Why i’ll always be a Londoner at ❤… (and never be gone for too long!)

I often think how sad it is that I’ll never get to experience London as a tourist.

It’s the most eclectic, multicultural, amazing city I’ve ever been to. It’s just so varied, full of culture, heritage, sightseeing opportunities and iconic landmarks. That being said, I love being a Londoner. This is something that has come to my attention more recently, showing international friends around the city I know and love so much…

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Here’s a lovely candid, happy pic I took of my American/Spanish friend Layne enjoying the full tourist experience on Westminster bridge last weekend.

I was born in the London Borough of Bexley- with the rate that London is growing and sprawling more and more, i’m sure one day Bexley will be considered more central than peripheral- But I grew up with it very much on the edges of the city. Close enough to the feel the buzz and experience the benefits of being a Londoner (better public transport, refuse collections and regionally inflated wages for my parents) and far enough out to feel comfortable and suburban.

The local train station, just a few minutes walk from my parents house, where I lived from the ages of 7 to 18 (and still frequent as a cheeky visitor) is in Zone 6. That probably won’t mean much to you unless you’ve spent some time in London. The transport network in London has its very own authority (Transport for London, or TfL) with the London underground and overground, privately owned regional train providers and vitally over 700 red bus routes serving the capital. It’s really so easy to get from one place to another, though not as cheap as other international transport links, it is quite efficient when you think about how much of a gargantuan operation it is to move London’s 8.64 million inhabitants everyday, (plus the 31.5 million visitors we see every year (that number was from 2015 alone)!!)

When I moved to provincial Guildford and the lush Surrey countryside for University three years ago… the lack of buses every 4-9 minutes hit me hard. What’s more, the need to carry around small change or risk the wrath of bus drivers when you sheepishly wave them a £10 note… and pray they let you ride!

When I moved to Frankfurt last summer, I was struck by the lack of ticket barriers… HOW DO YOU KNOW THAT EVERYONE HAS BOUGHT A TICKET?! The truth is you don’t… and Schwarzfahren or freeloading/riding is pretty damn common. That is something difficult to reconcile with my will to be a good person… do the right thing… and pay for a ticket… and the overwhelming temptation to see if I can get away with it. The only deterrent is a 60 euro fine if caught, which isn’t really enough to dissuade many people, though it’s definitely worth buying a week or month pass if you travel often because they are far cheaper than the fine. What i’m getting at with that point though, is that London is my yardstick for everything. 

I frequently find myself saying “Oh this would be atleast twice as much money in London” (in the case of most food/drink I buy in central Europe) or “Goodness, you could get two of these for this price in London” (In the case of beer in Iceland– which is really saying something, as beer in London is not at all cheap by international standards!)

I see a ferris wheel and think… “that’s cool, but it’s no London Eye.”

I see a river and think- “that’s lovely, and much cleaner than the Thames!”

I see a clocktower and think of the Queen Elizabeth bell tower/ St. Steven’s tower (Big Ben is the name of the bell inside, actually!)

I find myself thinking- “The air is so clean here I can run without choking… must be far from home!”

As with most things in life, the place I grew up in is my imprinted scale for comparison when I travel.

It’s a blessing and a curse, having London, a great, influential sprawling city for a hometown.

Whenever I’ve been away for a while, even just in Guildford, I get a wave of relief from Heimweh I didn’t even notice I was suffering from, wash right over me as I see the skyline pulling into Waterloo.

 

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Flying into Heathrow on a sunny afternoon in April.

I took a really cool photo from the window of an aeroplane back from Frankfurt a few weeks ago and the guy next to me asked me (in German) if I was going on holiday to London too. I just smiled and told him something like, ‘No, i’m just going home. But it never gets old.’

ttfn

Han xoxo

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Guildford: My Surrey Student Experience

For the past three years, or thereabouts, I’ve been spending most of my time studying in Guildford. I’ve decided to write this post, reflecting on my time in the place where I’ve been a student, as last night, I ordered my graduation robe hire… and it dawned on me that over the next 4 weeks I probably won’t get much time to stop and reflect on the place that has played such an instrumental part in my University experience.

(Incase you’re wondering, I started my BA Hons English Literature back in 2014, and hope to graduate from the University of Surrey in mid-July!)

For those of you who aren’t aware, Guildford is a relatively large town (some call it a city- it has a cathedral but not official status) in Surrey, West of London. Official population 137,000- the population of the surrounding areas are included in this number- the central town area is home to more like half of the Borough’s population. This means that it feels big enough to always have something going on, but small enough to easily find your way around and get from A to B in a reasonable amount of time.

It is the second most expensive city to live in, outside of London, after Oxford, so at first glance, not the ideal place to be a student. I’ve spent the past 2 years (in private rented accommodation) constantly whining about my rent, especially this year, where it equals many East or West London peripheral rents for an equivalent room… but I am grateful to have a lovely house, with great friends, in a good location (close to Uni) and a nice scenic walk from Town.

Guildford’s location is fabulous. Just 34 minutes into London Waterloo on the train, but on the doorstep of the rolling Surrey Hills, I think Guildford offers a really lovely mix of city and country.

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Guildford is where you can see the dropped red pin on this map!

Coming from South London Originally (the little Blue dot on the map is where my parents live and where I am right now on my last day of Easter break), It has been really nice to live in a smaller, contained town. The University of Surrey itself has a main campus situated very close to, but distinct from, the town.

The town of Guildford is historic, beautiful and extremely well set-up with plenty of shops, restaurants, services and sights to enjoy as a guest or resident.

Something that’s made me appreciate how lovely Guildford is more recently was hosting 2 friends (from Germany) for a ‘staycation’! Their interest in and fascination with it all reminded me how beautiful it can be.

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Narrowboats on the River Wey (which runs through Guildford) for a celebration
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View under the old railway bridge and wooden footbridge, near Dapdune Wharf, Guildford
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The Angel Hotel, Old Posting House and throughway from The High Street to North Street in the town centre. (There’s a great little independent coffee shop through that arch!)
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Frosty morning view up to Guildford Cathedral on University of Surrey’s Stag Hill Campus
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Damp Dusk on the High Street
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Terry’s Pond, on Stag Hill Campus, University of Surrey
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Railway line through Stoughton
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Along the Wey, by Guildford- view from Walnut Bridge
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Autumn on the Wey
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Frost on Southway
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Sunset on my walk home from Campus
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Guildford Castle Gardens, early April
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Dapdune Wharf
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Positivity post-it notes at the bus stop
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Chapel at Stoke New Cemetery
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View from Pewley Down

I have grown awfully fond of this place and the memories it now holds. I will miss it dearly, but I am certain i’ll be back to visit before long.

In addition to its natural beauty and cultural heritage, (Guildford is old, it was in the Doomsday book) Guildford also has some lovely Pubs, bars, restaurants and venues.

The Boileroom is a great independent music venue I recommend you check out if you have time (you can find my Tripadvisor review here).

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Trashboat gig at the Boileroom

I’ve come to know many wonderful things which hide in the corners of the town, learned the shortcuts and the nooks and crannies, but I still learn new things all time.

A few of places I would check out whilst in Guildford if I were visiting would be…

  • The Cathedral(but be aware it’s undergoing restoration works in part at present!) It’s pretty cool and ominous looking- rather appropriate as they filmed the omen there. It’s become one of the most distinctive symbols of Guildford for me, you can see it from almost any vantage point nearby, as it sits high atop Stag Hill on Campus.
  • Kokoro (Sushi and Bento)- this is a strange one… but go there, get the katsu curry (or anything else for that matter)… you shall not regret it.
  • Creams – though not exceptional to Guildford, who can say no to a huge, indulgence topped waffle when it’s on offer?
  • The Castle- Worth the trek up the High Street to see, the castle is very very old and quite spectacular. You can ascend the tower for a very small fee and it’s worth it for the views.
  • Pewley Down- This is a beautiful big down looking away from Guildford from the very top of the town. I was lucky enough to live right next to it last year, which was just wonderful. It’s a great place for a picnic or to find other peoples dogs to pet.
  • Pubs… This one is a bit vague… there are many. My favourites are probably- The King’s Head, The Star Inn, The Three Pigeons and The Wooden Bridge (would recommend the Sunday pub quiz for the brave and savvy.

Guildford is a really great place to live and study. Bit pricey. Bit full of rich middle-aged people… but it also has plenty of perfectly normal, working people. And it’s really rather lovely.

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Abbott hospital (now private residences), Guildford High Street

Right, I’d better pack my things and head back for my final 3 weeks of lectures! (And final month living in Guildford!)

If you’re thinking about a trip to Guildford, or moving here to study (especially at The University of Surrey)- do it, you won’t regret it!

Ciao for now,

Han

xoxox