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Dear, London, I’m not sure how to say this but…

I think you might be the one.

Admittedly, your first impression was slightly underwhelming. When I stepped off the plane in the tarmac it was raining. I was prepared for this, but you were also freezing cold. As in, I could see my own breathe cold. In AUGUST. What is that, London??

I was wearing these cute black shorts I’d picked up in Berlin, and had to dart quickly into an airport bathroom to change. I guess I had thought it was summer or something.

And, my dear London, you are not a cheap date. I’ve spent more money in the last FIVE DAYS than I spent during the past 3 weeks put together. Sheesh.

Your streets are crowded, your air is not exactly the cleanest, your public transportation is ridiculously pricey, and my umbrella has become a permanent fixture in my purse.

And…I love you.

London Bridge, London

This is completely unexpected. After more than 4 solid months of traveling, I’m exhausted. New cities are starting to lose their luster a bit. I no longer expect everything to be pretty and shiny. But you, you sneaky, charismatic devil, you…what can I say? It was love at first sight.

I was just supposed to pass through. You weren’t supposed to have the chance to swoop in and steal my heart, but that’s exactly what you’ve done. Everything about the energy, the fashion, and the lifestyle has simply captivated me. I don’t want to leave.

On our first date, you dropped me off in the center and let me have my freedom. You weren’t pushy; you just swelled all around me and let me drink in all of your energy. I took my time wandering along your streets, and when I got lost, you gently nudged me back in the right direction

The Chard, London

I discovered Oxford Street, complete with a few of my favorite stores. You’re such a temptress. I meandered into the writer’s district, and through several parks. I watched a set being built to film a Guinness commercial.

When it started to rain again (it’s okay, I know you can’t help it) I ducked into a coffee shop to recharge and watch the world pass by. It was exactly what I needed.

I also met Claira and her fabulous flat-mates who enveloped me with a warm welcome into their cozy fold. So much for that whole “Brits being cold and aloof” stereotype. These were basically the nicest people I’ve ever met. Beautiful buildings, free wifi, AND new friends? London, I’m overwhelmed.

On our second date I watched the changing of the guards (I mean, I HAD to, right?) and then got the full, glorious experience of London street markets. Portobello Market, to be exact. Of course, it didn’t hurt that we passed through Notting Hill and saw the house that was captured in one of my favorite movies of all time.

I’ve decided that an outdoor market is the only way to shop. Everything from fresh fruits and vegetables (sorry, veg) to vintage clothes. There’s music, souvenirs, homemade jewelry, watches, leather-bound notebooks, independent clothing designers, and street food. Oh my god, the street food. Every single kind of food that you can imagine: Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Greek, German, baked goods, falafels, Nutella-filled crepes, and of course, fish ‘n chips.

The Green Market, London

The Green Market, London

How could anyone NOT love strolling down the stone streets and enjoying all the madness?

The best part is, it (mostly) didn’t cost me a thing. My shopping abilities are exceedingly limited due to my already over-stuffed backpack. It didn’t stop me from sampling some street food though. Obvs.

(Oh, London, your adorable habit of abbreviating every possible word just makes you more endearing.)

Our third date took me through a charming little village called Forest Hill. Bold move. I was expecting that you would have tried to show off your majestic ‘eye’ and your sizable clock by now. Instead, I had the most beautiful time strolling through gardens, parks & and an open-air market.

Barbarian, Forest Hill Market, London

I met this awesome mustache next to a barber stand called Barbarian. (That’s right, you can even get your hair cut in the market.)

Horniman Park, Forest Hill, London

Horniman Park, Forest Hill, London

I met a giant stuffed walrus at the Horniman Museum. Sure there were plenty of other animals and an impressive anthropological exhibit, but he was the real crowning jewel. So lively & personable for a blubbery gentleman that’s been stuffed for more than a century.

Walrus in Horniman Museum, London

Isn’t he a handsome fellow??

I drank coffee and indulged in an apricot pastry with my lovely new friend who had invited me to a real London party later on. It was such a restful day. I hadn’t been expecting to be able to relax and recharge my metaphorical batteries in London but that is exactly what happened.

Breakfast in Forest Hill, London

So this happened…

It’s a good thing I got to recharge because damn, London, you know how to show a girl a good time at night.

We started with cocktails in a friend’s apartment on Fleet Street. I inhaled the air from the rooftop we climbed onto (but not too deeply, as there was a greasy fast food restaurant nearby) and marveled at the view. Pink-tinged clouds floated by our heads as we drank gin & tonics and shivered in the cool breeze. Totally worth it.

My memory gets a bit fuzzy by the time we actually arrived to the party in Bethnal Green via one of those red, double-decker buses. However, even if I could remember every single detail with crystal clarity I wouldn’t share. A lady never tells, but suffice to say, it was everything I had thought a London party would be.

Date number four? Traditional fish ‘n chips at Poppies. Yummy, but quite overpriced if you dine in as opposed to take away. Please, London, take it easier on my bank account. You’re starting to hurt.

Street performer in London

If I keep on spending money I’m going to end up playing bagpipes on an empty beach like this guy…

You redeemed yourself the next day with a beautiful stroll along the bank of the River Thames. So many exquisite bridges, street performers, musicians, artists. You’re so alive.

Festival of Love, London

Festival of Love entrance

Parliament buildings & bridge, London

Parliament buildings & a pretty bridge

And yes, I finally saw the famous Big Ben & the London Eye. I didn’t go up, since I’d already had a pretty stunning view of the city from the rooftop on Fleet Street. Also, you know, the whole very empty bank account thing. And to be completely honest, my enthusiasm for climbing to great heights in search of that perfect “overlooking the city” shot has waned considerably these past few weeks.

The London Eye

See? It’s so much prettier from the ground anyway (and this view was free)

Big Ben & Houses of Parliament, London

Well, you are handsome, no denying that, Ben

London, I may be more than ready to get home and sleep on my own pillow, but if I could find a way to stay, I would. I love you, and I’m pretty sure you love me back.

(If only we could convince border control that we’re meant to be together…)

My sister doesn’t get you the way I do. She thinks there’s not enough to do here except walk around and shop. Apart from some nice free museums, that’s somewhat true if you’re on a very limited budget.

But, oh London, I understand you. You’re not meant to be done; you’re meant to be lived. You are an energy, an attitude, a lifestyle. I’ll miss you and think of you often, but I’ll be back. Hold onto my heart until we find a way to be together longer.

Author

Mandie

Mandie is a writer, rebel & web design junkie. In her spare time she enjoys drinking wine, traveling & working on her perpetually unfinished novel. She was a nerd before it was cool.

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Comments

  1. realgunners    

    You are such a tease with the party thing. What happens in London stays in London, huh? 😉
    I missed London too to be honest. I remember feeling depressed about the rain and the crowds, but then I was on the coach to Manchester to catch my flight back, and I felt kind of rueful for not having spent more time there 🙁

    1. Mandie    

      Let’s just say it was Bridget Jones meets Pulp Fiction. Lol. See, I love rainy days – they put me in a great mood, so London is kind of the perfect place for me. 🙂

  2. kelli    

    Hey Mandie
    I loved reading this..you really have a way with words and a unique writing style. In my travels, there really haven’t been any places I outright disliked. Like you with Berlin, have had disappointments after unmet expectations, but always pretty much enjoyed myself. When you really, really like a place, it is such a delicious feeling, especially if you have been traveling for awhile and are feeling a bit ‘beaten down.’ Glad you had a great time. I have never been to London but would like to go. Much of my time over the last three years has been spent in SE Asia and the surrounding area, and I have gotten used to cheap living….might have to ease into London with a few stops in between 🙂

    1. Mandie    

      Haha hopefully unique is a good thing. 😉 Yeah, London is a huge budget-shocker if you’re not prepared. Although, I’m not sure I would have enjoyed it as much at the beginning of my trip when I was being crazy cheap with my money. Now that I’m so close to the end I’m like “A $12 burger? Screw it, don’t even care anymore.” Lol. I definitely need to get back and get to work on replenishing my bank account. 😉

  3. Amy Lynne Hayes    

    I absolutely LOVE the way you wrote this post!! And isn’t London amazing? It was my very first international trip, back in college during spring break. We did a theater trip and saw 9 plays in 7 days. It was so amazing, I ended up moving back to London in 2007 to do an interior design diploma. I lived there for one year, and my apartment was just down the street from the hotel where we stayed on that college trip. Who would’ve ever known? That city does have a pulse and a life all its own – I really need to get back there soon!!

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks Amy! I figured since I wrote Berlin a ‘Dear John’ letter, I should write London a love letter. I’m definitely planning to apply to graduate programs there as it seems to be the only way I’d have a shot at getting to stay. Plus, they have great schools!

  4. Sue Hodgson    

    Hi Mandie,

    it’s been fun following your adventures. You are quite the traveler.

    Do u have any tips for infrequent international travelers? Dan and I are going to Amsterdam and London and a couple other places the end of September. Will b in London for about 4-5 days. Dan is on a panel for a conference there. I will b hanging in London while he is at the conference. Safety? Ok to walk alone? Anything to avoid or a must see? Would appreciate any tips u may have; packing, shopping etc.

    Enjoy your time at home and will look forward to more of your adventures

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks Sue!! Sure, I’ll shoot you over an email with some of my suggestions!! 🙂

  5. Anna    

    I LOVED London so much too and didn’t want to leave (despite me typically to liking large cities). By the end of our 3 days, I was wondering of we can go back to live there for a bit… but yeah, probably not. I definitely agree that London killed our budget. Everything was just toooo expensive. Sigh… I’m already dreaming of the day I can go back!

    1. Mandie    

      If I really think about it, it makes my physically sick to think of how much I spent in London…and that was WITHOUT having to pay for accommodation. Still, the city is so amazing and I’d go back in a heartbeat.

  6. Dale    

    “You’re not meant to be done; you’re meant to be lived.”

    Love that message, it sums up the capital so much.

    1. Mandie    

      London is a lifestyle so much more than a ‘tourist spot.’ 🙂

  7. Elle    

    I’m so happy you liked London! It definitely has its charms and manages to feel like an adventure every time I go, even though it’s only an hour away. Have a great time in Ireland…and you owe me an email!

  8. Victor    

    Mandie, it was a real pleasure to read this post. Interesting, how you will write about Venice, Italy.

    1. Mandie    

      Thanks Victor! I’m not sure how I’ll write about Venice because I haven’t been there yet. It’s definitely on my list, though, so stay tuned!

  9. Hitch-Hikers Handbook    

    Lovely photos, Mandie! We are in London at the moment and we love the city!
    If you like photography, we would like to invite you to participate in the next edition of our Travel Photography Competition. Every week we publish 3 winning shots on our website and write a nice bio with a link to the photographers’ websites/FB/G+/Flickr pages etc.
    Find more details here: http://hitchhikershandbook.com/your-contributions/travel-photography/
    Have a great Sunday!

    1. Mandie    

      Wow, thanks! I’m flattered you would even ask, as I consider myself a dreadful photographer. However, if I ever take something I’m really proud of, I’ll definitely swing by! 🙂

  10. ben    

    for some daft reason this made me tear up a little bit a lot…

    i love london and i have no idea why… she rapes my bank account every time i see her. she argues with me over silly things and always wins. she brings me to all the events i want to go to and then forces me to return north to the grim shame of blackpool. and never once has she apologised!
    but it’s ok, i know she’s busy. she gives me what she can, when she can.
    such a shame she is governed by idiots.

    1. Mandie    

      I literally gagged after looking at how much I spent on transportation while I was there. And it rained the whole time. I have no idea why I’m so in love with London, but there’s just something about her…

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