London seems to be a city that just keeps coming back into my life. I lived here for six months studying abroad in college and returned five months ago for a sort of place to live in limbo as me and my Ric tried to figure out a more permanent living situation.
In a nutshell, I adore this city. I don’t know what exactly it is about London, but the city just has something. Maybe it’s the free museums and world-renowned art scene. Maybe it’s the city’s lively mixture of cultures and activities. Maybe it’s the city’s intricate and exciting history.
Whatever it is, this city had me at “Ya, alright?”.
And now, probably as you read this post, I’m leaving the London once again with no idea when I’ll return for a vacation, let alone to live, so I think now is a good time to reflect on the ups and downs of living in London Town.
Things I’ll Miss
Getting lost – kind of
My absolute favorite thing to do in London is walk around with no plans or destinations. I could walk this city for hours and hours and not even realize it, because there is so much happening to take my mind off the fact that I’m exercising. Tiny side streets – blue plate homes – hole-in-the-wall cafes – so much has happened in the city and so much has been added that you never know where you’ll end up or what you’ll find on a wander. However, you’ll never actually get lost enough to the point that you can’t find your way back home. There’s always a tube station close by, no matter how lost you get, hop on that and you’ll know exactly where you are again.
Free magazines and newspapers
I’m very old-fashioned with my media. While I do read more things online these days, I’ll take a massive inky newspaper or glossy magazine over a website or kindle any day. It was really nice in London to have that for the same price as online media: Free 99!
Not only am I going to miss picking up my free copy of Time Out outside Shepherd’s Bush Market station on Monday mornings en route to the library or Evening Standard weekdays on my way home, but I’ll also miss the paper boys. The way the guy says “Evening Standard” is always a highlight on my walk home and I know I’m not alone. I hear kids repeating the phrase just as he does at the library, girls on Uxbridge Road throwing it into the conversation in his voice.
I think we can all agree, whether you love or hate London, one thing is certain, there is always something to do in this city and they’re so random and unique. Into art? Head to an auction at Sotheby’s. Love the cabaret? This city is a mecca for it. Want to live in the past? You can do that too – at themed parties. Are you a total foodie? Don’t get me started – the markets here are incredible.
This city literally has something going on every day to suit all types of people. You really never know what you’ll get into or where you’ll end up on any given day in London. They say nobody knows how to party quite like the Brits, they’re kidding.
Free museums and art
London is the city where I really fell in love with art, so I might put it on a pedestal a bit more than I should, but it is a really great city for art lovers. National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Tate Modern and Britain, Saatchi Gallery, V&A – there is no shortage of art galleries in this city displaying Picasso, Manet, Dali and more legendary artists. And what’s even more amazing, most of these galleries and museums are free. London can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be.
This is something I’ll miss, but I know I’ll keep up with long after leaving London. England has some of my absolute favorite TV shows. For chat, shows like Graham Norton, A League of Their Own and Top Gear presented an entirely new and sort of no-hold-back sort of watching experience. It took me a while to completely understand the humor here, but I do now. And on some British chat show people are given wine – so you see a completely different side of all your favorite celebrities.
For scripted dramas and comedies, I’ll start by saying a lot of your favorite American series were based on British ones and often, the originals and a million times better. Shameless was my sort of awakening to how good TV is over here. Then of course there’s Made in Chelsea, which, for better or worse, I am obsessed with.
Curry and Kebabs
I never understood Britain’s bad reputation for food and drink. Sure fish and chips and Bangers and Mash are quite simple dishes, but they should not be used at the entire spectrum of British food. To be honest, I love eating in this country and especially London. Not only is England home to some of the world’s most famous chefs (Marco Pierre White, Heston Blumenthal, Jamie Oliver), but it’s also a melting pot of about a million different foods from around the world.
Two of those melting pot items that my mouth will miss (but my hips will not) are curry and kebabs. Let me start by saying I lived off Uxbridge Road during my most recent stay, where kebab shops and curry houses are literally almost every store front for about 20 minutes of walking. You try dieting when a spinning hunk of lamb meat is staring at you throughout every walk to and from anywhere. It’s not going to happen. We do a lot of food right in America, but we don’t come close to how they do curry or kebabs in London.
I get giddy every time I see a park anywhere in the world, especially England. London does parks right. Whether it be a perfectly trimmed rose garden or a wild forest, this city knows how to help people escape the hustle of the city, if even for just a stroll. It was actually in a London park that Ric asked me to marry him, Chiswick, so obviously that’s my favorite, but some other good ones to check out include, Regent’s Park, Holland Park and St. James’s Park.
This is something I never thought I would miss about London, especially coming from New Zealand and Australia. Something big has happened in the cafe and coffee culture since I last lived here in 2007. There is so much focus on coffee here and they’re really producing incredible things with that. My favorite cafe is Wild & Wood in Holborn. Have a flat white there and you’ll understand why I’m not looking forward to going home to suburban chains.
I’ve never seen a public transportation system run as efficiently as the London Underground system. If you can pay £7 for a day pass, that’s your entire day set in London with all it’s free museums and parks. You can literally go anywhere in the city with the underground and it always feels like a train arrives as soon as I enter the station. I am not looking forward to going back to NJ and relying on my car to get around.
Things I won’t Miss
Dog pee and poop on the sidewalk
I know it’s a city and sometimes your pets just have to go – that’s not controllable – but I’m not going to miss wondering if every bit of liquid I see in the street is a puddle of pee or water. Pee I can understand. You can’t clean that up as a pet owner, but crap on the sidewalk is inexcusable and so gross. I’m not sure if this was something that only happened in my area, because I have to say I did not see it often in other parts of the city, but for the love of god people – clean up after your pets, especially when they’re messing on pedestrian walkways!
As much as I love all the hustle and bustle of a city and activities that come with that, I am not going to miss walking down the streets on a weekend in London. I feel like I’m in a herd of cattle a lot of days in this city. Crowded bars, crowded streets, crowded tube carriages…these things will not be missed.
Walking on the sidewalks
To add to my overcrowding and poop winge – I think people need an education in sidewalk rules before they arrive in London. I always walk according to what side of the street a country drives on, but I don’t think everyone else does that. Since the UK is the only country in Europe that drives on the left side of the road and loads of Europeans as well as people from around the world (most of which drive on the right) visit London on a daily basis – no one knows which way to walk on sidewalks. People from the UK/Australia/NZ go left – the rest of the world goes right. It especially annoys me at tube stations when there are signs on the stairs that say stay left, yet for some bizarre reason people are taking up both sides. It wouldn’t be as big a deal if the city wasn’t so busy, but it is and no one know which way to go, which frustrates me like crazy.
As cheap as a person can make London with free activities and discount stores, it is one of the most expensive cities in the world if you don’t bother considering your budget. This is especially troublesome when you’re living here on the American dollar. I can’t help but exchange money in my head and every time I go to the store I feel like I’m paying double on top of something that already costs more than it would in the rest of England, the rest of the world. £16 cocktails ($US24) – £3 triangular sandwiches ($US4.50) – £2.50 coffees ($US3.75)- as much as I enjoyed eating and drinking you, you will not be missed.
Not having the right of way
Cars in London rule the road and they’re not going to stop for any idiot who wonders into the road. Don’t worry, I’m that idiot too. But what always bothered me is at cross walks when I would have the green man and suddenly he would start blinking. Now my understanding in a lot of places is that this meant, “Hurry up, you only have a few seconds to get across, but don’t worry you can still walk”. Not in London. As soon as the green man starts blinking for pedestrians, a yellow light goes on for the cars that are waiting and they immediately start to go or get angry at people for still walking in the road.
I was fortunate enough to only have to ride the tube or be in central London a handful of times during rush hour and that was enough. This isn’t just London, but in a lot of big cities, people lose all respect for each other between the hours of 7-10 a.m. and 3-5 p.m. I’m not going to miss getting shouldered on the streets and nobody apologizing and I’m not going to miss getting shoved out of the way at a tube station so some jerk who just got there can get home two minutes earlier than me.
Every place has it’s good and bad, ups and downs, and London is no different. Though I had a few erks about living here, I think it’s clear to see that the positives more than outweigh the negatives. Take advantage of all London’s free activities – museums and parks – wander through the city’s side streets as much as possible and avoid the CBD completely at rush hour and you’ll walk away loving this city as much as me.
What are some of your favorite things about London?
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