Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
I am half American and half British and have lived in both countries for equal amounts of time up until now. I have been in Britain since I was 17 though and I guess that shows where I prefer to live. After going to a scholarship-based international school in a magical 12th century castle in Wales for college I headed north to Manchester for an undergraduate degree in Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American Studies. That’s where I honed my love for all things Latin American. As part of my degree I lived in northeast Brazil for nearly a year, where I fell in love with the rich musical culture, intense heat and the abundance of fresh fruit and cold coconut juice.
After my degree I moved down to London, where I was born, to do a Masters in magazine journalism. The past year was demanding and difficult, but I gained some important skills and am now part of a team which is going to a launch a new website in December, Candelalive.co.uk, on Spanish, Portuguese and Latin American culture in the UK, mainly focusing on London. There is a massive Latino community in London and many lovers of the culture, so I hope it will really take off.
Like being a Spotter?
As a writer and an explorer, being a Spotter is the perfect activity to do in my spare time. I love getting good recommendations for things to do in London, so I know the feeling of discovering cool new places. I recently received a Facebook message by someone who had visited London and loved my recommendations. He tracked me down just to say a big thank you for making his trip interesting and exciting. Getting such a nice response made me think “That’s why I’m a Spotter!”.
London is an incredible city, which has no comparison in terms of options for art, culture and nightlife. While it isn’t by any means one of the biggest cities in the world in terms of population size, the amount of theatres, galleries, restaurants and bars per square mile make it one of the most interesting and exciting to visit and live in. While some of London’s beautiful and old architecture speaks for itself as does the classic tourist landmarks, I think exploring off the beaten path is a must for visitors to the ‘big smoke’, as it is affectionately called by locals.
For example, while the East End used to be quite poor and industrial, it is now where much of London’s thriving artistic community has set up shop, and the plethora of unique bars, cafe and shops mirror that. Vauxhall is mainly where the Portuguese community in London resides, so there are many Portuguese cafes and restaurants. And Southhall is very South Asian, appropriately nicknames ‘Little India’.
Which prejudices about London are true? Which ones are not?
At least within England, a lot of people say that there is a big difference in people’s attitudes in London and with those of people in the north of England. There is a view that Londoners are rude and London-centric. I have lived in the North so I think I have a balanced view.
While London taxi drivers might not be the friendliest compared to say, their Manchester equivalents, London is so international that I think it’s impossible to characterise a Londoner, as so many people of different nationalities have adopted this eclectic city as their home. That’s why it’s such a great place to live.
Can you describe a perfect day in your city?
A perfect London day would start with a healthy but delicious lunch at Vita Organic (check the Vita Organic article), a little organic cafe in the heart of Soho. From there I would wander around the centre. I would pop into the National Gallery to view some of the countries artistic treasures. Plus, it’s free!
After walking around Trafalgar Square where the National Gallery is located I would head to Covent Garden for some shopping and then just as my feet were getting tired I would catch a film at my favourite arthouse cinema, the Soho Curzon (check the Soho Curzon article).
Afterwards I would need to do my favourite activity again, eating, and as the best curries outside of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh can be found in England, I would head to Tayyabs (check the Tayyabs article) for a cheap but gourmet curry in the heart of London’s fashionable east end.
I would finish off the day by grabbing a cocktail on Brick Lane at the funky bar Casa Blue (check the Casa Blue article). And if somehow I had a little more space in my stomach I would munch on a bagel from the bagel shop across the street, Bagel Bake (check the Beigel Bake article), which is conveniently open 24 hours!
Read all of Phoebe’s London tips here
Check out the other interviews with our Spotters