The day I moved back to New York after living in Paris for five months, I made a promise to myself that I would travel back to Europe as soon as the opportunity presented itself. Reality set in around three days later and I realized that opportunity probably wouldn’t arise for quite some time — I had to finish college, find a job after graduation, and make enough money to afford another trip seeing as I sucked every last dollar out of my bank account in Paris. It has been almost two years and I’m slowly but surely working my way up to a European getaway, but with the help of Go with Oh and their Blogger Competition, I could be heading back across the Atlantic as early as this fall.
Here’s the deal: If you’re a blogger (which I am) who loves to travel (which I do), you can enter the competition to be Go with Oh‘s next guest blogger. The lucky winner gets to travel for a month this fall or winter to up to four European cities, and Go with Oh will put them up in one of their amazing vacation rental apartments for free. As someone who overpays for a New York apartment with a floor so slanted you could use it as a toboggan run, the thought of free lodging anywhere — let alone the European city of my choice — is enough incentive for me to enter the race.
If the folks at Go with Oh chose little old me as their guest blogger, I’d make sure to make London one of the featured stops on my journey. I never made it there when I was in Paris, which is a shame because it’s only a 3 hour trip using the Chunnel. There’s no stopping me this time, however, because I have an itinerary to follow:
1. Bike around the city with Barclay’s Cycle Hire
I’m excited that New York is about to get its very own bike share program, but London’s cycle hire has been around for a few years now and I’d love to take full advantage of it for sightseeing purposes. The premise is simple: you pay a few pounds to rent a bike, take it where you need to go, then drop it off when you’re done at one of the Barclay’s stands around the city. I like to think of myself as a somewhat adept cyclist (I go to spinning classes… sometimes) so incorporating a bike into the usual pedestrian scramble to see Big Ben and Buckingham Palace would not only be possible, but a fun way to get from site to site while avoiding foot traffic.
Also, there’s no better way to get acclimated to a new city than biking around on your own — bonus points if you get lost and have to find your way back. I know this from the time I got lost using the Parisian version of the cycle hire and had to find my way home after a long night out at the bars. I didn’t get to my apartment until the sun was rising and the hangover was kicking in, but from then on I knew the road system of Paris like the back of my hand (I’d be sure to bring a map along for the ride in London, though, just in case).
2. See and be seen in the East End
From what I hear, the East End of London is comparable to Williamsburg in New York — a once-industrial sector that has been injected with new life thanks to a thriving artistic community, and the new home to a population of painfully hip youngsters. I have my day in the East End all planned out in my head: First, I stroll through Broadway Market where I chat with local bakery owners and peruse a selection of vintage clothing. While debating whether or not I should buy a teal chambray shirt (I shouldn’t), a bleach blonde hipster with a septum piercing asks me to join his group of friends a few blocks away at the über-cool Vyner Street Gallery because I just look so young and fun. I comply due to sheer flattery and for the rest of the day I sip whiskey neat in the event space and pretend to know the tiniest bit about abstract photography.
Well, that was a fun daydream.
3. Nerd out at the Museum of Brands, Packaging, and Advertising
As I’ve said before, I much prefer small, niche museums to their gargantuan counterparts. While I’m sure I’d make a mad dash through the British Museum just to say that I’ve been there, I am much more interested in checking out this cabinet of consumerism curios located in Notting Hill. The Museum of Brands, Packaging, and Advertising houses 150 years worth of British consumer items, giving a fresh perspective on British culture that most other museums pass over. As a non-Brit the nostalgia factor would probably be lost on me, but the whole thing sounds so delightfully kitschy and campy that it is bound to be thoroughly entertaining. Oh, I also studied branding and marketing in school so the museum appeals to my academic tastes, but really, it’s all about the kitsch and the camp for me.
4. Dance, jump, and flail at Ministry of Sound
I’ve recently become very into electronic music, probably because I’m on the verge of a quarterlife crisis and I feel the need to express my youth with loud noises and violent dancing before old age takes my hearing and my ability to rhythmically jump. That is why I want nothing more than to flail around as laser lights burn my retinas at Ministry of Sound, one of the London’s most legendary nightclubs. Opened in an old parking garage as London’s answer to the vibrant club scene in New York during the late 80s and early 90s, the club is a colossal space where DJs spin predominantly house and techno music on a world-renowned sound system. If that doesn’t sound like a club kid’s Shangri-La, I don’t know what does.
I wonder if my new imaginary friends from the East End will come with me…
5. Take a day trip to Stonehenge
The last item on my itinerary might seem a little touristy, but I’m completely fine with that. Stonehenge (which you can reach via public transportation from London) is one of those places that you just have to see if you’re in England. Regardless of that fact, I’ve wanted to visit Stonehenge ever since I read the part in Tess of the D’Urbervilles where the main character lays down on one of the megalithic stones and offers herself up as a symbolic sacrifice. I can just imagine myself trying to recreate that moment, tragically sinking down onto one of the mysterious stones, only to be carried away by security guards and thrown in Stonehenge jail (similar to Disneyland jail, I imagine) for sitting on the historic structure.
Any fellow bloggers reading who want to enter the Blogging Competition? Don’t, because that lowers my chances of winning. Instead, I invite everyone to check out another competition that Go with Oh is running on their Facebook page. There are four great prizes up for grabs if you just like their page and suggest a new destination for them to start offering vacation rentals. Easy, right?
Aside from being the trip of a lifetime, winning this competition would be a great opportunity for me as a travel writer and wannabe entertainer (the job involves video blogging, and I’ve been told I really shine on screen… by my mom). So, my dear travel freaks, wish me luck!
And don’t even think about entering as my competition.
Featured Image courtesy of Trodel via Flickr
Photo 1 courtesy of Zan Wheelock via Flicker
Photo 2 courtesy of fabbio via Flickr
Photo 3 via london.unlike.net
Photo 4 via clubregion.com
Photo 5 courtesy of Milan G via Flickr