Arriving in London was everything everyone said it would be. The immigration line was two hours long. Uber exists. English is spoken here!
After the long wait in the airport (and my first taste of weird work hours, as I joined a team call from the immigration line), I was on my way to my new home, The Collective Old Oak. We drove through industrial outskirts of the city, quaint streets with what clearly used to be English countryside communities, and lots of Indian food spots.
I arrived to a large office-looking building, our home for the month. The Collective is a co-living and co-working space, and we had “Twodios” for the month – a micro-studio with our own cruise cabin-like bathroom, and a shared mini-kitchen with another Remote. The space was small, but clean and bright, and very well thought out for a digital nomad: there were lots of shelves/horizontal space, hooks, hangers, etc.
My first morning at The Collective, I checked out some of the common spaces, each floor with a different theme. There was a library room, a spa (complete with a hot sauna), a zen garden, a cinema room, a game room, etc. There was also a restaurant/café downstairs, with a beautiful outdoor terrace overlooking the canal. I settled in to my first European workday at the restaurant, and spent most of the day catching up from being out. Though I don’t technically need to, I’m working modified east coast hours to better align with the team at work, be available for meetings, etc. My day starts around 11-12 and ends around 8-9.
First Night out in London
We had a couple of birthday parties to celebrate the day I arrived, so I made my way over with a group of other late-workers. Driving through the city made me feel instantly in love. The architecture is beautiful everywhere you look, buildings are lit up fantastically at night, posh, well-dressed people parade the streets, and the cute black taxi cabs add an elegant flair to the city. We drove through Oxford Circus, home of trendy stores, and arrived at Archer Street, a fun bar with dancing, (really good) singers, and an island/beach vibe, complete with some sandboxes on the lower level.
At the bar, I lamented at the $15+ drinks, caught up with my Remote family, and had a blast dancing the night away.
Exploring the City
The next day, I decided to work from the city center. Walking to the tube, I realized just how desolate our part of town is. There are a couple of convenience stores and a bar or two, but other than that, it’s pretty empty. A 45-minute commute later, I was in the heart of it all, at London Bridge. I had breakfast and worked from The Grind, a great coffee shop right near the bridge where the waiter called me “love” as he refilled my coffee. I later met up with Linda, an altMBA’er pen pal, whom I’ve been writing to for the last six months. Catching up and hearing about her upcoming career shift and adventures was such a nice reminder of the power of altMBA, and made me want to reconnect with the community and the mindset.
We met at the Hoxton Hotel, and I spent the rest of the day working from the hotel lobby, with its cozy sofas and beautiful fireplace.
That evening, I met up with Irene, fellow Hoya and freshman floormate (D3!). We had yummy thai food at Champor-Champor, walked around a bit and had a couple of beers with her boyfriend Dani by the Thames. The Tower Bridge was lit up like a fairytale a few meters away, and it was a great cap to my first real day out in the city.
Over the weekend, I did a lot more exploring:
- Greenwich with Irene, where we saw the Cutty Sark, an old tea ship, the Prime Meridian, where I stood on two hemispheres at once, Borough Market, where we tasted delicacies and had Pimms cups, and finally, a proper English stand-up comedy show.
- Portobello Road in Notting Hill, where Jeff, Max and I wandered through the market, checking out souvenirs and antiques, complete with a proper Sunday Roast: a meat, Yorkshire pudding, gravy, carrots and parsnips.
- Bike Tour through the Royal Parks, where I learned about Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, The Big Ben (which is actually just the bell; the tower is called Victoria Tower), and the beautiful parks in between (Kensington Gardens, St. James Park, Hyde Park).
Monday morning, I attended my first “Museum Monday” with our camp counselors, Sam and Travis. We checked out the British Museum, where I got to see the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies, and The Elgin Marbles, which are the friezes from the outside of the Parthenon that Greece claims was stolen by the Earl of Elgin in the 1800’s. It was pretty amazing, having just seen the Parthenon a couple of weeks prior, to imagine the splendor it must’ve been when it had the Elgin Marbles intact.
Later in the week, I went with a couple of Remotes to a showing of The Taming of the Shrew at The Globe. The theater is designed to look like what it would’ve been in Shakespeare’s time, and our standing room tickets afforded us great views and fun interactions with the actors. Overall, a great experience that I’d do again anytime!
Celebrations in the City
During the week, I worked from Undertone’s offices in downtown. It was great to spend time with the team, reconnect with the Undertone vibe and culture, and actually be able to have an in-person conversation with someone who understood what I did every day. This week was also extra special because Undertone decided to throw me a party for my birthday!
Just kidding, it was the pre-planned summer event, but it happened to fall on my birthday so I’ll believe what I want. We had a blast hanging out at Big Chill House, a bar with a rooftop terrace, watching a British ska/pop band perform, and having a huge dance party. My Undertone fam even got me a cake and a thoughtful card, despite the fact that I had just met many of them for the first time.
That evening, I had dinner with a group of Remotes at El Parador, a Spanish tapas bar near King’s Cross, which was wonderful, and then fancy cocktails at BYOC. BYOC is a speakeasy-style bar with an interesting concept: bring your own spirits, pay £25 at the door, and have an expert bartender make cocktails based on your tastes for a few hours.
We had a lot of really tasty cocktails, laughed a ton, and genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. When it came time to head out, we tried to go to a few London clubs, and ended up at Aquarium, which was pretty meh except for one amazing feature: it had a pool. A couple of us dove in, played around with a huge beach ball, tried to avoid getting the extremely chlorinated water in our eyes, and then were ready to call it a night.
Overall, my birthday was super fun, despite coming together at the last minute and not being in Ibiza (one day…). I’m grateful to have amazing friends on my trip who made it so special.
Here’s to a twentygreat year of continued travel, learning about myself and the world, and connecting with even more incredible people!