I guess everyone has one particular city with which they identify. For some, it’s as easy as picking their hometown but for others, like me, the city that stole our heart is just around the corner. I love London. I love it fiercely and this article is an attempt to translate these feelings into words. My first visit to London dates back to 1998. I didn’t get another chance to go back until ten years later, in February of 2008 and 2009. Last year in September marks my most recent trip to this fabulous city. I’m hoping I might be able to go Christmas shopping on Oxford Street this year, but nothing’s set just yet. So without further ado, here’s a breakdown of Why I Love London.
#1 – THE TUBE
Public transport is a hugely important part of the urban machine. London’s public transport is more than just a means of getting from point A to B. It has almost become a tourist attraction in its own right. There’s those bright red doubledecker buses above ground and on some lines, such as Line 15, the famous Routemasters still remain in service. However, the Underground, or the Tube as Londoners affectionately call it, is the real jewel in the crown of Transport for London. Barring signal failures and delays, you can’t imagine a better way to explore London. Navigating the Tube map only requires a bit of practice – the stations themselves and the attentative staff will do the rest but I promise, moving through the Underground as if you’ve always been a part of it is a feeling everyone should come to experience at some point. I look at all of these commuters and tourists, and I immediately know on whose side I’d rather be. As of late, it has become possible to buy a tourist version (that is, a lite version) of those rechargable Oyster cards, which makes travelling around even easier, since there’s no more need to buy another card whenever you cross into another travel zone. Another novelty is WiFi in every station and train so now you can tweet or read your mail free of charge until that annoying signal failure is finally solved. Yes, I am quite in love with the Underground and its various lines and stations. Earl’s Court and I share a special bond since that’s the area where I usually stay when I go to London. I am not ashamed to admit that I might travel to a station just because of its name, location or cultural significance (Angel, Baker Street, Piccadilly Circus, St. Paul’s, Covent Garden, Seven Sisters, Embankment, Camden Town, Nothing Hill Gate, South Kensington) and last but not least, whether or not it is an Art Deco jewel designed by Charles Holden (Southgate, Arnos Grove, East Finchley and Highgate, amongst others).
#2 – THE PARKS
Despite it being a big city, London has lots of neat green areas. The biggest of them all is Hyde Park but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best. There’s nearby Holland Park, which, whilst being less volumous, has a ton of charm all by itself, not coincidentally due to the squirrel population that has come to call the park home. On the other hand, squirrels now live in just about every park and square in London so if you like these adorable rodents you needn’t run too far to cross their path. My personal favourite square is St. James’s Square off of Jermyn Street. There’s plenty of shade here beneath the trees as well as benches in case grass isn’t your kind of thing. In the vicinity of St. James’s Square is my favourite park, the wonderfully spacious Green Park. At the top of the park is the similarly-named Underground station that services the Piccadilly, Victoria, and Jubilee Line. One evening last September I had lunch on one of the benches in Green Park, enjoying the sunset and the endless stream of Londoners crossing the park on their way home. At the other end of Green Park is Constitution Hill and beyond that, Buckingham Palace. But that, I grudgingly admit, is a sightseeing staple I have yet to discover.
#3 – THE LONDON LIFE
To recap, I tend to want to look at London from a Londoner’s point of view rather than through the tourist’s shortsighted goggles. I don’t need to hop from the Tower to Madame Tussaud’s or the London Eye and Westminster in order to have a great day. Sure, I enjoy strolling up and down Oxford Street, or the Southbank near Big Ben to hear its famous chime, or join the curious crowd of hipsters at Camden Lock and attend a musical in the West End thanks to an internet friend who now lives in London. However, I am just as comfortable with the road less travelled. After I saw Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd I absolutely had to walk the length of Fleet Street and find out where the barber shop had allegedly been – fictional or not. I might travel down to Ravenscourt Park or Clapham Common to ogle Art Deco buildings (an architectural obsession inspired by the BioShock games). Similarly, I will gladly spend half an afternoon exploring the Natural History and other museums, or travel half across the city in search of a certain store, or, giving in to my inner sweet tooth, feel compelled to try out every Hummingbird Bakery I might find. Yes, as far as I’m concerned, this is the kind of city I would love to call home one day. For the time being, however, I have plenty of discoveries waiting to be made and I’m hellbent on picking up that thread as soon as possible.