My first time in London, I was 16. Ready to fall in love. Ripe for an epiphany. And the epiphany was this: one day I would live here, in this global city. One day I would be a Londoner, and walk with quick, sure, knowing steps through the winding, maze-like warren of tube stations, down cobble-stoned streets in the Square Mile. I would build a collection of brollies to lose on red doubledecker buses, eat Cornish pasties on the go, find refuge from peasouper days in historical pubs offering crackling fires. One day, I would move here and get to know this great city like a second skin.
One day, nine years later, I did just that.
Here are a few of my favourite London things.
The British, the Natural History, the National Gallery, the Tate, the V&A – there is such a wealth of museums in London that my mind spins at how much art, history, and design is available, and all for the grand price of exactly £0. Donations are appreciated, but you choose how much you want to give, rather than have an entry price enforced on you. I loved visiting the British, going back in time, 5,000 years ago, to the height of Pharaonic civilisation, or to the Natural History, with it’s neo-Gothic architecture, or to the National Gallery, to simply find a seat in a quiet corner and indulge in contemplation.
South Bank walk
An absolute favourite on a clear day, this was a weekend staple. We’d get off the tube at London Bridge, walk to Borough Markets, stuff ourselves silly with food while picnicking in the grounds of Southwark Cathedral, then meander past the Golden Hind, a reconstruction of Francis Drake’s ship, along the banks of the river Thames, stop by a riverside pub for an ale, then the Elizabethan Globe, past the Tate Modern, the graffiti and skaters at Bankside Gallery, browse through the book fair underneath Waterloo Bridge, pass underneath the archways of OXO Tower, and finally find ourselves in the surprising space of Jubilee Park, the Eye above us and the Houses of Parliament across the river.
Weekend trips to Rome or Paris
I once went to Paris just for lunch, with a friend. It was a short trip. We got off at Gare du Nord and worked our way through the boulangeries of the Marais. I was home in E14 in time for dinner. It’s a first world irony that all most Londoners want to do on a weekend is to escape London. The city is the perfect base to explore Europe. There are plenty of low cost airlines, lots of different routes to different countries, and a short two hour flight will have you in Rome, or Madrid, or Amsterdam. Different worlds, at your doorstep.
Vintage shops in East London
Rummaging through the vintage shops in Spitalfields and Brick Lane, you never know what you’ll find. Treasures include a 60s black and white shift dress for £20, a cashmere jumper for £14 and lace-up boots, only £12 – part of the fun is trying on hilarious outfits and trying to convince yourself that you really do need that 70s flare velvet pants – invaluable for ABBA costume parties, surely?
I lived near the Limehouse Marina, which was a joy in itself, especially on wintry days when the houseboats would be locked in ice and snow, the air hushed like an indrawn breath. But the Marina was the start of Regent’s Canal, which wound its way from NW London all the way to the docks of East London. Perfect for joggers, cyclists and walkers, there were canalside cafes and pubs to stop for refreshments along the way, and plenty of local sights to see.
Have I missed any of your favourite things about London? Do share your thoughts!