Impressions from San Cristobal

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After a five-hours bus ride, which I imagined far worse than it was, we finally arrived in San Cristobal de las Casas. I have to stress: uphill, narrow roads, a little more uphill and 199 km of road from Palenque to San Cristobal. But it was fine. No one got sick. The landscape was just stunning. Chiapas is beautiful beyond words. And poor beyond words. And produces awesome coffee and handcrafts. San Cristobal is simply picturesque and for many reasons very much loved by hippies. The super nice and relaxing atmosphere made it easy to enjoy our stay.

– Catherine

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From dusk to dawn

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Five days a week I am observing this phenomenon in Europe’s most bustling metropolitan. From dusk to dawn Londoners trot to work, to the gym, to the pub, home. They do it on their own –the preferred way. In pairs – rare. Or in big groups. But also individuals walking next to each other, being squeezed into the bus or tube like cattle add up to a group, don’t they? You should, at least once, walk across London Bridge on any given morning during the week. Until 10 am men and women in business attire walk in herds from the train/tube station to their workplace in the heart of the City of London. Hundreds of thousands arrive every morning. You should also walk the streets of the City once either late at night or during the weekend – any time will be a good time. The vast emptiness is spooky. Bars, restaurants, shops and offices that have been bursting with life during the week all the sudden are empty and closed. Monday morning life comes back…

Prominent tourist hotspots start filling around 10 am. If you are unlucky enough to rush through Piccadilly Circus at any time be prepared to stumble across people blocking the way. The same goes for Westminster Bridge, which I have only experienced empty late at night. (It’s quite romantic to cross with an illuminated London Eye and Big Ben in the background)

Every night after the gym as I drag my tired body to the bus stop I indulge in this rush, this mad hustle and buzzle in the heart of London. My gym is right around the corner of one of London’s main train stations. I make my way to the bus stop leaving the quiet streets behind. As I am waiting right under a railway bridge next to a pub, I am wondering if this steady stream of people will ever stop. People are pouring out of buses, gather in front of the pub to enjoy an after-work pint before catching the train home. Cyclists fill the streets risking their lives in their mad dash home, Mums and dads rush by with their children. Some are fighting their way through the crowds jogging. Some are cleaning the streets, others are distributing London’s evening source of information. London doesn’t get quiet until midnight. All the sudden the streets and squares, the bus and tube get empty. Pubs and restaurants close. Here and there a night owl tries to find its way home. London sleeps at night. Tomorrow will be another day in Europe’s most bustling metropolitan.

– Catherine

FENTOOOON!

A little something to cheer up your day…I was crying with laughter when I first saw this and it still makes me laugh. Fenton – JESUS Christ!!!! – Fenton!

Also don’t miss my Richmond photos from this summer here.

Happy Monday everyone.

– Catherine

Don’t cross!

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Dear tourists, one of the golden rules for you that will save your lives is to NOT cross the street when the Londoners do! (No, I didn’t go nuts with the word ‘not’; I really mean it!)

Whenever I am crossing the streets I am thinking about this madness. Really, London can be a quite dangerous place when it comes to crossing the street (or cycling – but more on that later).

Here is what happens daily in central London: London/ers are in a constant rush (I am really sorry if someone ever snapped at you when you took pictures with your smart phone/fancy camera in their way or when you didn’t stand on the right hand side on the escalators…more about this later, too) hence, no one has time to amble to the next pedestrian crossing let alone wait until the light is green. But let me tell you it needs quite some experience to get the moment right when to cross the street while the next cab/bus/car is heading towards you at full speed (NOOOO they won’t slow down, forget about it!).

Things only get worse the further away from the centre you are – cars drive faster and care even less about poor pedestrians in the middle of the street. Somehow, I have the impression the streets also get wider. It’s a little bit like hunting…

– Catherine

Welcome to the…jungle

Bless the one(s) who invented smart phones. And even more so those brainies who come up with clever applications.

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post London is  a maze, overwhelming due to its size (but more later on being overwhelming), and traffic circulates on the – bloody – wrong side of the road. At least for the majority of the people that’s the case. Coming from continental Europe it took me a considerable amount of time to adjust to this ‘phenomena’. But the ‘Look right/left’ writing on the zebra crossing helps, too.

So, how to find your way around and even more worrisome; on which side of the road should you get on the bus?

Citymapper helps and does a great job. Simply download the app for free, connect to 3G and off you go – wherever you go. The quickest way though is by catapult (download the app and find out what this means)!

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Safe travels!

– Catherine

London Diary

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Over the last year and a bit I have written a lot about London. A lot of touristy stuff. Some useful stuff, too – I hope. But now I want to give you an insight into what it is really like to live in London. I want to enable you – wherever you are in this world – to experience a little bit of London life. Its highs and its lows. I think I will take you through London step by step. I will add a little bit of spice here and there and I will certainly still add a little bit of useful information for tourists and London lovers. Because after all, I will always deeply love this city. Despite its size it made me feel welcome and at home from the very first day. I was curious to explore it and I still am.

Let me start with a little bit about myself. Like any good story this one needs an introduction, too. Let’s set the scene. I chose London as an ambitious student for my final degree and also to bring my language skills to perfection. I am a big fan of languages, they are magical and enable you to go this little step further – to understand people and cultures. At the same time, today, let’s face it, English is the lingua france and there is no getting around being fluent in English. So here I am, an already Europe-savvy girl in London. Although I have lived in numerous places before none taught me so many things as London did. Life is a constant learning journey, isn’t it?

If you think you can experience or understand or get to know London in a couple of days, weeks or months – forget about it. I embarked on this journey two years ago and I am nowhere near. Although I pretty much go out and see places every weekend (and yes, after some time, the everyday life kicks in, too) there are still so many things to see. The good and the bad is that there is something new – an exhibition, a concert, a play, a party, a new restaurant/bar – every week/end. I clearly remember the first two times I visited London as a tourist. Nothing made sense – London is simply overwhelming (and compared to other European cities a maze at times).

So let’s try to do this together. I will write up thoughts and ideas over the next weeks. I will share impressions and news on London as I always did. If you are keen to find your luck in London and have some questions feel free to ask.

Enjoy the London Diary!

– Catherine