As a naive teenager, I always thought New York City was the pinnacle of every traveler's wish list. Street lights, big dreams, all looking pretty, right? I spent most of my college life daydreaming about studying in the Empire State but when that opportunity finally came along, something quite funny happened. I was pulled to another direction... literally to the other side of the Atlantic. London, London, London... perhaps it was time to try something completely new. I gave it a shot and left my NYC dreams in the wake of my footsteps (and in the corridors of my college campus).
And when I experienced London for half a year, in all its majestic, quaint, historic, organic, and wonderful glory, I knew that my wanderlust heart had finally found its home.
One of the best things about London is that - this is going to sound so introverted - one can enjoy it in solitude. Virginia Woolf said, 'To walk alone in London is the greatest rest.' With all the cultural, artistic, historic, and culinary offerings this city boasts of, Woolf's statement still holds a strong footing. Company becomes optional because in every corner of the city is a hidden friend under the guise of an artwork, a dish, a market, a sculpture, a park, a bookstore. It's amazing how any of those things opens up a whole new world, a new way of thinking, or even a new taste bud.
There are just endless things to be in awe of. Unlike other cities where only a few areas are up and running, London's every stop has a secret to surprise you. For example: Ladbroke Grove has an authentic Portuguese patisserie that sells the best egg tarts. Marylebone is home to Daunt Bookstore, an independent Edwardian bookshop with long oak galleries and books upon books. Chelsea has the Bluebird Emporium, perfect for the socialites of Made In Chelsea. The edgy East End also becomes a leafy oasis every Sunday thanks to the Columbia Flower Market. In Hampstead is one of the best spots for viewing the London skyline: the highest point of Hampstead Heath park. And, of course, there's also Notting Hill, Soho, Covent Garden, Knightsbridge, Brixton, and on and on and on...
I loved being alone in this city because I never felt like I was missing out on conversations. I was always a part of one when I walked through the antique markets (don't get me started on Alfies in Church Street), taste tested the many local and artisan food samples in Borough Market, contemplated on the impact of David Bowie through his exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum, sat on one of the garden folding chairs in Green Park, or browsed through vintage Penguin books under the bridge of the River Thames. Even taking the underground every single day was an adventure in itself. Package all of that with the quaint character of London and the people's precious lilt of an accent and it was almost Heaven for me.
I am aware that the title of this blog entry may be biased (or not), but it is this city that pulled me to go left when everyone was going right. It is in London where I had some of the greatest conversations of my life, inspiring me to think forward but also to think slow; where I grew in the art of solitude and also in the art of connection. Not many can do that to a person at once. London is truly my spirit city (with Paris as a very close second). Whatever force lured me into changing the direction of my sails, I thank you, from the bottom of my hopelessly British heart.
Classy Musings' Guide to London
1. For a true British shopping experience: Liberty (buy a printed scarf while you're at it!)
2. For new architectural summer pavilions aka art that you can walk through: Serpentine Gallery Pavilion
3. For a summer picnic/strolling through gardens/reading a book: Holland Park
4. For delicious duck and waffle (among other delicious dishes): Duck And Waffle
5. For nostalgia cinema under the lit sky: Rooftop Film Club
6. For a less stuffy, more innovative Michelin dining experience: Restaurant Story
7. For the cure to Oxford Street shopping: Dover Street Market
8. For a burger that is NOT Shake Shack but is probably just as mouthwatering: Honest Burger
9. For a different kind of people watching: National Portrait Gallery
10. For British stand-up comedy: Soho Theatre