Welcome to the first interview of “The Girls living in…” project! It’s 5pm and you probably figured out why it’s important? Because this one is about living in London!!
I am so happy and grateful to know Sheena – a beautiful soul who is now living in one of my favourite cities. And Sheena is so fun and her writing is so juicy with details – I almost could smell and see the city! The whole idea of this project was to peek into someone’s daily life in a city and get their tips and favourite places to go. Hope you enjoy it :-)
Introduce yourself and where are you from?
My name is Sheena Melwani, I’m 24, an Indo-Canadian from Toronto, Ontario. I love meeting new people, debating current events and ethical issues, eating everything, hiking, and a good cup of tea!
What brings you to London?
Well, when I was younger, I was totally taken by London as a city. I loved everything from Hamley’s (London’s equivalent to FAO Schwarz in NYC), to the London Eye, to Big Ben, to Madame Tussaud’s.. as a child, it was like a dreamland or one giant carnival. So, I desired, with all my being, to come back and live in London as a young adult and take in the more cultural side of everything that London has to offer. From that point, it was just finding the right excuse to get me there – and so I got a short-term position with a charity in London (a charity whose work I had always admired and wanted to contribute to) took me on for a short work stint :)
What do you currently do?
I work with the External Affairs team at the charity, helping with social media, writing press releases, doing briefings and research, editing op-eds, and training various teams in SEO and Google Analytics.
What is your regular day in London like?
A regular ho-hum day in London: I usually roll out of bed at and catch the northern line all the way down to central London where I work along Oxford Street… it takes about 45 mins door to door – the tube is horrible in the morning, I don’t feel like a human being – just another thing to be squashed up against the wall. Despite me DESPISING the tube and its inconvenient strikes, I have to just love it as well because it takes me EVERYWHERE. London has a phenomenal transportation system and with my trust city app, called CityMapper, I’m unstoppable. No place is too difficult to get to.
For Lunch, I’ll sometimes meet a friend and sit in one of London’s many parks or squares if the weather is nice – there are many places to eat in my area, whether I venture to Edgware road to get a shawarma or some hummus or walk over to Pret-a-Manger for a quick sandwich or baguette – always super fast and super tasty.
Then after work, if it’s a Friday, I’ll head to the pub to get a “pint”, meet some friends or with some colleagues… or if I’m feeling ambitious, get some last-minute tickets for a musical or play or show!
If it’s a weekend, you’ll always find me with a packed bag, exploring one area of London or another, or going away for the weekend, or going to visit one of the cities or towns close by to London. I never sit still.
When it comes to London, what’s your number 1 favorite place to be?
In London, my number 1 favourite place to be: This is a REALLY hard one. So I’ll give you two:
1. Selfridges – it’s THE most beautiful department store ever, inside AND outside. It’s food hall is a feast for all the senses. Everything in that department store is just to perfect and lovely and it makes you want to just buy it all. From the ladies getting haircuts and facials right in the mall to the pinkberry froyo, to their travel section with the huge range of travel books they manage to make everything glamorous!
2. Inside the British Museum – it’s a beautiful building on the inside and out. The inside has great big skylights that light up the parthenon pieces, the rosetta stone – tons of free guided tours – It’s just a great place to be for the nerd in me.
Cafe: it’s not exactly a café but for the best crepes EVER, you must go to The crêpe stand in Hampstead called Hampstead Creperie. They do NOT skimp on the butter or garlic, and if you want a dessert crêpe, they use creamy Belgian milk chocolate. You WON’T be disappointed but you WILL have to wait in a line and there is no place to sit down. Also, it’s only open a few days a week so check before you go! It is SO worth it.
My favourite shop: Well, I’m a child at heart – so it HAS to be Hamley’s. It’s an awesome toy store and they demonstrate their super toys for you. Avoid going on a weekend if you can or you won’t get to try the toys (which is the best part, duh) due to the sheer number of people in the store.
Secret hideout: This is important. London is an INSANELY busy city with tons of people moving in and out of the city every day, just to get to work. My secret hideout isn’t that secretive – it’s by bedroom located up in Finchley Central – I’ll sit and read a book in the sun, or make my cousin vacate his room so that I can sit with the balcony doors open, letting the cool breeze in. On rare occasion, the weather in London can be absolutely perfect.
Just an FY – No place in London is a secret. Everywhere you go it will be busy and you’ll have to wait for a table or make a reservation. It’s just too big of a city with too many people! Sorry :D
My favourite site: The very top of St. Paul’s cathedral… but also inside St. Paul’s cathedral. It’s just magnificent.
If I came to visit you in London for just one day, where would you take me?
If you came to London for one day – I hope it would be a Friday because I’d take you to Borough market for the yummiest lunch – lamb burgers, truffle oil, the best grilled cheese: this market pulls out all the stops and London’s best coffee place is right there: Monmouth Coffee!
Then after that ‘Brunch’ we’d take a peek inside the Tate Modern (the modern art gallery), then go across the Millennium Bridge to St. Paul’s and climb to the top, then walk along the Thames to Trafalgar square to take it all in (the architecture is to die for), visit Big Ben, go into Westminster for evensong to hear the Westminster boys choir sing, then to Covent Garden/ Leicester square for dinner, and for our evening activity, let you decide between pub/musical/theatre for after! And that wouldn’t even cover the tiniest bit if what London has to offer. Sorry. (Ok, now I REALLY want to come to London one more time! – Olya)
When you leave London, what would you miss most?
When I leave London, I will miss its beautiful architecture – without a doubt. Every one of London’s streets and alleys has buildings with intricate facades. The work that has gone into this city is apparent. People take pride in their building and it feels like I’m walking through such a proud and grand city, everywhere I go. Toronto will be ugly in comparison.
London is also an awesome launch pad for travel in Europe. All roads lead to L ondon, by plane, train, or automobile :)
Any cons you found when living here?
What are the things to consider for someone who’s planning to move to London?
ITS A BIG, EXPENSIVE city. It’s impossible to get to two different places in one night so everyone kinda hangs out and goes out in the areas that they live in. This makes things difficult when you have friends that live across the city, and you spend a long time commuting from place to place. As long as you park yourself on a good tube route, it doesn’t matter how far out you are… because you won’t be able to afford central London (and neither will your friends) so, you’ll all be 30-45 mins by public transport from your work place / each other.
Also, because it’s a big city, there are lots if people – expect queues at all restaurants, pubs, events, expect to body check people as you walk down Oxford Street and through Leicester Square, and to rarely get a seat on the tube during rush hour (and it will be a very shitty experience for the amount that it costs to take the tube). But don’t worry, I must say that it’s still worth it to live in this bustling city.
My other piece of advice is to BUDGET. Make sure you have enough money to sustain yourself in those first few months. Housing is not cheap, nor is food or transport, so don’t go crazy until you have a solid job and source of income.