I’ve experience so much of London already, it’s hard to believe I’ve been here less than two weeks. I want to capture how the city makes me feel, how in awe I am of the surroundings and how strange & different things are, before they become the ‘norm’ and I don’t notice them anymore.
It’s difficult to sum up what London is like in words. I know how I feel here; I feel happy and lucky and special to be able to experience the amazingness that is ‘London’. I’ve grown up hearing about Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Notting Hill, the Underground, Heathrow, Tower Bridge and many more iconic London landmarks, but to be here, seeing them for myself, is surreal.
London is such a mix of old and new; on one hand it’s seen as a world leader, purveyors of major worldwide brands and fashion capital, but it’s all sitting alongside elements with hundreds of years of history. Old English pubs sit on almost every street corner, looking cozy and confined from the outside, but the inside makes way for old wooden bars stocked with every type of alcoholic drink imaginable, large ornate dining rooms, grand staircases and candlelit drinking nooks.
The facades of many buildings date back hundreds of years, with intricate and ornate details carved into stone which you just don’t see back home. London definitely makes New Zealand feel like a very young country, lacking the rich history that is London.
Walking the streets of London I find myself in awe of its beauty and grandeur, and the picture perfect scenes that meet my eyes in every direction, it’s hard not to stop and photograph it all, being careful not to stop mid pavement in case you block the streams of Londoners rushing about their business.
London is always busy; in the tube, on the streets, to queue for your sandwich – no matter where or when, you’re never alone. 10 days in, I thought I was accustomed to ‘busy London’ but I was yet to be surprised when I somehow found myself using the tube at rush hour. Big mistake. Not only are trains themselves packed to the brim, unable to fit even a extra two-year old child, does three grown adults squash into the carriage. Getting off at my stop was no relief either – all the connecting tunnels are packed with an almost unmoving crowd of people, to which finally emerging from the chaos is like gasping for air after being trapped in a sinking car. Saying that, I love the underground (just not a rush hour!). I find the tunnels and alleys and deep, long inter-connecting passageways so medieval-like; like a cross between being in an amazing Harry Potter world and living in 16th century London.
Here are a few things I’ve discovered since being in London:
- The food is beyond your wildest dreams. Its ridiculous how many options there are, and how delicious everything looks. Stuff supermarket shopping; I’d prefer street stalls, gourmet sandwiches, freshly baked bread, pizza, gelato, crepes, smoothies, wraps, giant pretzels… the list is endless and all of it delicious
- Looks can be deceiving and it’s all about knowing where to go. Restaurants and bars, like old English pubs, that don’t appear to be much from the outside, open up to being the most amazing, funky, stylish place hidden away where you least expect it
- They still have 1, 2 and 5 pence coins. I’ve already accumulated a huge number of these, of which I’m sure I’ll never use!
- Banking security is extreme – back home we need a 4 digit pin and maybe a secret question. Here I have two 8 digit pins (and they’ll ask for the 2nd, 3rd and 6th digit just to confuse you!), three security questions, a secret welcome message, a special word and a temporary pin
Since being here, I have also been lucky enough to experience the following:
- Borough Markets – huge covered markets which have every type of cuisine imaginable; cakes to seafood to freshly squeezed juices to hot jam donuts to the biggest hot dogs I’ve ever seen. Amazing buzzy atmosphere and almost as crowded at the tube at rush hour
- Harrods. Once I went in, it was impossible to return to the real world (partly due to not wanting to leave ‘Shoe Heaven’ and partly being lost in the vastness of the place). I’ve never experienced such luxury, opulence and beauty in my life. Everything one could ever need can be found in Harrods, from the most delicious sweet and savoury treats in the food hall, Shoe Heaven on the top floor (and even if I could afford 800pound Dior shoes, I still think they’re croc-like and hideous), a toy kingdom where you can purchase a safari inclusive of life-size rhino, giraffe, lion, gorilla (and baby gorilla!), camel and bear if you’re that way inclined. I couldn’t afford anything except a cupcake, of which I was too full to eat anyway!
- Oxford Street where I had my first encounter with H&M, Forever21, Primark, TopShop and many more major high street brands. I also spent time in Selfridges and the Disney Store, not surprisingly I had more fun in the latter.
- I found Lyceum Theatre where I am much looking forward to seeing the Lion King in the near future.
- I had to navigated the underground using the map on the wall (shock, horror!) when my internet stopped working. Luckily it was back up before boarding, as the route I’d worked out was definitely not the most efficient!
- I’ve caught up with some lovely friends who I haven’t seen for many years, and they’re still lovelier than ever.
Finally I have been planning for my upcoming move into the city by applying for jobs, attending interviews and flat hunting, all of which I am learning a lot from and starting to craft out the London life for myself which I always imagined.
I’m loving life of the unemployed; exploring, being carefree, eating gelato, sleeping in… so far moving to London has been the best decision I’ve ever made, and I’m so lucky to be calling it home, for now.