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  • Writer's pictureJordan Blaza Olsen

London 2023 - The City Experience

Updated: May 3, 2023

And now I’m back home, sitting on my yellow lounge chair facing the eastern morning sun in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles. I had my Kona coffee from my recent Honolulu trip and ready to continue this blog draft. London… in my previous blog post I wrote about my foggy recollection of my first visit. After a couple of weeks just sitting with some feelings, it seemed pointless being ‘meh’ about the past but it’s definitely ok to not be ‘wow’ and ‘yay’. It’s ok that some parts of that past is really just ‘meh’ or even ‘eww’. I spent time and money (more than I should have) on that trip that I should share it because it had meaning and some people like to read stories and get tips on travel and learn what’s possible when they travel.

This time around, I wanted to be as close to Star Wars Celebration instead of the heart of the city. I’ve done that, it was fun then, and this is now, I wanted a different experience. So I got a hotel practically connected to the ExCel in the Docklands area. I stayed at the Aloft ExCel (what does ExCel stand for anyway? Great read here.) and I wrote about it also (will post more about hotels later). I loved being greeted by the [intentional?] diversity pride flag colors on their signage, which was very striking especially the hotel façade was dark blue/green and was surrounded by cement structures. It felt really good to finally get there especially the cab ride was 177 pounds and almost 1.5 hours. It’s a cry-about-it-later thing because I just wanted to get out of Heathrow and didn’t want to figure out where Uber picks up passengers and no one seemed to know.

Back to the Docklands… It’s not a destination for me. Shops and restaurants were convenient to the ExCel and the hotel but one side was closed for upgrades, which looks great in the concept rendering, but they’re in the digging phase. I did check out 2 Asian restaurants in the area and I’m pleased. The Nakhon Thai Restaurant was authentic especially with the sauteed pak boong and shrimp toast. It’s a nice 10 minute walk from the hotel through the con center or a DLR ride, also about 10 minutes total. The staff was very friendly and multicultural. The restaurant is at the edge of the dock with a beautiful view of the water and the IFS Cloud Royal Docks cable cars floating above. The Chinese dimsum place, Yi-Ban, on the other side of the hotel was also authentic but unfortunately I missed the dimsum hours. I had the bokchoy with beef and egg fried rice and greatly satisfied my craving for vegetables. The walk back to the hotel along the water was also beautiful in it’s industrial way especially with the late sunset and warmer temperatures. It was a much needed moment of temporary solitude after a very lively day at the convention.

I do have to mention that Aloft was great for what I wanted and needed which was comfort and convenience for attending Celebration. I loved that the Docksider restaurant in the hotel had a multi-ethnic menu offerings. I had the chicken curry with garlic naan and basmati rice and it was so delicious I had it twice during my stay. I also had the cheeseburger twice, with the truffle parmesan cheese fries, definitely comfort food type and also satisfied my cravings. One time I had their spicy salami pizza and I believe I had a misunderstanding with the staff when I placed my order. It wasn’t terrible but I wouldn’t recommend it. I still ate it because I was hungry and it was pricey.

The room itself was great in terms of space, décor, amenities, but as I wrote in my hotel review, I prefer large windows with unobstructed views of the sky because I’m borderline claustrophobic with generalized anxiety and depression that’s sometimes triggered by seasonal affective disorder. Yes, I’m a little fragile. But with 2 twin beds (double beds) because they were out of king size beds, the amount of space helped. Especially since I had to assemble a couple of my cosplays and do a lot of ironing, I needed all the space. I realized I’m really great at compact packing for conventions that I packed 5 fairly elaborate cosplays plus 2 weeks of regular clothing, etc, in 2 large suitcases and 1 carry on. I posted an example of that on my Instagram.

After Celebration, I switched hotels to the Leonardo Royal Hotel London City for a couple of days and my room was so beautiful! After another expensive car ride, because I have too much luggage for the tube, I got to the hotel early but they were able to accommodate me. The view from my room with the floor to ceiling and wall to wall window had a glimpse of the Tower Bridge, the water and the park. I also wrote about it in my hotel review. It wasn’t perfect but I wanted to be close to that bridge that I’ve dreamt about seeing since high school. I still don’t understand my fascination about it but I did it, I saw it, touched it, walked on it, took lots of pictures, my young inner self is very happy about it.

The hotel was a great spot with 2 entrances to the tube on either side of it. I’ve been told how easy it is to get around town in it but this was the first time I really went around town in it. I didn’t have an agenda other than the bridge but I went on a touristy morning and walked around Big Ben, the Eye, Westminster Abbey, and Trafalgar Square. One of the things people told me to experience is traditional afternoon tea. After doing some research, the pricier ones had no available table for one, but I stumbled onto one that was reasonably priced. I had the Coronation Tea set menu at the Brumus. I got there 2 hours earlier than my reservation, which turned out great because there were only a handful of people at that time. I had a corner booth table, was greeted nicely, my coat was put in the wardrobe, they charged my phone, and brought my tea set. It was a lot of food. It was pretty good and worth it mainly for the ambiance and experience.

Across the street was Her Majesty’s Theater where I got a ticket for The Phantom of the Opera later that night. I took myself out on a date. It was a promise to myself not to wait for a man to take me, actually, not even friends in general, not anyone. In my early days of international travel, I waited a lot for people to be able to go with me, and because circumstances of my life is much different now, I can just go on my own. And its not because I don’t like company but because I’ve accepted as much as I want others to go with me, majority of the time for various valid reasons, others can’t go with me. So that day was a beautiful treat and really made me happy. I took care of myself.

The Food… I’m sorry but overall, in my humble and limited time experience… please don’t hate me… England is not known for it’s food. Sorry, sorry, sorry! [insert giggle emoji’s here]. Ok, question is would I come back… I don’t know yet. I had a lovely time, I feel happy about it, I accomplished what I emotionally needed to accomplish for my healing. I prefer warm and tropical climates so it might be a while but in my next post I’ll write about Durham where I visited my cousin and her family. When I visit them again, I’ll most likely have a few days in London but it won’t be my main destination. Come back again when I post my next blog. Thanks for reading!

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