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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.