternity. However if you are willing to spend €2 and watch an awesome movie you can skip the line totally. Just around the corner from the cathedral is Teatro Niccolini home of The Duomo Experience, the answer to all your prayers. For €2 you get to watch a 15 minute film about the humanist importance of the Duomo; a little bit on the building and the art. Then with the same ticket you can just walk up to the door of the Cathedral and walk straight in. Seriously, €2, 15min and you can waltz into the Duomo like Mary (the virgin one, not the whore one).

They will try to talk you into the €15 all access pass that covers the five Florence museums, but all you need for the Church is the cheap ass movie ticket.

Teatro Niccolini

We were expecting to have to endure the movie, we thought it was going to be like the movies you had to sit through when moguls are trying to get you to buy a time share. But it was delightful. We has the entire (air conditioned!!!) theatre to ourselves, and the presenter was a priest who reminded me of a spoken word poet. He would be the guy next to Whoopi Goldberg trying to get the kids into Art History.

SO a very interesting movie while sitting in the air-conditioning, and super speedy access into a church. YOU’RE WELCOME.

Walthemstow Black Horse Road heart make and create

It’s official, Walthamstow is the new black. Or, at least the new Shoreditch. When I first moved to London you would not go to Walthamstow if someone paid you, let alone by choice. But now? Well, now it has gin. Quick warning though, historically Walthamstow is part of Essex BUT DON’T LET THIS PUT YOU OFF. It is more casual backyard drinking vibe instead of bad fake tan on a white bodycon dress throwing up in a bar vibe.  Think an escape from central London and the chance to one up your hipster friends by saying ‘I discovered Walthamstow before it was cool’. My dears it’s time to get your Walthamstow on.

Read on my brave adventurers for my top things to do when you are accidentally verging on Essex.

Wood Street Coffee

Wood Street Coffee french toast and flat white

Wood Street Coffee (annoyingly not on Wood Street, go figure) is about a 7 minute walk from Blackhorse Road Station and it is a very cool little brunch haunt. It is in the middle of an industrial complex and sits side by side with a ‘rent a bench’ wood work shop. This means that you can mainline flat whites, get the coffee shakes and then go and use industrial saws. It was actually a delightfully chilled out vibe since the clientele was more than antisocial millennials. My favourite moment however was all about my Dad. I had taken my parents to Wood Street Coffee to meet Angloyankophile (like a kid at show and tell) and within two minutes of arriving my father had somehow talked his way into the locked workshop. Jaime arrived and we had finished our first coffee before he appeared again.

Mothers Ruin Gin Palace

Damson Gin cocktail at Mothers Ruin Gin Palace

Oh so what if this is mostly about food I LIKE FOOD. Mothers Ruin is a few tables in a warehouse that spill out onto the footpath on a sunny day. I love Mothers Ruin for the unique gins that they distill, my top pick is the Damson Gin which tastes a bit like a plum wine and is an utter dream with tonic. Trust me when I say that Damson Gin is a great  motivator for blog writing. It’s also worth going just for the pun-tastic cocktail names (Damson in Distress) and tasty sausage rolls for when you drank too many puns.

Gods Own Junkyard

Out of the dark and into the light neon sign

OMG an attraction that is not food based! Gods Own Junkyard is something you will have to see to believe. A shop dedicated to an ever changing collection of neon signs, it is the joy of Disney and the sarcasm of Soho boiled down into one room. They don’t mind you wandering in just to stare or take pictures, and it looks damn fantastic on Instagram. #contributetothegentrification

Hillmans Tea Rooms 

After that brief departure, back to the food. Hillmans Tea Rooms are a cute little tea shop tucked down an alleyway. Very friendly service and a damn good cup of tea, it is all the good bits of a central afternoon tea but without the price tag (or the judgmental waiters). When you are all tea’ed up you should check out the rest of the little alleyway which is full of antiques, vintage and craft stores.

Street Art

Packman drinking beer in Walthamstow

There is a group called Wood Street Walls that brings artists together to make E17 beautitful, and they do an amazing job. There are so many interesting bits of street art dotted around Walthamstow that you never quite know what you are going to find, but each one is awesome enough to stop you in your tracks and make you look away from your smartphone for a second.

 

Looking over London

This is another one of those ‘doesn’t impact you till you live there’ scenarios. When you are happily ensconced on the arse-end of the world you watch disaster/action/sci-fi movies and completely accept the big cities meeting their doom. Let’s be honest at the point of the big disaster scene you are more likely to be thinking about Will Smiths links to Scientology or trying to figure out when the females had time to shave their armpits – don’t even get me started about them all running in heels. But when you live in London, like with so many damn things, it all changes.

Ok so New York seems to be the number one victim in the movies, but I think that is just because Americans have better teeth. The old London being bullied by aliens/spys/hens dos comes up a close second in my books (and a 5 on the official list). When you live here and see dragons on top of the Houses of Parliament in Reign of Fire or the entire city being trashed in G.I. Joe (stop judging me for watching that, I fell into a dark hole of Netflix one night) the movie just has a little bit of an extra sucker punch. All of a sudden you feel like it could happen to you.

London on film is not something new, however normally people from this insane city react by worrying about the misrepresented public transport links. You know you are a true Londoner when you watch James Bond focus on how his tube somehow goes straight from Temple to Westminster seemingly without stopping at Embankment. I mean Embankment is a fucking hell hole but you can’t wish it away just because you have the licence to kill. I’m not kidding about these transport grumbles, when the feminist drug fuelled Sherlock episode aired last weekend people were more upset that the Number 11 wrongly went up Baker Street.

Sherlock No 11

Watching the entire city (or just major landmarks) being trashed sparks something more primal entirely. When you see ‘your’ city being blown up the movie goes from enjoyable to HOLY FUCK RUN AWAY NOW in a heartbeat. Especially since the recent Paris terrorist attacks, seeing your city attacked on film in full Dolby Surround Sound is horrible. The directors must be thrilled to achieve this nugget of realism. It’s not often that a fictional alien based film can make you plan escape routes from the tube whilst still sat in the cinema.

As well as the horror you get a spark of outrage as well, a nationalistic pride for a country that you are not even a damn national of. When the London Eye falls over, Buckingham Palace is invaded or Death Eaters destroy Millennium Bridge you all of a sudden come over all British and muttering “how bloody dare they” under your breath. The outrage (and shame) of knowing that if one of these scenarios were to actually happen you would probably react by changing your Facebook photo to something supportive and be emotional for a day…but then start complaining about the inconvenience of the bridge being out and ‘when is someone going to do something about it’. But at least that means you have truly integrated with the British right?

It’s not even like you can vow to stay away from the ‘film blown up’ hot spots. I tried once and found myself 30 minutes later walking past the Houses of Parliament to get to a new cafe. London is just too photogenic. I would be that girl in the movie who tries to run away in the opening shot, falls over and then is engulfed by flames. If I’m lucky the protagonist might make a terrible joke about curly hair, cats or bloggers at my expense.

Runawaykiwi blown up in a movie

In some ways being the fifth most popular city to be destroyed in movies has its upsides, I mean NYC will always give us a fair warning of what to expect. As long as we get that disaster heads up we have a chance of survival right? And at least this means that London will continue to be a tourist destination, I think? Although thankfully the Avengers don’t seem to like Western Europe (it might be the data roaming charges) so there are some small blessings.

 

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London always gets destroyed in the movies

 

View of London from St Paul's

A couple of you lovely readers have been in touch this week, both with the same question. What can you do about home sickness? This isn’t something that just affects newbies, but you do get sucker punched a little less frequently the longer you are here. I think its because after a couple of years you are more certain about your life in London, and have a support network of sorts to buffer you from homesickness. But unless you have a Tardis, what can you do right now about it?

I can’t make home any closer or the darkness any less depressing. I can’t make onion dip appear out of thin air or transport your cat onto the end of your bed. I’m going to be honest at this point I can’t even figure out the heater in my room. But I do have a solution for your homesickness.

The grass is always greener right? Cast your mind back to the person you were before you moved to London, working the job that bored you to tears, sitting at the desk you hated, staring out the window just after 3pm.  Remember what you used to dream about, that London that was the stuff of legend?

All you need to do to make this homesickness go away is make the light of your current situation shine a little brighter. Get a pen, yes a real pen with ink…its important. We are about to write a list. This is going to be your Anti-Homesickness list full of all those London wishes you had once upon a time. This list will help you remember what the grass in London looked like from the other side of the world.

On your list might be the tourist attractions you wanted to see; Big Ben, St Pauls cathedral or even the Harry Potter Studios. It might be the dream countries you never thought you would get to visit, the job opportunities that are now within reach or the fact that you now live in a country with H&M. The list might hold the insane daydreams you had; walking arm in arm drinking mulled wine with a boy you like, running into Banksy in a pub or making it into the final of X-Factor. It might be as vague as the Facebook status you imagined yourself putting up about Christmas lights, pub rooftops and hipster markets.

Write all those things that you don’t even have words for, just the feelings of possibility, of the potential for change and joy and amazing experiences just waiting for you.

You are in London for a reason. You are putting up with sunset at 3:30pm for a reason. You are currently homesick for a reason. This is just part of achieving all of those amazing things on your list.

You can do this, cut yourself some slack. And if things get really tough make sure you talk to someone about it. You are not alone.

xx

 

Its your first week in London and feel like youre failing