Winning London: The Sequel

It’s been almost two years to the day since I left London after the most life-changing semester. Four days was not nearly enough to recreate the magic of those four months but thanks to the most precious best friend of all time, this weekend will go down as one of my favorites memories.

If you haven’t already guessed by that super heartwarming opening line, I am back in Europe.

That’s right, folks. After spending eight months out of the country back in 2013, this girl is back abroad and ready for new adventures, new cities, and best of all, new posts for my travel section. A few months ago, I was accepted into The Creative Minds in Cannes program to intern at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. I have since then spent every month trying to convince myself this is actually happening and living in a state of half-denial as the countdown got smaller and smaller.

There was no way I could go to Europe and not make a pit stop by one of my favorite cities and previous home: London.

Especially since Sofiya is now living there and I hadn’t seen her since graduation a year ago and long-distance friendships are actual agony. Needless to say, it was the most glorious reunion to end all reunions.

I arrived to her beautiful flat in Westminster on Thursday and left early Monday morning. Yeah my homegirl basically lives next door to Big Ben. She was still at work and I was severely sleep deprived so I took advantage and knocked out. I woke up four hours later to Sofiya tip-toeing quietly around the room so naturally I screamed and tackled her and hugged her for a solid twenty minutes. Literally the best reunion ever.

We spent most of the night just catching up on life and then went out for a late dinner in the South Bank. We ended up at Wahaca by the London Eye, which was one of my fave Mexican places, and properly feasted on half the menu (no joke — I hadn’t eaten in about 12 hours).

Afterwards, we went to grab a drink nearby and then made our way home around 2am. It was such a peaceful feeling to reconnect with the city at that time of night — no tourists milling about, no throngs of crowds pushing and shoving. Just us and good ol’ Ben.

Sofiya got that Friday off work so we slept in until around 11am and then headed out. We headed to Brick Lane for a late breakfast / lunch at this little Venezuelan arepa stand Sofs had discovered. It started raining as we ordered our food but literally nothing can put a damper on my day when I’m chatting with Venezuelans and eating an arepa stuffed with cheese and avocado (Sofs had the pabellon, at my recommendation).

Afterwards, we strolled around and ended up walking all the way back to the Millennium Bridge. It was only slightly drizzly at this point so we took a ton of selfies as we walked down the same path through the South Bank we had taken the night before. After paying another quick visit to Ben, we headed home to rest and regroup for the night. Sofs had made dinner reservations at Duck and Waffle, this mega fancy 24-hour restaurant at the top of Heron Tower, at 1:45am. Yeah you read that right. 1:45am. So naturally, we got dressed up and hit some of the best bars in Shoreditch to kill time before our middle of the night dinner.

At the last bar (this Brazilian joint called Barrio East), we ended up talking to two guys from Australia, one of whom had just moved to London and the other who lived in New York. Around 1:30am we bid them adieu and told them we had to get to our dinner reservations. Not really sure they believed us. We half-jokingly invited them along and left, fully believing we would never see them again.

Twenty minutes later as we were waiting at a cross signal to get to Heron Tower, who should pop up behind us but our two new friends? We got to the security guard at the tower and took the glass elevator to the top floor. The view was unreal. But even better was the look on the faces of our two friends as they realized we really weren’t kidding when we said we had 2am fancy dinner reservations.

Duck and Waffle was everything I imagined and more. We had a great time chatting and eating. I had the octopus and then we all split the traditional duck and waffle dish which was just as literal (and good) as it sounds. We finally got back home around 4am and passed out.

I didn’t want to keep sleeping in so late but the jet lag was brutal. I woke up around noon and after a quick shower, we made our way out. It was a gorgeous sunny day so we hit up Portobello Market and Borough Market. The four months I lived in London are on record for having the grossest weather of all time (even by UK standards) so the one and only time I had made it out to Portobello, a downpour started only a few minutes later and we had to head back before getting a chance to explore. So I’m immensely glad I had the chance to return and really enjoy it for good.

We grabbed a little breakfast at this artisan cafe and walked around for most of the afternoon. Afterwards we headed to Borough Market, which I had never been to and which is basically all food. No lie, this place was a literal dream. After doing a couple laps shameless taking free samples, we ducked into a little restaurant called Applebee’s (no relation to the major chain) and had a proper meal. It was unbelievably good. We treated ourselves to a little dessert at one of the stands still open as the market started closing down. Sofs got a slice of lemon cheesecake and I picked up a few macaroons. We plopped down on a bench and ate our treats in the fading sunset.

It had been a long day but the weather was so perfect we decided to walk all the way home past the London Bridge back over the Millennium Bridge and again down the South Bank all the way back to our BFF Ben. We made it back to Sofiya’s place around 7pm completely exhausted. We took an hour or so to rest and then geared up for a night out. We were supposed to go to this club with a few of her friends but things took a complicated turn when the bouncer refused to let in eight girls despite our names being on the list. The alternative was to pay 20 pounds to which I said LOL bye. Sofiya and I and two of her friends decided to split up and try our luck elsewhere. We didn’t have to go very far — just around the corner, there were two girls giving out wristbands to the club in front that would get us in for 3 pounds. The club was as cheap as its cover but we had an insanely great time and only left when all the lights switched on and they ushered us out.

I really needed to get back on a normal sleep schedule and told Sofiya not to let me sleep in but alas… I apparently went comatose and didn’t stir until almost noon. The weather on Sunday was even better than the day before. We headed out sans jackets and avec sunglasses. Because Sofiya literally lives smack dab in Westminster, we walked out straight into some sort of royal parade. There were barricades everywhere as the soldiers marched down the street. We stopped to watch a bit and then continued on to Buckingham Palace and then all the way down to South Kensingston (my old hood!!) for a quick visit to her office.

Then we finally headed over to what I was most looking forward to all weekend: High Tea. Sofs had made reservations at Sketch in Oxford Circus so we made our way to Soho and basically entered into what would become the greatest experience of our young lives.

There is really no way to describe this place but trust me when I say it is a MUST MUST MUST if you are ever in London. Sofs had never been there before so we got to try out a new experience together. We spent most of the afternoon enjoying unlimited refills of tea, sandwiches, and pastries and trying to determine how they could make everything so small (yet the scones were as big as our faces). After a few glorious hours and like twenty selfies in the bathroom later (go and you’ll see what I mean), we emerged into the late afternoon sun, quite literally feeling as we had just fallen back through the rabbit hole into reality.

To round off our weekend, we took the 88 bus all the way over to Camden and enjoyed the sunset at the top of Primrose Hill overlooking the entire city. Another place I had never had the chance to check off my bucket list. When the sun went down and the weather got a bit chiller, we hopped in an Uber to Chelsea to meet up with two of her friends for the greatest pizza in all of London at Rossopomodoro. Pizza truly does make the perfect last supper.

We finally made it home around 11pm. I did some quick laundry, packed everything up, and scheduled a cab to take me to the airport in the morning. We were in bed by 12:30 which was great since I had to be up in five hours. Except for the fact that as soon as the lights turned off, my excitement about what was to come reached an all time high and the anxious adrenaline kept me awake until almost 4am.

After barely two hours of sleep, I somehow said goodbye again to my best friend, half-zombied my way through the airport and before I knew it, I was on a plane from London to Nice.

It is now Tuesday night in Cannes, and I cannot believe I’ve already been here two days. It’s been insanely overwhelming. The past 48 hours have been non-stop and I can’t wait to see what these next two weeks have in store. The festival officially starts tomorrow and there’s a good chance my streak of sleep deprivation due to excitement will gain another night.

I’ll try to post regularly because I don’t want to forget a single minute of this once-in-a-lifetime experience. I’ll be here in Cannes until May 25th and then I’ll be flying to Madrid to reunite with my parents and my sister as we go visit Galicia. After that, I’ll be backpacking around for about two weeks (itinerary TBD!) and returning home on June 15th.

Stay tuned for more updates as #DanyGoesBackAbroad 🙂

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