I Toured Notting Hill With a Stranger I Met Online
And it was incredible! Also, not creepy at all. In fact, I highly recommend it.
When I booked my trip to Europe, the first thing I did was look for local experiences. I’ve always been a traveler and not a tourist. You can make all the plans in the “must-see” books but the best experiences are always those random places you find and the spots the locals tell you about. Don’t get me wrong, the attractions are always worth seeing, but mix in some time to live like a local. Airbnb has made this even easier with their experiences offering. The first one I signed up for was Snap Picturesque Photos with a Blogger.
I love taking photos, but you can only look through so many pictures of buildings before you want to see people. Since I’m traveling solo, this experience immediately caught my eye. Also, London is huge so being able to see the city with a local was a huge perk. Soleil, the blogger, was great right from the start. She messaged me immediately and was clearly excited about bringing me around her city. We met at a coffee shop in Notting Hill and took off on foot towards Portobello Street (worth checking out!) Tip: wear comfortable shoes.
Soleil brought me to some of the most picturesque streets and homes in Notting Hill, but what really impressed me was her knowledge of the area. She shared history about the different street names and events that had shaped the culture over the years. She told stories about the owners of the beautiful homes you see frequenting the Internet and how they try to deter photographers. Some hang dead birds, some have tried charging fees and the owner of the Notting Hill movie home cut off all the beautiful roses in an effort to steer people away. It’s clearly not working. The area is beautiful and the houses deserve to be shared.
Turns out Soleil and I have a lot in common. We have both lived in various places and feel most at home anywhere in the world. We both believe and truly understand that nothing is permanent. We are free spirited girls who love being lost in a new city. We’re both big fans of dessert, love taking photos and are working on finding our voice online. I don’t think this is the only time I’ll travel through beautiful streets taking photos with Soleil.
Our photo journey through Notting Hill consisted of not only amazing houses, but also Soleil brought me to a few of her favorite bakeries and a cinema. We spent time enjoying a cardamom roll and a red velvet cupcake, and laughing while we danced in the rain. One of my favorite quotes is by Bob Marley: “Some people feel the rain. Others just get wet.” We definitely felt the rain that day in London. When we are kids, things like falling, dancing uncontrollably and playing in the rain are fun. As adults, we suddenly start writing a different story for ourselves. We think we have to adult and for some reason, for many, that means we stop playing. Let's challenge that. Let's rewrite our story. For me, I believe, being an adult means we should fall even harder, laugh even louder, dance wilder and splash in every puddle. The older we get, the more we should really live. Tomorrow is not promised; don’t miss your chance to feel the rain.
Here are some of the Notting Hill secrets Soleil shared:
1. Get a cardamom roll at Fabrique Swedish bakery. It’s a stone oven bakery from Stockholm, Sweden and the baked goods are amazing. Soleil’s family is from Sweden, so I’d take their advice. I actually had no idea what a cardamom roll was but I'm so happy I do now.
2. Drink a lot of tea. Then bring back some souvenir tea from Whittard of Chelsea. They have a huge assortment of perfectly packaged teas, coffees and hot chocolates. As Soleil put it, you can get normal english tea or crazy kinds of stuff. If you are a student, you get a discount.
3. Take a photo outside one of the smallest homes in London and try to figure out why it’s called Bankrobber home.
4. Try a vegan, gluten free or full-ingredient cupcake or slice of cake from The Hummingbird Bakery. All very instagrammable and amazing. I obviously bought a cookbook here.
5. See a movie at Electric Cinema. I didn’t actually have time to do this but I saw pictures of the inside and it’s filled with old-school charm and beautiful architecture.
Dance in the rain. Whether you’re in London, your own home or another amazing city, just dance. Put on your crown and step into each day like you have a one-day contract for each thing in your life (shout out to the person who told me about this). Your relationships, your job, your health, your mindset, your goals, your family, your bank account, your happiness, your legacy. What if all of these things were on a one-day contract? You’d go hard. You’d live fully and put your best effort forward. You’d have zero attachment and zero expectations. So let’s do that, let’s really live.
Have you tried Airbnb experiences? What else did you love about Notting Hill? Comment below.
Bonus pic: Because being surrounded by fresh bread is a really happy place.