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Couchsurfing Around Europe, Part 8: London

Couchsurfing Around Europe, Part 8: London

Couchsurfing Around Europe, Part 8: London

With so many cultural offerings to plunder, seek out a different side of the city — such as Marylebone's farmers' market.

The Marylebone Farmers' Market in Regents Park | Photo via Yelp

If Manhattan were cleaner, kinder, and steeped in royal history, it might begin to resemble London. While some may argue New York City compensates with in-your-face skyscrapers and larger-than-life attitude, the U.K. capital emanates a graceful confidence defined more by elegant detail and nuance than mere height and imposition. Each has its own brand of excitement that’s certainly worth the experience, but for a cultural hub that’s both invigorating and charming, London fits the bill.

A true inside/outside city, London has enough cavernous museums to fill a lifetime of weekdays, more clubs and music venues than can be visited in a year of raucous nights, and endless parks and gardens to wile away an entire summer of sunshine. Whatever speed or style you’re after, London has more of it than you can squeeze into your stay, and it all blends together seamlessly in a city that’s at once pulsing and poised.

For help navigating a brief stay in a vast city, I spoke with David Brownlie-Marshall, 31, creator of London’s lifestyle blog Here, offers a few insider tips of where to get the London experience away from the maddening crowd.

Out Traveler: How long have you lived in London?

David Brownlie-Marshall: Since 2008.

How long have you been out?

I told my school friends first when I was 17. I was lucky to have a close-knit group of friends to tell, and that gave me the confidence to be more widespread with it. When I told my parents, though, it was an act of provocation…I did it to make a statement!

How is it for a gay person to get along in this city?

It’s a very comfortable place to be a gay person. It’s made up of all different kinds of people, so something like sexuality is less of a focus than some other dividing thing might be. But it might also depend on what industry you’re in. I’m lucky to work in the arts, so it’s easy breezy.

Two places a visitor should go with just one day here?

Holland Park. It’s near Kensington Gardens, but further west, and it’s kind of isolated from the other well-known London parks. At the bottom, it’s very manicured with a Japanese garden, and the top end has a wild meadow. It’s a wonderful mixture of hyper-manicured gardens and wild English countryside all in one space. And then Marylebone on High Street, which is something you’ll have to seek out. It’s near Regent’s Park, but you have to look for it—you won’t stumble across it. It’s a very interesting place with a farmers' market on Sunday, the kind of shops with candles and things, and organic markets—beautiful, nice things with a local feel because it’s not swarmed with visitors.

Your favorite restaurant in London?

Go to the Royal Opera House. It’s filled with fascinating people so there’s always buzz, and it’s situated over Covent Garden with a great view of London. People don’t know they can just go in and eat, so it’s not crowded.

One thing every visitor needs to know about your city before coming here?

If you have a contactless credit card/debit card, you can use that to get into the Metro system instead of buying the confusing Oyster card, or single rides, which are expensive. 

Follow Brandon Schultz on Twitter @BrandonAlexandr and Instagram 

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