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A week in London

Feelings, facts and lists from our recent holiday in London.

The Queen’s House, The Old Royal Navy College and the Canary Wharf skyscrapers from the Royal Observatory viewpoint in Greenwich

The scent of the vegetation. It’s the first thing I recognised while walking the ramp from the arrivals hall to the train station at Stansted Airport. The same ramp I walked so many times in ten years.

I was immediately reminded of my commute to work in Cambridge, especially in spring and summer, when the air is filled with the same smell and that of wild flowers. The mood was set for our first holiday since 2020, which coincided with our first visit to the UK after we moved to Italy.

My husband and I stayed in an hotel in Greenwich, a place we love and used to visit regularly when we lived in Rotherhithe. It only took eating at the local Nando’s and a walk along the Thames for us to feel home again. Almost every place, scent, and sound is linked to a memory. A few examples:

  • Greenwich market, the place where we decided to get married in December 2013. We have a picture of the moment, as my parents unknowingly immortalised it.
  • The Mayflower Pub in Rotherhithe, where we celebrated our wedding. We simply showed up after the ceremony with our closest friends and had a great time.
  • The Royal Observatory, where we saw several shows, including the one when we were late and had yet to realise how steep is the climb from the park. Now we know there is an elevator.
  • Sainsbury’s local in Canada Water, where we used to buy some food after work. Often, we would go back home with flowers as well.
  • Waitrose in Canary Wharf, where we used to get our weekly groceries, sometimes after breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien. Perhaps incredibly, this is where I actually felt emotional.
  • My favourite products at Boots, the taste of the red and green grapes of M&S, the salt and vinegar crisps.
  • Immediately recognising, and then anticipating, what the self checkout machines would say.

Years later, and after COVID, things have changed. This is especially true for eating out, but valid in general. We tried:

  • Grind at breakfast, which used to be a Jamie’s Italian (both restaurant and bakery).
  • Ole and Steen at breakfast instead of Le Pain Quotidien (where we ate anyway, but in Southbank).
  • The Elizabeth line.

During the past three years, we craved for our favourite food. Of course we had a list to tick off:

  • Wahaca
  • Nando’s
  • Mayflower Pub
  • ScandiKitchen

The day we visited our old Rotherhithe neighbourhood, we walked 23 kilometres (or 14.29 miles), doubling our previous record. I wish I took some paracetamol that night, like Simone did. The Thames is still beautiful. We used to live by it, waking up with the water reflecting on our ceiling during a high tide. That was before moving to Cambridge.

Speaking of which, we booked our next visit to the UK. We’ll be in Cambridge, our home for five years. I’ve already started to save the places we want to visit on the map.

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