I've been thinking about writing this post for a long time and have completed loads of drafts that have eventually been discarded, due to a general lack of theme/content/anything at all interesting. However I've FINALLY come up with an angle I like (and I hope you do too), for tips about living in London that can be useful to not only us poor students who have to survive here, but for tourists and travellers too. This post is also potentially going to turn into a series - OoOoOoOoOoooo - since I'm going to be here for the next three years, so I figure I'll probably have more to say in the future.
Ok, so the video at the beginning of this post is supposed to inspire you to first of all, think creatively. Life in London and especially the student experience isn't like that of any other city (well in the UK, sorry I've never lived any other country!) Going out to bars and clubs is extremely expensive and even if there is a 'student' night with 'cheap' alcohol and food, you're only going to be paying the regular prices of your home town at best. This means that you're not always going to be able to afford to go out and are going to have to think new ways to pass away your free time.
Two rather obvious suggestions are themed flat parties and investing in board games. Even so, these are two great ways to get together with friends over a couple of drinks without even having to leave the comfort of your home, as long as you don't mind having to spend a fair amount of time cleaning up afterwards - at our 90's party someone had a butter fight with the fridge... Makes for a funny story though!
Also due to the freak weather at the moment, we've had plenty of opportunities to have fun in the snow and embrace (y)our inner child. I would say apply this to all areas of life. Dance in the street, practise a rounds of 'Doh Re Mi' in the taxi til driver tells you to 'shut the hell up!', give out free hugs, sing your favourite songs in public and try/fail to harmonise with your friends, laugh at unnecessary volumes, have lengthy chats with complete strangers on the tube... Do silly things, have fun, make people smile and get strange looks from boring people, you're NEVER going to see them again anyway. If you're not hurting anyone and having fun, who cares what anyone else thinks?
I've tended to find that the best places to go out aren't always the ones advertised all over your university bulletin boards or the ones who bombard you with flyers. In fact, the majority of these events have ended in disaster for me and my friends. So my tip to you would to be say yes to (almost/within reason) everything. At university and around London there are so many interesting people to meet and unusual places to go, that you are more than likely going to be invited to something that you've never heard of or tried before and even if it doesn't sound like your cup of tea... Don't knock it 'til you've tried it. It might be a pleasant surprise. So here's a few of my favourite and possibly underrated places to visit, which I would have never discovered had I not accepted an invitation from a friend...
The Top Secret Comedy Club with Shoot from the Hip! in Covent Garden
This event is every Tuesday night at 8.15pm and I can sincerely say I don't know when I have ever laughed so hard. It's four guys doing stand up, improvised comedy for around 2-3 hours. The skits are decided by audience suggestions and steadily get more ridiculous as everyone gets more drunk - the drinks are pretty reasonably priced too! This particular skit was actually acted on a suggestion by a friend of mine. Oh, and did I mention it's FREE?! I'd recommend it for anyone really, a great night out with your mates and it doesn't finish too late if you want to have an early one or carry on to another bar.
Click here for the website and information on other events
The Gladstone Pub, Borough
This little place is a tad difficult to hunt down but well worth a look in. With a lovely cosy atmosphere and again, reasonably priced food and drinks and free live music three times a week this place is a great venue to just chill out and relax after a long day.
Click here for the website and upcoming gigs
The Slug and Lettuce, Various Locations
I know this is a well known chain but I'd just like to alert any cheapskates out there to the half price Monday offer, which is half price off ALL FOOD. It's pretty yummy too.
I've been to this place a couple of times, for a friend's birthday and another time for a rather... interesting date. But that's another story. I'd recommend the Woo-Woo cocktail, though try as many as you can, they're not too expensive and get you rather giddy. The food is DIVINE. No exaggeration. Get in early though or book if you have a big party because it fills up quick!
Click here for the website
Finally, day trips. As I work every weekend I don't get much chance to go out during daylight hours, however when I've been lucky enough to get a weekend off I've managed to explore a little bit. For those of you who are like me and can't hack staying in the same place for prolonged periods of time, university can become a little frustrating. However, there is nothing to say that we can't create adventure for ourselves, even within confines of where we live. I like to act like a tourist as often as I can and find that, combined with the knowledge of my city, makes for really exciting adventures.
My university, King's College London, has an organisation called Unlocking London, which organises events and experiences for students at extremely discounted prices. For example I went up the shard a few weeks ago for just £9!!
It's definitely worth checking out whether your uni does a similar thing.
London is famous for its vast array of markets which are spread all across the capital. I'm lucky enough to have Borough Market just around the corner, with its wide variety of fancy and tasty foods, but I've also ventured a little further a field. My favourites so far have been Brick Lane and Broadway Market, both of which I explored with my two lovely girlies from last term.
Miss you guys!
The others are obvious suggestions, such as the museums, art galleries and other attractions (Big Ben, Buckingham Palace etc etc) which are often disregarded by residents as tourist attractions. Undeniably, they are, but that doesn't mean to say they can't be enjoyed by the average Joe.
My last tip would be to walk everywhere as it allows you to see lots of pretty things you'd otherwise miss if you were to take the tube. Here's a few of my favourite snaps I and my friends have taken along the way...
I hope you at least enjoyed this post and maybe even found something useful to take away from it. I reckon a lot of these tips can be applied to other cities and not just London, so hopefully there's something for everyone. Until next time, keep smiling :)