A pizza snob’s guide to London pizzerias

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If you know me at all, even by acquaintance, you’ll quickly learn that pizza is one of my life’s greatest passions ๐Ÿคค

Having been to the very heart of pizza craft ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น Naples, Southern Italy ๐Ÿ‡ฎ๐Ÿ‡น and sampled the best in the world, I’ve made it a personal mission never to accept anything less.

While sadly I haven’t mastered the craft myself, what I can do is hunt down the good stuff and impart my knowledge of the best haunts ๐Ÿ”

This is a living post that will be refreshed from time to time as I uncover more gems! For now, these are my top picks to satisfy your Neapolitan wood fired pizza cravings in London.

Disclaimer: Only traditional pizza is covered here. If you’re a fan of pineapple, fast food or New York style ‘pizza’ then you’re in the wrong place!

๐Ÿ•๐Ÿ•๐Ÿ•

The best

๐Ÿฅ‡ L’Antica Pizzeria

“Real Neapolitan taste. Cooked with passion.”

๐Ÿš‡ Hampstead, High Barnet
๐Ÿ• Caputo flour, low-salt dough, slow-fermented over 36 hours, cooked at 400ยฐC
โญ Go for: date night or with a small group of friends
๐Ÿ‘ Traditional Neapolitan wood fired pizza, accepts table reservations, great desserts
๐Ÿ‘Ž Average service, cramped seating, loud.

๐Ÿฅˆ Homeslice

“20” pizza whole or by the slice.”

๐Ÿš‡ Covent Garden, Oxford Circus, Bond Street, Mansion House, Old Street, White City, Earl’s Court
๐Ÿ• High protein German 405 flour, aged 24 hours minimum, cooked at 500ยฐC for 60-90 seconds
โญ Go for: a slice on the go or a casual walk-in
๐Ÿ‘ Balance of tradition with innovation, flavours split 50/50, one pizza feeds two people
๐Ÿ‘Ž Chaotic service, cramped seating, loud.

๐Ÿฅ‰ Zia Lucia

“Genuine pizza.”

๐Ÿš‡ Highbury & Islington, Hammersmith, Wembley Park
๐Ÿ• Four types of dough: vegetable charcoal, wholemeal, gluten-free, traditional, slow-fermented over 48 hours
โญ Go for: a proper sit down meal with family and friends
๐Ÿ‘ Traditional Neapolitan pizza with a twist – the charcoal base is an experience!
๐Ÿ‘Ž Bookings available for a minimum of eight people.

๐Ÿ•๐Ÿ•๐Ÿ•

The rest

… but definitely not less!

Made of Dough

“Pizza. And some.”

๐Ÿš‡ Oxford Circus, Brixton, Fulham Broadway, ๐Ÿš†Peckham Rye
๐Ÿ• Lean dough: flour, water, sea salt, fresh yeast, 60% hydration, cooked fast
โญ Go for: Neapolitan wood fired pizza with mates
๐Ÿ‘ Consistently good, traditional wood fired pizza, great toppings
๐Ÿ‘Ž Casual in food halls and markets – may be hard to find a group table.

Pizzeria di Camden

“The sun on your plate.”

๐Ÿš‡ Camden Town
๐Ÿ• โ€˜00โ€™ grade flour, stone baked
โญ Go for: date night or with a small group of friends
๐Ÿ‘ Great location, great flavours, decent Aperol spritz
๐Ÿ‘Ž Small venue.

Franco Manca

“Sourdough pizza. As it should be.”

๐Ÿš‡ Restaurants in all corners of London as well as around the UK
๐Ÿ• Italian grains, live culture of flour, water and wild yeast, fermented 20 hours
โญ Go for: a decent cheap meal
๐Ÿ‘ Pizzas start from ยฃ5, many locations, walk-in friendly, No. 7 rotating specialty pizza
๐Ÿ‘Ž Average quality, stingy on toppings.

La Pizza Napoletana – Mercato Metropolitano

๐Ÿš‡ Southwark
โญ Go for: a quality pizza option at a varied food hall
๐Ÿ‘ Lots of choice, consistently decent
๐Ÿ‘Ž Long wait time and crowded space during busy periods.

Santa Maria Pizzeria Napoletana

๐Ÿš‡ Fulham Broadway, Goodge Street, South Ealing
โญ Go for: a hearty sit down meal with family, friends or peers
๐Ÿ‘ Consistently good, traditional wood fired pizza, great toppings
๐Ÿ‘Ž Some flavours are questionable – mushy peas base, for instance!

Rossopomodoro

“Like a day in Napoli”

๐Ÿš‡ Tottenham Court Road, Covent Garden, Old Street, Fulham Broadway, Camden Road, Finchley Road, ๐Ÿš† Wandsworth Town
โญ Go for: a social occasion with a medium to large size group
๐Ÿ‘ Neapolitan pizza, many locations to choose from
๐Ÿ‘Ž It has a bit of a chain vibe and the monthly special I tried wasn’t great. Still, I’d give them another go!

On my radar…

  • Pizza Pilgrims
  • Sud Italia
  • L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele – I’ve been to the original in Naples!
  • Voodoo Rays
  • Sacre Couer

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Where I take my mates visiting Sydney

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Having lived in this harbourside oasis before making The Big Move ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง, I spent six years exploring Sydney’s postcard destinations as well as uncovering hidden gems ๐Ÿ’Ž

The life of a Sydneysider can leave you feeling both excited and overwhelmed by the endless options of things to see and do. You can imagine the pressure one feels to deliver when your mates visit from out of town!

Here are my favourite hubs to explore that will offer a truly memorable experience for visitors, as well as newcomers and locals ๐Ÿ’™

Circular Quay

Circular Quay epitomises a Sydney postcard and is the world renowned host to spectacular New Year’s Eve fireworks.

You’ve got the Sydney Opera House and Royal Botanical Gardens to the left, the Sydney Harbour Bridge to the right, and the iconic green and yellow ferries calling port from all the harbour’s hotspots. You might even spot a seal sun baking on the Opera House steps!

A day in Circular Quay will keep you busy, but it’s certainly achievable. Food options on the doorstep of the wharves are overpriced and average in quality, so I recommend branching out a bit to nearby The Rocks for a meal, or relax in the Royal Botanical Gardens around the corner for a picturesque picnic.

๐Ÿš† Circular Quay
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: sip a drink by the water and watch the sunset at Opera Bar
๐Ÿคฏ Sydney Cove is the founding place for the European settlement of Australia where the First Fleet landed in Port Jackson on 26 January 1788.

The Rocks

Just a short stroll from Circular Quay and at the doorstep of Sydney Harbour Bridge is a European pocket from the settlement days. Wander through this time capsule’s cobbled lanes by day and enjoy Australia’s oldest pubs by night.

For such a compact spot, there’s plenty to explore including modern art and museums. A personal favourite are The Rocks Foodies Market on Fridays and The Rocks Markets every weekend – this is where you’ll find the perfect souvenir!

With a favourable climate year round, any time is a good time to visit. But if you’re after something special, check out Vivid Sydney in May and June when central Sydney becomes a playground festival of light and sound where art meets technology.

๐Ÿš† Circular Quay
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: indulge your sweet tooth at Pancakes On The Rocks
๐Ÿคฏ The Rocks has come a long way since its days of being home to rowdy, raucous settlements of convicts, soldiers, sailors and street gangs!

Lavender Bay

It’s time to cross the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge to the Lower North Shore ๐Ÿจ

Easily spend a whole day or entire weekend exploring this pocket of paradise. Start with the Lavender Bay to Milson’s Point Circuit Walk, then get your adrenaline rush at Luna Park’s harbourside amusement rides, and swim by sunset at the North Sydney Olympic Pool. If you have the energy left, definitely consider your trip back to the city via the pedestrian walk across the bridge.

Another favourite haunt are the Kirribilli Markets happening every other weekend. Here you can enjoy international food stalls, live music, and pick up fashion, art and antique bargains that the cashed up locals wear once and sell here.

๐Ÿš† Milson’s Point
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: explore Wendy’s Secret Garden
๐Ÿคฏ A plaque on Olympic Drive commemorates a convict transport ship’s arrival in 1814 after an outbreak of typhus, of which the epidemic killed 36 convicts, including the surgeon, First and Second Mates, boatswain, two seamen and four of the guard.

Balmoral Beach

Anyone will tell you that Balmoral Beach is one of Sydney’s best beaches. Outside of what you’d expect from a typical Aussie beach – i.e. surfing – here you’ll find little to no waves at all.

Being one of the city’s cleanest and idyllic harbour beaches, you’re more likely to find people leisurely swimming, stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, snorkelling or simply wandering down the boardwalk in the sun gelato in hand.

Rocky Point Island is the perfect picnic spot, but there’s plenty more grassy areas behind the beach, as well as plenty of eateries to choose from. A personal favourite is getting coffee from The Boathouse Balmoral and fish ‘n’ chips from Bottom of the Harbour.

๐Ÿš from Wynyard or Taronga Zoo
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: jump into the enclosed swimming area from the wharf
๐Ÿคฏ The beach was named in honour of Balmoral Castle, a large estate house in Scotland known as Royal Deeside and a favourite summer royal residence.

The Spit to Manly walk

This scenic coastal hike offers views and sites worth drooling over – at least, that’s my take on the name! ๐Ÿ’ฆ

In only 3.5hrs, or a leisurely 5hrs, covering 10km (6.2 miles) you’ll discover ancient Aboriginal rock carvings, sub-tropical bushland, secret beaches and more. The path itself consists of paved walkways, boardwalks, bush trails as well as stretches of sand and is easy for any level of fitness to undertake, despite some steep sections.

En route ‘To Manly’, as it’s helpfully signposted, there are several points of interest for a stop, picnic or a swim along the way. Some of my favourites are Elleryโ€™s Punt Reserve, Clontarf Reserve, Castle Rock Beach, Grotto Point Aboriginal Engraving Site, and views from Crater Cove and Dobroyd Head.

๐Ÿš from Wynyard
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: pack swimmers!
๐Ÿคฏ The Spit Bridge was completed in 1958, replacing an old wooden bridge, and is a ‘bascule bridge’ which allows its middle section to raise to let ships to pass through.

Manly

When asked about Sydney’s beaches, Bondi will most likely come to mind but Manly will be close behind. You can easily spend a day here, but a few hours is also achievable if all you want to do is look around.

The first things you’ll notice is the sheer size of this stretch of sand, the tree-lined promenade, volleyballers in summer, surfers in the swell all year round, and people milling about the pedestrianised centre of the Corso.

Some of my favourite things to do on weekends are to enjoy the ferry ride from Circular Quay, browse the Manly Market Place and local boutiques for something unique, as well as spend half a day swimming and snorkelling at Shelley Beach (no waves!) just a 10min walk away.

โ›ด๏ธ from Circular Quay
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: sign up for a lesson at Manly Surf School
๐Ÿคฏ Manly is the birthplace of surfing in Australia with early forms of the sport emerging as early as 1908, and the inaugural World Championships were hosted here in 1964.

Palm Beach

Also known by its famous alter ego ‘Summer Bay’ from Home and Away, Palm Beach is situated at the farthest flung reaches of the Northern Beaches and its quiet privacy attracts local and international celebrities for their choice of Sydney getaway.

Palm Beach’s other claim to fame is the stunning birds-eye view of the beach and Broken Bay from the top of Barrenjoey Headland. No stay in Sydney is complete without a snap taken from this Instaworthy spot, as well as in front of the lighthouse.

There’s two paths to the top – one longer and more winding, the other shorter and steeper. It doesn’t really matter which way you go up, as long as you take the other path on the way down to get both perspectives ๐Ÿ‘Œ

๐Ÿš from Wynyard
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: catch the ferry across the water to the next region north of Sydney – the Central Coast!
๐Ÿคฏ Palm Beach gets its name in the 1790s due to the cabbage tree palms growing in the area.

Bondi Beach

No Sydney listicle would be complete without a nod to Bondi, Sydney’s – if not Australia’s – most iconic beach.

Here is where you’ll indulge your ‘Aussie beach getaway’ bucket list – gelato in one hand, a cocktail in the other, sand between your toes and dried saltwater in your hair.

Once you’ve got that out of your system, remember to check out the graffiti wall, Bondi Icebergs ocean pool, weekend markets, open air cinema in summer, and Sculptures by the Sea outdoor exhibition during every October.

๐Ÿš† Bondi Junction
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: branch out and attempt the Bondi to Coogee coastal walk
๐Ÿคฏ Bondi Beach’s busiest summer days expect to attract up to 40,000 beach goers.

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Easy day trips from London

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London may be the bustling Capital with an infinite amount of things to see, try and do – but there’s a whole island yet to explore! ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง

With medieval castles, crumbling ruins, quaint villages to the English countryside spread around England, there’s bound to be something to suit every kind of traveller just a skip, hop and a jump away.

Here’s my top picks totally worth the train fare to get you started ๐Ÿ‘‡

Windsor

You might recognise Windsor as the illustrious royal wedding venue of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, and preferred place of residence of Queen Elizabeth II.

Windsor castle ๐Ÿฐ has been home to The Royal Family for over 1,000 years and is the largest occupied castle in the world!

The town also shares its name with the British monarchy, and is a tourism magnet due to its proximity to London, historic sites and sprawling Great Park with 500 free roaming deer at the castle’s doorstep ๐ŸฆŒ

๐Ÿš† 30min from Waterloo station
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: visit Windsor castle and explore the Queen’s apartments and St George’s Chapel
๐Ÿคฏ The name ‘Windsor’ comes from Old English โ€˜windles-oreโ€™ which translates to โ€˜winch by the riversideโ€™.

Cambridge

Aptly named after the lovely River Cam, a day trip to Cambridge is a welcome treat as you take in the picturesque backdrop the city has played to films like The Theory of Everything and The Crown ๐ŸŽฌ

Cambridge is also home one of the UK’s world leading universities whose alumni boasts famous actors like Sacha Baron Cohen, Rachel Weisz and Ian McKellen, and brainiacs like Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawking and Alan Turing ๐ŸŽ“

Swap walking shoes for a bicycle as you try to cram a busy agenda in! Some highlights to look forward to are the King’s College Chapel, and of course the university grounds, as well as a mix of things to find and try at Market Square and a view of the town from St Mary’s Church.

๐Ÿš† 1hr from Kings Cross station
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: go punting on the river! It’s the UK’s answer to the romantic canals of Venice
๐Ÿคฏ Legend has it this is where an apple fell on Isaac Newton’s head, becoming the catalyst for one of the most famous laws of physics, Newton’s Theory of Gravity, in 1687.

Oxford

Dubbed ‘The City of Dreaming Spires’, Oxford is famous for being home to the other of the UK’s world leading universities, as well as its Olde Worlde charm and for having been a favourite haunt for royals and scholars since the 9th century ๐Ÿ‘‘

University or School of Witchcraft and Wizardry? You’ll recognise Christ Church Cathedral’s alter ego as Hogwarts in scenes from Harry Potter โšก which draws in throngs of fans year round. Oxford has also attracted other literary geniuses as the likes of Oscar Wilde, CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien who studied at the Bodleian Library.

Spend the day exploring the university campus, baroque architecture at Blenheim Palace, 1,000 years of history at Oxford Castle & Prison, the iconic Radcliffe Camera and Bridge of Sighs, and get lost wandering the Oxford Covered Market.

๐Ÿš† 90min from Paddington station
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: the university campus gives you easy access to the Bodleian Library, Radcliffe Camera and the Botanical Gardens
๐Ÿคฏ Hitler planned to use Oxford as his capital after conquering England – one of the reasons why it wasn’t bombed.

Surrey Hills

Noticeably different to Surry Hills in Sydney, Surrey Hills (with an ‘e’) sells itself as an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’. If you’re after a mix of the natural delights of the English countryside, quaint cottages, crumbling ruins and imposing estates, then it look no further ๐Ÿƒ

Strap on your hiking boots (or wellies if you’re so inclined) and check out trails at Box Hill, Dorking, Haslemere, Leith Hill – whose Tower is the highest point in South East England – and and more ๐Ÿฅพ

Surrey Hills is also where it all started for our Hiking Group in summer last year!

๐Ÿš† 90min from Waterloo station
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: a wine tour at Denbies Wine Estate, England’s largest vineyard
๐Ÿคฏ 40% of the area is covered in woodland and 14% of which is ancient woodland. Keep your eyes peeled for fairies!

White Cliffs of Dover

A little awkwardly dubbed ‘The Gateway to England’ (given the Brexit situation), the White Cliffs of Dover is the first glimpse of the UK (or the last) you’ll see when catching a ferry across the English Channel, and gets its name from the chalk surface which dates back to the Ice Age โ„๏ธ

Hike the coastal path for stunning views (and a glimpse of France ๐Ÿ‡ซ๐Ÿ‡ท on a clear day), brush up on your history and explore the Churchill Wartime Tunnels and the Fan Bay Deep Shelter, and check out Dover Castle on a nearby hill if you get time.

Don’t bother taking a white rock home as a souvenir – the chalky surface will rub off and make a mess of your bag!

๐Ÿš† 2hrs from St Pancras International
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: 2 mile walk to the South Foreland Lighthouse
๐Ÿคฏ Julius Caesar arrived in 55 BC looking for a suitable landing place for a Roman invasion, but after seeing the armed natives protecting the cliffs he returned with reinforcements a year later.

Canterbury

While Canterbury – the setting of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales – is an easy canter on horseback from London, I’d recommend taking the train ๐Ÿด

Wander and wonder at Canterbury Cathedral – a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the world’s most famous places of worship – then visit The Marlowe Theatre and get caught up in the controversy of whether Canterbury-born Christopher Marlowe actually wrote some of Shakespeare’s works ๐ŸŽญ

Originally a Roman settlement, pay a visit to the Canterbury Roman Museum to soak up some history, then soak up some sun by the River Stour, or on foot or cycling down Great Stour Way.

๐Ÿš† 1hr from Kings Cross station
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: shop at the 500-year-old Buttermarket (built on top of ruins and underground tunnels)
๐Ÿคฏ The ‘Canterbury trot’ is named after the way pilgrims rode their horses to the city before night curfew.

Bath

The city of Bath gets its creative name from its, well, baths (pun intended). Not only is it home to ancient Roman thermae (baths), it’s also the UK’s unique natural hot spring. Not to mention, there’s also a rooftop natural thermal spa (creatively named Thermae Bath Spa). This must be the cleanest city in the world, right? ๐Ÿ›

Aside from its aquatic appeal, the whole city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and boasts incredible architectural gems like Pulteney Bridge, Bath Abbey and The Circus.

With many a famous Bathonian to its name such as the likes of Jane Austen, it’s also a city where you might be lucky enough to spot a famous face. John Cleese and Johnny Depp have lived in Bath, and you might recognise its streets in films like The Duchess and Les Miserables๐ŸŽฌ

๐Ÿš† 90min from Paddington station
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: drink hot spa water from the fountain at The Pump Room Restaurant – it contains 43 minerals and has a distinct taste
๐Ÿคฏ Pack your metal detector – a hoard of 17,500 Roman coins was found in the foundations of Gainsborough Bath Spa!

Stonehenge

Perched on an unassuming hill near Salisbury is Stonehenge, one of the world’s most famous prehistoric monuments. The site consists of a circle of standing stones and remains shrouded in mystery, even after 5,000 years ๐Ÿ“œ

There’s plenty of theories and folklore surrounding Stonehenge’s origins and meaning. Scholars mostly agree that it was used as a calendar of sorts due to its significance during the summer and winter solstice, as well as a burial ground – an estimated 200 people are buried at the site โšฐ๏ธ

In all honesty there’s not a whole lot to do after checking out the stones, but there’s a quiet moment of humility in gazing up at this incredible human feat.

๐Ÿš† 90min from Waterloo to Salisbury and then a bus, but booking a day tour from London is generally accepted as being great value for money
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: pick up an audio guide from the Visitor Centre as signage is limited. Also aim to visit in summer, else you risk being wind blasted!
๐Ÿคฏ A 12th century legend claims that giants placed Stonehenge on a mountain in Ireland, before Merlin the wizard magically moved it to England.

Bristol

Bristol is a thriving city and a popular residence for university students and expats – especially due to its close proximity to and similarity to London, just in more manageable proportions.

Famous Bristolians include actors like Jeremy Irons and Maisie Williams, literary heavyweight J K Rowling, as well as the elusive street artist Banksy and even the infamous Blackbeard the Pirate! ๐Ÿดโ€โ˜ ๏ธ

Start the day early or consider an overnight stay in Bristol as there’s an infinite amount of activities to keep you busy. From food and fashion, strolls along the Harbourside and through the Old City, to a hike up to the Clifton Suspension Bridge as well as hunting down Banksy’s work all over town, there’s a lot of ground to cover!

๐Ÿš† 2hrs from Paddington
โฒ๏ธ If you only do one thing: check out Banksy’s Girl with the Pierced Eardrum at the Harbourside
๐Ÿคฏ Robert Louis Stevensonโ€™sย famous bookย Treasure Island features many locations around Bristol.

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An Aussie expat’s first impressions of London

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If expat life feels like home then you’re doing it wrong.

London seems similar at first – they drive on the same side of the road and speak the same language – until you realise there’s 30+ dialects, they’re football mad (โšฝ not ๐Ÿ‰) and fish’n’chips are eaten away from the beach.

Here’s my list of things that immediately stood out to me in my first months in the UK, but this might just be the tip of the iceberg!

The good

๐Ÿ“ฑ Citymapper is the only way to navigate – it combines Google and TfL data
๐Ÿ’“ Mobile data plans are much more generous (but with mixed reliability)
โš•๏ธ NHS upfront for expats is expensive but the care you receive is unrivalled
๐Ÿš Sitting at the front on the top level of a double decker is the best way to take it all in
๐ŸŽญ A visit to The Globe Theatre makes studying Shakespeare for years worth it
๐Ÿงฃ Wall-mounted heaters, such genius!
๐Ÿท Mulled wine, where have you been all my life?
๐Ÿ• Squash is a thing – even Franco Manca’s signature pizza base
๐ŸŒˆ It doesn’t rain all that much, it just drizzles
๐Ÿ‡ฆ๐Ÿ‡บ Clapham is overrun by Australians and New Zealanders
๐ŸฆŠ๐Ÿฟ๏ธ Foxes and squirrels scurry around like Pokemon!

The bad

๐Ÿ“ž Telephone boxes are run down and smell like pee
๐Ÿค” Brits use ‘You all right?’ as a legitimate greeting
๐Ÿ“บ You pay for a TV licence you never use
๐Ÿฅฆ Most supermarkets close early on Sundays
๐ŸŒฌ๏ธ Air-conditioning is virtually non-existent, even on public transport
๐Ÿซ Chocolate tastes strange, but Galaxy bars make up for it
๐Ÿคทโ€โ™€๏ธ There are no power points in bathrooms
๐Ÿ  SpareRoom.co.uk is a necessary evil – watch out for scammers
๐ŸŒ Fresh produce isn’t that fresh at all
๐Ÿ’ฉ The Thames has got nothing on Sydney Harbour and is always brown
๐Ÿ™ Making friends is hard work and you may feel lonely at times.

The ugly

Big Ben will be covered in scaffolding until 2021!

๐Ÿฆ You won’t find a Weis Bar anywhere but you can try an online recipe?
๐Ÿ‘ข People actually wear UGG boots outside
๐Ÿšฐ Hard water is liquid hell, and don’t even get me started on limescale
๐Ÿš† Trains outside of London are privately operated and hella expensive
๐Ÿฝ๏ธ Eating out is double the cost and half the quality of what we get back home
๐Ÿƒ Everyone’s in a rush – be prepared to be bumped, knocked and shoved daily
๐Ÿ›‹๏ธ Some apartments don’t have a living room
๐Ÿšฝ Sharing one bathroom and toilet between five rooms is normal
๐Ÿšจ You become desensitised to news of violence or moped thieves in your area
๐Ÿคง Sometimes there’s black stuff in your tissue after sneezing.

The amusing

Get used to uncomfortable eye and body contact on the Tube

๐Ÿ—ฃ๏ธ Try dropping some true blue Aussie vernacular mid-conversation, it’s an experience
โ›ฑ๏ธ ‘Beaches’ in the UK
๐ŸŒณ People sun bake in parks in summer
๐Ÿงฅ Australia Day in winter is more brunch than BBQ
๐Ÿš‡ Tube, Underground, Overground, Rail, DLR … can’t we just call it a train?
๐Ÿป Brits who are equally rowdy after a couple of pints
๐Ÿคฆโ€โ™€๏ธ Standing on the right on the escalator but having no clue where to on the pavement
๐Ÿ˜• Brits who pick up on your accent but are too polite to ask where you’re from
๐Ÿคฃ Cockfosters is a legitimate name of a Tube station on the Piccadilly line
โ„๏ธ 10min of snow is enough to interrupt the whole transport system
๐ŸŒ You learn what ‘Antipodean’ means for the first time
๐Ÿฅง Christmas mince pies do not contain mince meat – don’t be fooled.

I’ve got a niggling feeling I might have missed a few things … If you’ve experienced culture shock since moving to London or the UK, do tell!

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Beat the infamous Heathrow Injection

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As scary as the ‘Heathrow Injection’ ๐Ÿ’‰๐Ÿ˜ฑ sounds, thankfully it doesn’t involve anything sharp – quite the opposite. ‘Extra padding’ is something most London newcomers experience after they’ve settled in.

Picture the scene: a summer-like period fades into long dark days, ramping up the desire for nights in with a growing pile of takeout boxes on the kitchen bench ๐Ÿฅก

If, like me, you’ve traded climates ๐Ÿ–๏ธ๐Ÿ›ฌ๐ŸŒฌ๏ธ you might also adopt the after work pub culture and comfort food on the menu (mmm, fish ‘n’ chips) as you adjust to your first UK winter.

It’s not all doom and gloom! London is a thriving city and there’s always things to see, try and do – you just need to find what works for you ๐Ÿคฉ

Walk to work

Actual photo of Londoners walking to work

You’ve heard this one a thousand times, and it sounds almost too easy – but have you actually done it? You might discover a new coffee haunt or local boutique on the way, or someplace to come back and check out at the weekend.

If you’re crossing half the city on your regular commute then aim to get off a few stops early and walk the remaining journey ๐Ÿ‘Ÿ

โš ๏ธ Spoiler alert: despite the drizzly reputation, it doesn’t rain all that often in London.

Shop the high street

Get lost in Camden’s famous markets

Last Christmas, the ‘death of the High Street’ was all any media publisher broadcasted. Basically, online shopping is overtaking in-store shopping as our preferred purchase method ๐Ÿ›๏ธ While a great alternative for time-strapped people, it’s not so great for clocking up steps.

Pick a Tube station at random and guaranteed there’s an interesting local market in the vicinity. Ditch the cookiecutter handbag and hunt for something unique ๐Ÿ‘

Get behind two wheels

Santander Cycles are just ยฃ2 a ride!

London may be a bustling metropolis, but its streets are becoming increasingly bike friendly. There’s even cycling ‘super highways’ popping up all over town! ๐Ÿšดโ€โ™€๏ธ

Many workplaces have also adopted ‘cycle to work’ schemes – check if your company is already on board ๐Ÿ‘Œ

If you’re more of a leisure cyclist, take advantage of the UK’s longer daylight hours in summer (until 10pm!) and take a two-wheeled tour around your borough ๐ŸŒณ

Unless you live under a rock, you’d also have noticed Santander Cycles docking stations. Find out more ๐Ÿšฒ

Prep your meals

Impress your colleagues with your cooking skills

With chains and meal deals (coupled with an active social life) competing to be your food choice, it’s no wonder we opt for convenience over effort. Sushi ๐Ÿฃ might seem healthy but did you know the rice is full of caster sugar? Not to mention it’s likely white rice, too.

Knowing exactly what you’re eating when you prepare it yourself puts you back in control – not only of its contents, but portion size as well โš–๏ธ

Some of my favourite (and simplest) packed lunches for work are rice paper rolls, falafel wrap, chicken and avocado toastie, and soft tacos ๐Ÿ˜‹

Join a fitness group

From CrossFit to circus, flamenco to kayaking, tai chi and more, there’s an abundance of fitness activities happening in every corner of London ๐Ÿ’ƒ However, prices for anything specialised can make you question whether its worth the pounds (mind the pun).

If you’re after something that combines culture, socialising and fitness like Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, then 3-4-1 sounds like a sweet deal! And if you’re after something more casual, the pricey gym membership might not be the best option ๐Ÿ’ธ

Outside of solo runs and cycling, there’s a huge selection of free (or cheap) fitness MeetUp and Facebook groups. *Shameless plug* our Hiking Group is pretty cool! ๐Ÿ‘Ÿ

Up your Insta game

If chasing invisible monsters on Pokemon GO isn’t getting you out of the house like it used to, it might be about time to dust off that Instagram account? ๐Ÿคณ

If you Google ‘most instagrammable cities in the world’, chances are London will make the Top 10. Outside of its classic icons – think roundels, red double deckers and telephone boxes – there’s monuments, palaces, churches, extravagant eateries, historic pubs, quirky street and food art and more! ๐ŸŽก

Some starting points for inspiration are: scenic walks along South Bank, eclectic markets in Camden and Shoreditch, stunning views at Greenwich, and colourful architecture in Chelsea and Notting Hill ๐Ÿ‡ฌ๐Ÿ‡ง

Curb your liquid calorie intake

Wine might be the way to go when it comes to sugar in alcohol

London hosts incredible traditional pubs and riverside al fresco spots for blink-and-you-missed-it summer, but there’s a reason a pint or two leaves you feeling full ๐Ÿป I’m not suggesting anything drastic, just to watch your intake. The NHS has a helpful guide on their website๐Ÿท

And then there’s a host of chains offering sweet-tastic drinks – think: bubble tea and smoothies that are more ice-cream than fruit – and sugar-loaded ‘coffee’ frappuccinos with all the latest flavours ๐Ÿฅค

If you need that flavour hit, try mixing your own sparkling fruit juice with soda water and 100% fruit extract, adding mint leaves to a jug of water or swapping coffee for herbal tea ๐Ÿต

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Life-changing reads

If you’re a fan of print, you’ll understand the panic mode that hits when you realise you have to abandon your home library when it comes to The Big Move (see below or read more on Instagram).

With an average of 20-something kilos per bag, you quickly realise suitcase space is hot property real estate. That’s when you face the painful process of picking your favourite book child(ren) and sadly part with the rest ๐Ÿ“š

A few ways to get around it are to:

  • Convert to an e-reader and bring your digital library anywhere you go
  • Hit up secondhand bookstores once you arrive. I picked up Rubicon by Tom Holland in great condition for just ยฃ2 at a London charity shop!
  • Ask your family to stuff a bag full of books and goodies from back home during their obligatory visit
  • Scope out pricey shipping options if you can’t live without your 12 volume fantasy saga. Expat Facebook groups are great for recommendations.

Below are some of the titles that I couldn’t bear to part with, and ironically some actually inspired me to move in the first place – like inspirational comets, crashing into my life plan and shifting its trajectory off course โ˜„๏ธ

โ€œA room without books is like a body without a soul.โ€

Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman Orator

Warning: Reading the following books might change life as you know it! Proceed with caution.

Writing and teen angst

Bitten๐Ÿบ

Kelley Armstrong, Women of the Otherworld, Horror, Fantasy, 2001

Elena Michaels is the worldโ€™s only female werewolf. And sheโ€™s tired of it. So she left the Pack and returned to Toronto where sheโ€™s trying to live as a human. When the Pack leader calls asking for her help fighting a sudden uprising, she only agrees because she owes him.More info

Before Twilight‘s sparkly vampires infected our lunchtime gossip sessions, I was nose deep this is dark, gritty urban fantasy about werewolf mafia.

The story gets up close and personal, making you shudder with images of gore, and flush red from the abrupt, raunchy sex littered throughout. Armstrong’s writing perfectly blends the supernatural and the adult world, minus the cringey tropes of teen fantasy novels.

After turning the last page, I opened up my Word and immediately started writing my own supernatural saga (because I was such an ‘expert’ by that point). I’d print off every new chapter and bring it to school for my best friends to take home and read. Surprisingly, they enjoyed it and pestered me daily for the next installment. Chuffed that my writing was such a hit in the schoolyard, I decided that being a writer was my calling.

History buff

Mistress of Rome โš”๏ธ

Kate Quinn, Empress of Rome, Historical Fiction, 2010

First-century Rome. Thea is a slave girl from Judaea, purchased as a toy for a spiteful heiress. Now she has infuriated her mistress by capturing the attention of Romeโ€™s newest and most savage gladiator. Reinventing herself as a singer for Romeโ€™s aristocrats, Thea unwittingly attracts another admirer: the charismatic Emperor.More info

The story hits the ground running. Quinn brings imperial Rome to the present through her protagonist’s modern voice and hits you with sensory bursts – colour in rich silks, thunderous applause in the Colosseum, the shiver of the Emperor’s breath down your neck, and the smell of gladiator sweat as they fight it out for their lives.

I picked up Mistress of Rome early on in my uni degree. At the time I was indecisive about first year Psychology and looking for ways to avoid stats. Knowing that I’d have to tackle my numerical demons at some point, I jumped into my imagination’s time machine. The world of emperors, gladiators and lavish banquets was so richly immersive I longed to be a part of it.

And so began my second (and third) academic start, bringing me closer to my Serious Writer dreams and ever so much further away from stats. Seeing the Colosseum in person never fails to snatch the breath from my lungs ๐Ÿ›๏ธ

Culture and cuisine

The Gypsy Tearoom ๐Ÿ

Nicky Pellegrino, Fiction, 2007

Raffaella Moretti is by far the most beautiful girl in the southern Italian village of Triento and she is about to marry the only boy she has ever loved. The last thing she expects is to find herself a widow one short year later, down on her hands and knees, scrubbing clean the layers of dirt from a strange house.More info

I don’t subscribe to the motto ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’ – something has to entice you to pluck it from the shelf, right? This little teal book caught my eye and the strange title instilled me with the sudden need to know what a ‘gypsy tearoom’ was.

A chapter or two in, and I’ve been a tragic Italophile ever since. Food, language, art, history, culture, romance … what’s not to love?!

Pellegrino depicts Italy in sepia – picturesque towns and traditions passed down over generations, and a calmness that makes you want to curl up on a sunbed and sip spritz on a summer afternoon by the beach. Hmm, maybe I could live there…

Girl power!

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon ๐ŸŒ™ Volume 1

Naoko Takeuchi, Shลjo Japanese Manga, 1992

Usagi Tsukino is a normal girl until she meets Luna, a talking cat, who tells her that she is Sailor Moon who must fight evil and enforce justice, in the name of the Moon and the mysterious Moon Princess. She meets other girls destined to be Sailor Senshi (Sailor Scouts), and together they fight the forces of evil!More info

Sailor Moon combines most things I enjoy – superpowers, strong females, romance, action, mythology, Japanese culture, the list goes on. The series really kicked off my love for visual storytelling, resulting in many trees sacrificed to my endless ink doodling. Good thing now we have tablets!

Confession: This phase actually started with the American 90s anime adaptation Sailor Moon. This ‘phase’ hasn’t exactly ended yet, and it may have inspired a trip to Japan and led to an obscene amount of merch purchases ๐Ÿ›๏ธ

My interest in the original manga only started amidst the hype surrounding the franchise’s 20th anniversary and the release of the Sailor Moon Crystal anime series. Nostalgia of the fun, quirky show of my childhood came flooding back and I gave the back-to-front illustrated novels a go. After devouring every instalment, plus a few volumes in Spanish and Italian, I went ahead and rewatched the entire series.

Warning: Prepare to have this track stuck in your head all day.

Myths, gods and heroes

The Iliad ๐Ÿบ

Homer, Epic Poem, 800 or 700 B.C.

The darkest episode in the Trojan War. At its centre is Achilles, the greatest warrior-champion of the Greeks, and his refusal to fight after being humiliated by his leader Agamemnon. But when the Trojan Hector kills Achilles’ close friend Patroclus, he storms back into battle to take revenge knowing this will ensure his own early death. Interwoven with this tragic sequence of events are the conflicts between the Gods on Olympus as they argue over the fate of mortals.More info

Homer. Where to even begin? A timeless epic of Greek and Trojan heroes: honourable Hector, god-like Achilles, beautiful Paris, proud kings, egotistical gods, a hidden trap wooden horse, a decade of war and forbidden love, and ‘the face that launched a thousand ships’.

The Iliad is eternal and enduring. It embodies the Greek heroic tragedy, and would pave the way for countless retellings and interpretations across the ages. The story represents storytelling in its richest form and adapts seamlessly across all mediums: oral, written, audio, visual. In my opinion, its only downfall is the repetitive comparisons of every warrior to a lion. How about a wolf, mountain bear or an eagle to mix things up a bit?

The Iliad is my muse, as my well-thumbed copy can attest.

โ€œEvery story I create, creates me. I write to create myself.โ€

Octavia E. Butler

Honourable mentions ๐Ÿฅˆ

Okay, so this post sort of became a shopping list.

  • Wonder Woman: Warbringer, Leigh Bardugo, YA Fiction
  • The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller, Historical Fiction
  • Imperium, Robert Harris, Historical Fiction
  • Antony and Cleopatra, Colleen McCullough, Historical Fiction
  • The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux, Gothic Horror
  • DraculaBram Stoker, Gothic Horror
  • The Aeneid, Virgil, Epic Poetry
  • The Odyssey, Homer, Epic Poetry
  • Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert, Memoir
  • Lunch in Paris, Elizabeth Bard, Memoir
  • Geisha of Gion, Mineko Iwasaki, Memoir
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood, Dystopia
  • The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien, Fantasy
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, J.R.R. Tolkien, Fantasy
  • The Book of Tomorrow, Cecelia Ahern, YA Fiction
  • The Faraway Tree, Enid Blyton, Children’s Fiction
  • Percy Jackson and the Lightning ThiefRick Riordan, YA Fiction
  • Stardust, Neil Gaiman, Fantasy
  • Garden Spells, Sarah Addison Allen, Fiction
  • Harry Potter: and the Philosopher’s Stone, JK Rowling, Fantasy
  • Eragon, Christopher Paolini, Fantasy
  • Magic Knight Rayearth, CLAMP, Shลjo Japanese Manga
  • Sakura Hime: The Legend of Princess Sakura, Arina Tanemura, Shลjo Japanese Manga
  • W.I.T.C.H, Elisabetta Gnone, Alessandro Barbucci, Barbara Canepa, Italian Comic.

โ€œIf there is a book that you want to read, but it hasnโ€™t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.โ€

Toni Morrison

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