“From Madeira to London” by Duarte Câmara
I believe that the best way to discover a destination is through the eyes of those who live there. That is why I created this section on the blog “Meeting with the locals”. The objective is to show, through short interviews, the chosen destination.
This time, I suggest a trip to London, with tips from Duarte Câmara, who has lived there for six years.
I have known Duarte for about 30 years. Friends while teens, the quarantine got us in contact a few months ago and as some say, everything happens for a reason.
Allow me to introduce you to Duarte Câmara.
I was born in Madeira, where I lived until I studied architecture in Porto. I stayed there for 7 years and started my professional life. I keep fond memories of the “people of the North” and a very unique city, of well-rooted cultures and neighbourhoods.
For professional reasons and connection to my homeland, I returned to Madeira to work in a private architectural firm in Funchal. Later, I opened my own space/office there, but after nine years, I wanted a little more and went to the UK, looking for a new professional, international experience.
Currently, in London, I combine architecture and systems design, creating “smart homes”.
What made you go to London?
I’m not one to stand still and I like to be very busy professionally. During the years that I worked in Madeira, I did interesting projects in the residential and commercial areas. I invested in architecture, and at the same time I was designing, I did real estate evaluations and taught some classes. Despite all these activities, there were moments of stagnation, so I felt I needed more.
I saw some of my colleagues emigrate, and I felt that I could also find new professional opportunities in a big city. I got to know London as a teenager, on vacation, and since then it has stayed with me as a special place. Due to its proximity to Madeira, it was easy to choose this destination for a new professional adventure.
If a friend were to visit you in London, where would you take him for a walk?
Breakfast in Notting Hill, on Portobello Road, preferably in a cafe with outdoor seating, to see the vibe of Portobello Market. (Saturday is the main day). After wandering through the market, we descended towards Hyde Park, and crossed Kensington Gardens, towards Bankside. After a stroll along the river and to work up an appetite, the Anchor Bankside pub is a good option.
To Greenwich, by river boat from one of the Bankside or London Bridge City piers. Lunch at Greenwich Market, with many options for “street food”.
Back in the centre, and as it is almost mandatory to climb to a high point for the best views of the city, I would choose the Sky Garden, on top of the Walkie Talkie building – the highest public garden in London, with a 360-degree view ( Click here to view the view)! Please note that it is necessary to book in advance.
Maybe a good Argentine beef steak at Gaucho (a chain that has several restaurants in London). I know Chancery Lane in Holborn and enjoyed the experience. For nightlife, I like the bars in the Shoreditch area.
What is your meeting point in London?
Train stations are always interesting meeting points due to their strategic position. Besides bringing me good memories, there are always interesting pubs nearby for first conversations.
The Covent Garden area, with its square always full of street performers, pubs, restaurants and markets, is always a fantastic spot to start a late afternoon on a Friday.
Best quality/price suggestion to stay in London?
I advise staying out of the centre, for example in Wimbledon (Zone 3). This residential location has a fantastic transport network, which takes us to the centre in just 20-30 minutes. In addition to being picturesque, Wimbledon has its leafy area, which reminds us of the countryside. No wonder their motto is: “Wimbledon is where town meets country”.
In the centre of Wimbledon is the renovated Premier Inn Wimbledon (Broadway) – a good option.
For more Wimbledon options⇒ click here
Other areas of London, search here: Booking.com
London transport tips
How to get from Gatwick/Heathrow Airport to central London?
London has a good public transport system, structured from Zone 1 to Zone 6, radially. We also have Zones 7, 8 and 9, outside of Greater London.
At major airports, such as Gatwick (outside of Greater London), we always have access to trains to the centre, in addition to taxis and buses. From Heathrow Airport (Zone 6) you can also take the underground, which stops inside the airport.
- I take this opportunity to talk about the Oyster card, which is an electronic smartcard essential to travel in London. In addition to the options: daily, weekly, monthly pass, it can be used as a top-up card (minimum value of 5 pounds). You can purchase it at train/tube stations or outside newspaper/magazine shops (here called “newsagents”). It gives us access to the entire public transport network (Zones 1-9), buses, trains, tube, overground, trams, river bus, and even the Emirates Air Line, (a unique cable car, southwest of the city, that crosses the river). Generally, outside Greater London, the Oyster Card does not cover and other fares are required (but there are exceptions such as Gatwick Airport).
What is your favourite restaurant in London?
Of the countless restaurants that exist here, I will select two, different from each other, but both fantastic, which have been mandatory stopping points whenever I have visits from family or friends. They are always full, with that frenzy and dynamic characteristic of good restaurants. In London, table reservations are generally recommended.
Wright Brothers in Borough Market.
I came across this gem, by chance, during a visit from a friend, when we were walking near London Bridge looking for a seafood restaurant. This brand is a fish and seafood supplier to several restaurants.
There are 5 restaurants in this chain, but the first one (near the famous Borough Market) is my favourite. Small and always busy, eating seafood at cramped tables or over the counter is always a delicious experience.
The last one to open is close to the emblematic Battersea Power Station and has an outdoor seating area facing the river. It’s spacious, whether for larger groups or quiet meals. I suggest starting with some oysters, from the English or French coast, even for those who are not fond of it (like I used to be). Every time I go there now, I ask for a plate as part of the ritual. The mussels are the tastiest I’ve ever eaten, especially accompanied by a good French white wine.
Before lunch, I suggest trying a craft beer at Battersea Brewery, as a starter 😉
Another restaurant I like is called Mediterraneo.
It is located in Notting Hill, near Portobello Road, and is an Italian restaurant. Stylish, comfortable and homely, I got to know it through locals, and from then, it became an obligatory stop. I like Tonnarelli with cherry tomatoes, Italian bacon and pecorino Romano cheese, or Fettuccine with wild mushrooms, pine nuts and Italian bacon. For dessert, I suggest the strawberry cheesecake.
What is your favourite store in London?
We built This City – For different and original souvenirs, like small pieces of art or illustrations. It’s a shop that resembles a small art gallery. It is located on Carnaby Street and sponsors young local artists.
Tate Modern has three stores inside. My favourite is in the Blavatnik Building. I can spend hours there, seeing/choosing art and architecture books.
London Graphics is essential for any visual artist, designer, and architect when it comes to technical and artistic material.
What is your “happy place” in London?
Near the river, that’s always where I end up going. Bankside and Richmond, completely different from each other, are my favourite places. My passion for painting often takes me to the Bankside Gallery, the home of the Royal Watercolor Society. Small and comfortable, it has exhibitions of contemporary watercolours.
If a colleague of yours asked you for advice about going to work in London, what would you say?
Preparation and planning are the keywords.
First: study the city.
Preparation before arrival is essential. Understand how the city is organised: understand the main boroughs above and below the river, and understand how the postcodes are structured (essential to find out where we are and where we want to go).
Second: get as much information as possible on the post-Brexit era. Entry into the UK for residence/work purposes now requires a work visa. This can be obtained from the government website through a points system, depending on qualifications, type of work, etc. It is now necessary to obtain, in advance, a job offer from a certified company, with a stipulated annual salary, and an intermediate level of English. For more information, you can visit the Consulate General of Portugal website.
Third: search for the place to live
Seek offers to let a house/flat, search for the places, neighbourhoods and their differences. Most employing companies value proximity to the workplace.
What do you miss most about Madeira?
The lightness of the air you breathe there. The time we have there, which yields a lot and gives us the freedom to do a lot in one day. The visual immensity of the sea.
And of course, above all, family, friends, festivities and social events, to which I was so used to.
What is your dream trip?
Japan, for being a complex country, and full of contrasts – ancient cultures that coexist with one of the most technologically advanced societies. For what it brought to contemporary western architecture, simplicity, minimalism and the perfect symbiosis with natural elements.
What is your motto?
Never give up! In London, I learned that persisting and waiting for what we really believe and want, is an important part of the journey to get there.
Thank you, Duarte! 🙂