Let’s talk about London. Sure, the tube is a nauseating vacuum of briefcase-laden commuters and heavily suitcase-endowed tourists. Plus no matter where you are in London you can’t mind your own business for more than ten seconds without getting caught grimacing in the background of a large tourist group’s selfie stick photo. Never mind the transiently alarming gentrification that you get angry about from time to time, like when you go back to your old neighbourhood and find your building complex has been replaced by a Pret. No, London is so much more than that and no matter how many things you can complain about in regards to our capital city, you’ll never be able to complain about being short of things to do, see, eat and explore in London.
London in a melting cosmopolitan city bursting to the brim with people from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, social strata, age groups and aspirations. It is ludicrously dynamic, exhilaratingly fun and devilishly dramatic, and I, as well as billions of others, have become deeply, hopelessly infatuated with it because of those qualities and more.
I was born in the capital and lived there through my baby years, and frequently return, because you can always find a reason to. Flight from a London airport? Let’s make a weekend of it and do some holiday shopping in Regent Street beforehand. Favourite band released tour dates? Brixton. Networking event? Probably in London. Unless you try particularly hard you can’t really escape the city, and perhaps that magnetism adds to the charm of it. As expected London is nearly always the pioneer of any craze or new trend, you’ll find plenty of cat cafés, pop-up peculiarities and bubble tea branches at your disposal.
It is quite easy to fetishise capital cities and put them on a pedestal because they’re big and everything happens there. But as a local, London life is obviously not all that and the glossy tourist view shatters quickly. There’s higher costs of living and rent, rampant and omnipresent pollution, lower social security and generally fast-paced, stressful lives which can result in people becoming disillusioned with the London dream. Just like you can with any capital city you live in.
From the perspective of someone who can call London home without being consumed by it on a daily basis, since I can travel back there as and when I wish quite easily and cheaply – I’m quite lucky to have a balanced view of tourist and resident. As it becomes easier and cheaper to travel, more and more tourists rinse generic tourist destinations to death, and with the wealth of information available on the internet people seek more and more to experience their destination ‘like a local’ and travel ‘off the beaten path’. I like, therefore, being able to unashamedly join the swarms of holiday-goers watching the guards change at Buckingham Palace but also wandering through one of the hidden green spaces on the last few stops on the Northern line. I like the fact that I have dedicated a handful of precious iPhone storage to the Tube app, because I go often enough to warrant needing it. But at the same time I still sometimes get confused when deciding whether I need to go Eastbound or Westbound on the Victoria line. It is also satisfying knowing what it is like to live in the London bubble of commodity and convenience; as well as living somewhere where you can appreciate that you might not be able to get from one neighbourhood to the other in two minutes and it is perfectly normal to walk 15 minutes to get a train that comes only once an hour.
I can attest to the brilliance of London. If you’re a city lover like me, I encourage you to make the most of being so well-connected to a major tourist and business hub and put aside weekends or quiet weekdays to take a trip up, and let yourself fall in love with the capital and all its glory.