September 15, 2015
This week I thought I’d share some tips with how I am becoming more and more familiar with my new home city of London. Some you’ll be able to use anywhere, some are more specific to London (or cities where the apps I feature are available).
Now the fact that I have visited this mecca of diversity, and 3 times before we moved here really didn’t play into much of my knowledge. Mainly because each time I was here it was either for school or I was interested in the tourist agenda as opposed to acting like a local.
Use Your Feet – don’t get me wrong I love public transportation, Uber and black cabs out here however taking the time to explore an area on foot will give you the best vantage point. I enjoy getting intentionally lost sometimes because you can find those unexpected gems, find new routes or shortcuts to where you want to go or just grow your knowledge of what’s out there. Sure it takes longer to walk somewhere than bike, cab, train, etc but there’s nothing better than walking to point A and finding points B & C.
Open Your Mind (And Your Mouth) – first up, the mind. Try new things you normally wouldn’t to expand your horizons be it a new type of food/restaurant, a sporting event, museum or some specific cultural activity to your city or area. These things can be a great way to get to know not only a new side of your city but about yourself as well, you may surprise yourself with what you like or are capable of. Also don’t be afraid to talk to people and make new friends even if it is just randomly talking to someone in a bar, coffee shop, browsing through records/books or waiting for a bus. Randoms can have some good tips or ideas you would have never thought of and can be a useful asset when used properly.
Read & Review – I try to take the time to read reviews and do research prior to embarking on a journey. Whether it be to a nice dinner somewhere or simply a trip to a café I like to have some knowledge of what I’m walking into before I actually do. Once I do experience something I will (although not as often as I should) write a review. It’s good to let others know your experiences with something however I feel like you can tell a huge difference between the 2 different types of reviewers:
- The Connoisseur – these are the people who write a lot of reviews, some good, some bad, some neutral; they are truly meant to give the reader a fair opinion of the spot in question so it can help formulate your decision to go or not; I will sometimes click or check to see how many reviews the user has posted on the site to get a better idea of their activity and possibly motive
- The Extremist – these are the people who only get on to post an overly fabulous review or, more likely, a scathing, horrible review of the worst experience they have ever had; obviously take the bad with a grain (or two) of salt unless you notice a very consistent trend in the reviews for a specific spot but don’t throw too much weight behind a stellar review otherwise you’ll be disappointed if your experience doesn’t live up to the “ABSOLUTE BEST ____ IN THE WORLD!!!!”
You Can Do It, Put Your App Into It – smartphones are your friend in this world and you literally hold so much information in the palm of your hand so utilize it! Here are some of my favorite apps and/or websites for travel or knowledge-sourcing:
- Eater – I used this site and app religiously in San Francisco to stay atop the food and drink game in the city (and still do) but they have it available in multiple U.S. cities and hopefully continue growing their international presence; they also have sister sites/apps such as Curbed (House/Home), Racked (Fashion) and The Verge (Up & Coming Assortment)
- OpenTable – again, being a concierge in my previous life, I used this so many times a day I could recite the restaurants in reverse alphabetical order in San Francisco but this is a true global site and app with tons of info on restaurants as well as more-cultivated reviews
- Yelp – while this seems to be bigger in some areas of the world and country than others I’ve found it pretty helpful out here in London but it usually required a bit of wading through those “extremist” reviews in the U.S.
- Google Maps – to some this may seem like an odd choice but I assume you haven’t used the full power of google maps then as it’s far more than a map but brief descriptions, more & more user reviews, website, phone, etc; usually you know where you’re going so why not explore the area and enhance your search
Now these may all seem like pretty obvious and well-known choices. Chances are you’ve used at least 3 of these at some point while trying to find something. Obviously there’s a reason for this as almost all have a growing global presence and at least a semi-cultivated user review base. So don’t gloss over the usual suspects and take advantage of their full usability.
London Living – now that we got the broad spectrum sites and apps out of the way let’s focus on some specific to London. Since we’ve been here less than 4 months I’m obviously still adding to my arsenal and not including all the people/places I follow on social media so please pass on any others you use as well.
- The Nudge – by far my favorite site and app for two main reasons. First they have a good focus on smaller, underground things happening in the city and secondly they don’t overload you with info and emails. I’ve found some great restaurants, bars and activities in the city thus far thanks to The Nudge.
- Time Out – they’re a little bigger and have a wider range of topics than the previous option. While they still include hip, new things they also branch out into more of a Groupon feel with their travel options and ideas.
- Fever, Dojo and Socialite – I’ve clumped these 3 together because they are different versions of the same idea. Basically you sign up and pick as many (or few) topics that interest you as you’d like them they tell you what’s going on that may interest you. Some are very specific things such as a list of football clubs while others are vague like the arts. I’ve started using these 3 most recently so haven’t delved too intensely deep yet but they each show promise for their purposes.
- Londonist – another site/app like the last 3 but a bit more well-established with a wide-range of topics covered for your enjoyment and cultivation.
I hope this article will be able to help you a bit no matter where you live as well as if you are visiting London anytime soon! Obviously if you’re out here let me know as I am more than happy to lend my “expertise” but, like I mentioned earlier, I’m always looking to learn new things in and about my current city.