Tourism-ing is Living. Even For Locals

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Have you ever tried to play tourist as you walk around the place where you live? Being a tourist is all about those feelings of novelty and awe. I believe that most people harbour an innate enthusiasm for discovering new places, no matter the imperfections. So why is it that when it comes to home, we’re often gazing elsewhere for inspiration? Perhaps it becomes too familiar and less worthy of exploring? Is it the good old ‘grass is greener’ syndrome? Do we really need to go to the other side of the world to live? What if we looked at our own city, our own hometown, with the same eyes we use when we travel?

Let me tell you about a game I enjoy playing now and again!

There are days in life that pass by and quickly forgotten because there has been nothing different from the daily routine, and sometimes there are days which stand out like a red letter down the memory lane because they are different from the humdrum of every day life. One such day was a bright and shiny day of June a few years ago in Bucharest. As it seemed like all you can do when meeting up with someone is eat and/or drink, occasionally sit in the park or watch a movie, my friend Teo, Misha, and I decided to play a game: being Aussies tourists in our own city. Although it may sound childish and foolish at first, actually, the result was not only having a good time and doing quite a few things that I somehow had missed but also a great lesson I got from life: to observe the world around you; to observe the people that are present in your life and the beauty that is present within you and all around you, life in general. We went sight seeing for a few places, eating in a very touristy restaurants, visiting museums, asking people for directions and if all of these are not enough, we spoke in english!That evening, we did not take dinner any more as our stomachs were totally full. Romanian food is delicious. At about 10 o’clock we again took a stroll out to have ice-cream. Yummy!

Teo, Misha, and I, Bucharest, last Christmas

Teo, Misha, and I, Bucharest, last Christmas

Teo and I, savouring Romanian food, Bucharest, last Xmas

Teo and I, savouring Romanian food, Bucharest, last Xmas

Well, I have to admit, London isn’t exactly ‘my’ city. I was born and raised in Romania, but have lived in London for quite a while by now so I don’t see myself as a typical tourist any more. I quickly learnt how to navigate the underground, stand on the right side of the escalator and say ‘sorry love’ to strangers. I’ve seen a lot of London, but I hadn’t seen all of the tourist attractions in the city. When you live somewhere, sometimes you tend to ignore its main tourist attractions and instead live like a local, or how you think they might live, at least.

Hop on-Hop off in Spitalfields

Hop on-Hop off in Spitalfields

I do wonder, though, whether part of me isn’t just dismissing it on principle – All those attractions? Stuff for the tourists! You’ve as much chance of discovering London there as me having tea with the Queen. Hidden gardens, obscure museums, little known restaurants – that’s the real London. So in other words, it’s all about visiting places without visitors? Nice logic Catalina. Some secret London which most Londoners haven’t even heard of it isn’t a more ‘real’ London than the famous bits, it’s just less crowded. Admittedly, it’s hard to feel a sense of adventure, but maybe the reason they’re so popular is that they’re actually worth seeing. Maybe the tourists had it right all along. The trouble with landmarks is they don’t have a deadline, no tightening noose, no pressure of a closing date. The Tower of London has been around for a very long time and let’s face it, will probably still be around for a very long time: There’s always tomorrow. This was the way I  thought about London top attractions till my friends did come over for a visit, and I relished the opportunity of showing them around. As much as they wanted to see the popular sites and enjoy their holiday, I wanted to be a tourist and see my adopted city with wide-eyed wonder and embrace all that it has to offer, too. We had a lovely time together visiting all of these popular attractions I had avoided before and I learned another lesson: its easy for local residents to take their city’s brilliant scenery and attractions for granted. 

Love& the City or wandering around with Geo, Clodet, Marina, Denisa, and Andreea while visiting me

Love& the City or wandering around with Geo, Clodet, Marina, Denisa, and Andreea while visiting me

Supermodel Kate Moss has been on the London Eye 25 times – the record for a UK celebrity.

Supermodel Kate Moss has been on the London Eye 25 times – the record for a UK celebrity.

In November 2012, the key to the internal lock to the Tower of London was stolen. The lock was immediately replaced. Someone somewhere has a spare key

In November 2012, the key to the internal lock to the Tower of London was stolen. The lock was immediately replaced. Someone somewhere has a spare key

According to a survey carried out in 2008, Big Ben is the UK’s most popular tourist attraction

According to a survey carried out in 2008, Big Ben is the UK’s most popular tourist attraction

There are 1,514 doors and 760 windows in Buckingam Palace. Apparently, the windows are cleaned every six weeks

There are 1,514 doors and 760 windows in Buckingam Palace. Apparently, the windows are cleaned every six weeks

Tower Bridge was painted red, white and blue in 1977, as a part of the Queen's Silver Jubilee celebrations

Tower Bridge was painted red, white and blue in 1977, as a part of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee celebrations

Well, London could not present more record of ‘sin&ignorance’ but the smiling and beautiful British countryside does. Lesson no3: the UK countryside is a real treat to visit. Every village is perfectly designed, in contrast with the wild forest and coastal paths that surround them. But somehow, the combination works. I’m sure the sunshine could also help more!

Typical buiding in Burford, Cotswold

Typical buiding in Burford, Cotswold

Bourton, so-called the Gardens of Babylon

Bourton, so-called the Gardens of Babylon

Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire - the place where Winston Churchill was born on 30 November 1874, two months prematurely

Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire – the place where Winston Churchill was born on 30 November 1874, two months prematurely

"The Queens of the Stone Age" by the sea

“The Queens of the Stone Age” by the sea

Sunset in Margate, Kent, the Isle of Thanet

Sunset in Margate, Kent, the Isle of Thanet

Viking Bay, Broadstairs

Viking Bay, Broadstairs

The picturesque Welsh countryside is simply magical

The picturesque Welsh countryside is simply magical

There's just no place like Scotland when it comes to breathtaking landscapes and the sun is out.

There’s just no place like Scotland when it comes to breathtaking landscapes and the sun is out.

No matter the sites are popular or hidden, just look up, get ready to learn the never-ending local history and trivia…mon the biff! 🙂



Catalina Serban

I came into this world on a cold morning of January in a small town in the south of Romania. So that, I really enjoy dressing for winter. Layering up a winter look is very challenging and creative process, isn't it? I moved to London coz everyone wears bright colors. And I love colors. In Bucharest, everybody is in black! When I was in my late teens, I was really into hair; I dyed it different colors and had loads of haircuts. After graduating marketing in Bucharest and working for a couple of years in advertising, I've taken up fashion art direction, here in London. As John Galliano observes, London is the essence of fashion, it is the most cosmopolitan city in the world. Hunger, curiosity and its eclectic, electrifying surroundings make it very inspiring. Some people call me a rebel, but I just feel like I'm living my life and doing what I want to do. Aaaaa foremost, I never go out without my biffy tote :)

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