Sarah Buitendach in London.
Sarah Buitendach in London.
Image: Supplied

Ed's Letter | As long as I gaze on waterloo sunset, I am in paradise

I’m typing this fresh off the plane from London — and I do actually mean fresh, since I flew Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (never trust someone who says they don’t see the point of spending money on Business Class) and have returned upbeat, inspired, and possibly even pleasant, after my break.

A week in the sun — believe it or not, there was a lot of it — meandering along the South Bank of the Thames, spending a full morning at Kew Gardens, lazing a Sunday away reading the papers, and window shopping in Spitalfields has restored my soul.

Brexit and Boris aside, visiting a city that is so vibrant and functional is totally diverting. And London is especially that at the moment. The skyline is dotted with cranes, the streets are packed with tourists, the transport system is effortless, the trees are green, and there is just so much to do. You can see I’ve got my rose-tinted glasses on firmly but really, it made me feel better about the world. And I haven’t even mentioned the free museum exhibitions, the theatre, the food.

Oh, the food. Every corner of the Big Smoke hosts an exceptional restaurant. Actually, there are probably too many to be viable really, but whether you’re in Putney or Primrose Hill, you’ll get good grub. Blinis or burgers or perfect cuts of organic steak, fancy vegan, or endless plates of authentic mezze — it is all within a quick booking on opentable.com, the best app for any traveller. Sure, the wine in said spots is madly expensive (over £6 for a thimble-full) but eventually you get over it, stop doing exchange-rate gymnastics in your head, and drink up. You’re sitting at a sidewalk café in Notting Hill, it’s 9pm, the sun is still up. How could you not? I know that once the weather turns there it’s an entirely different tale, but when the northern hemisphere is sunny, it is utterly grand.

Graffiti in London’s Shoreditch.
Graffiti in London’s Shoreditch.
Image: Supplied

And I’m not the only one who’s been making the most of it. My Instagram feed is jammed with South Africans escaping the cold. They’re in Vietnam, all over the Greek islands, Lisbon, Seattle, Croatia. I’ve got wanderlust from their posts, but it’s nothing in comparison to what I’ve felt putting this issue together. The Wanted team has assembled our top selection of experiences, sights, and tastes from the places to be, including Victoria Falls, Havana and San Sebastián. We defy you to stay at home after reading this edition.

If you’re lucky enough to be able to travel, it opens up a world of knowledge, experiences, and interesting people. I get a kick out of a swanky hotel but equally love chatting to normal people. In London I had a long conversation with a 50-something Uber driver originally from Nigeria. He told me he’d studied a poem about Soweto in his final year of high school English in Lagos. I googled it — turns out it was Nightfall in Soweto by Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali. I read it out loud to him as he drove. He told me about growing up in the 1970s and about his kids graduating from Oxford. It was a serendipitous meeting of two Africans far away from home. And really, what travel is all about.

Bon voyage,
Sarah

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