The first city I fell in love with was Paris.
The second was London.
YES. London. People around the world have always questioned me on this:
“London? Why? It’s dirty, crowded, expensive <insert negative adjective here>, and horrible.”
These things may be true. London can be a city of luxury or a city of poverty, depending on where you fit in and how you travel. You have a fantastic range of choices: you can go 4-star or scrape the bottom of the barrel at a bedbug-infested hostel (not that it’s ever happened to me). You can eat with Gordon Ramsey and Jamie Oliver, or you can slouch down the street to KFC (which I definitely never did). Shop on Bond Street or trawl through secondhand shops in Camden, hang with expat Aussies at the Walkabout or wave at the Queen in front of Buckingham Palace – it’s all possible in London.
You might not love London, but it feels so alive, and you’ve got to give it credit for that.
I still love London, and I’ll tell you why.
I grew up in the suburbs of Indianapolis, where walking was only called upon to get from the house to the car. We would literally drive from one end of a parking lot to another. After London, I realized how liberating it was to step out your front door and just go. No car required. I once walked from Notting Hill to Tower Bridge and back again – it took over three hours but I didn’t even notice. Now I know that I don’t want to live in a city where I have to rely on a car, and I can trace that back to London.
Stuff Happens There
“I’m bored” is never a legitimate phrase in London. Musicals, concerts, art exhibitions, museums – you name it, it comes to London. If you’re obsessed with movie premieres, as I was at the time, you’ll always have something to do. I waited for six hours to witness the premiere of ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.’ By the time Harry & his posse turned up, I thought I was going to faint from the crowd of screaming preteens crushing me to the barriers.
Now that I think about it, it’s kind of embarrassing. Maybe I should stop telling that story.
My love for London is closely tied to my life experience. It was the first city I’d ever lived in, and the first time I truly had the luxury of independence. For the first five months I was abroad, I fell flat on my face in my attempts to find a job and live on a budget. In London, I finally got on my feet and started to feel like a proper adult who didn’t have to rely on anyone else. This could have happened anywhere in the world, but for me, it happened in London.
I love a London pub. Room temperature pints, angry old men stewing in one corner, drunken young businessmen in another, tourists crowded at the bar. Last call at the shockingly early hour of 10:30 or 11:00, pub quizzes, crunchy fried pub food, sticky beer mats, wooden furniture, cozy fires – seriously. What’s not to like?
If you haven’t climbed on the lions of Trafalgar Square, you haven’t lived.
In the US, you can’t climb on anything. So when I first set foot in the great open space of Trafalgar Square and hoisted myself onto a gigantic lion, I knew I was somewhere special. (because that’s what defines special – giant climbable lions.) Surrounded by luxury buildings, London traffic, and pigeons, I felt invincible.
Until I tried to get down by sliding off the lion’s backside and fell into an awkward heap. But still. At least I’d lived.
What’s your opinion on London – love it or hate it? Why?