It gets a bad rap sometimes. Anyone who has see the movie Snatch might be familiar with this line, which not-so-subtly hints at the city’s perceived reputation:
[Tweet “You know: fish, chips, cup ‘o tea, bad food, worse weather, Mary f*@king Poppins… LONDON!”]
As much as I can find the humor in that statement, I have to enthusiastically disagree. Yes, Londoners drinks an enormous amount of tea, and no, the weather is not always reliable (unless you predict rain at some point during the day). But none of these are reasons to overlook one of the most exciting and cosmopolitan cities in the world.
Perhaps I have London on the brain a bit much these days, due to my trip there later this year.
I’ve been reminiscing about my year living in that city, and how it only took a few days for it to completely grab hold of me. And it’s never let go.
It didn’t take much for me to fall in love with London. And I think you can too.
The Impressions of Time
London is simultaneously a bustling modern metropolis and an ode to bygone eras. There is hardly a corner of the city that doesn’t in some way give nod to its lengthy history. Anyone who has read every Philippa Gregory novel or devoured the works of Sharon Kay Penman, Margaret George, Alison Weir and Ken Follett (guilty…) can’t help but visit London with a special sense of awe. Think of all that’s happened here!
The history of the city is prominently on display through architectural landmarks and a wealth of museums, many of which are free general admission. But lovers of contemporary culture don’t despair, this city has a pulse strong enough to propel it to the forefront of contemporary culture. You didn’t think a place that produced bands like The Clash, The Rolling Stones and Amy Winehouse, among others, would be stuck in the Victorian era, did you?
The modern Londoner has access to any and all sensory delights imaginable. Theater, concerts, glitzy clubs and 5-star restaurants, pubs and £5 curries on Brick Lane… this city has it all. Sorry New Yorkers, whatever you have, London has two of, coupled with about 1,000 more years of history. But that’s just my personal opinion.
If you really want to locate the life line of any historic city, you have to head towards the water. And most old cities were established on the banks of a river. The River Thames is the longest river entirely in England, and acts as a central foundation for much of the city’s activities. Where will you find people strolling on a nice day? Along the banks of the Thames. Where will you find them enjoying a beer in the sun? In a pub along the banks of the Thames. And where are the majority of the museums and attractions? You guessed it, along the banks of the Thames.
There’s something calming about being near the water as well. It acts as a buffer from the noise of traffic, and the Thames Path is a pedestrian-friendly national trail that stretches 184 miles along the water’s edge – from Kemble in Gloucestershire to the Thames Barrier at Charlton. On those few days a year when the weather is absolutely perfect, this is the place to be. And even when it’s not, take advantage of one of the many pubs, restaurants or cafes sitting along the path.
If you go to London and don’t stop by at least one market, you’re doing it wrong. This shopping experience offers you an unparallelled glimpse into the people of everyday London, and a far more authentic experience than Harrod’s or Selfridges. There’s farmers markets and flower markets, food markets and markets that sell a little bit of everything. And they are scattered all over the city.
Of course everyone who’s seen the movie Notting Hill knows about Portobello Road and its famous antiques market. There’s Borough Market near London Bridge is gourmet foodie’s paradise. Hit up Brick Lane or Camden Market for more off-beat vintage and edgy goods, though Camden boasts an incredible array of food stalls next to its numerous shops selling Doc Martens. The market at Covent Garden delights not only because of its shopping potential, but also the gorgeous 19th-century piazza building in which it is held.
London is a city that wears many hats. These are only three things on a list of the many reasons why London is one of my favorite cities in the entire world.
She’s quick, she’s quirky, and she absolutely charms you into loving her at first sight.
At least she did for me. But then, I did remember to pack my raincoat.
*This post was written as an entry for the “A Tale of Three Cities” competition hosted by Accor Hotels. For your chance to enter, simply write a post or create a video around the theme ‘three things I love about my favorite city’ – for more details, including prizes, click here.