I have a lot of memories of London from before I lived here. In one, I’m wearing Spice Girl shoes, you know, those platform trainers that all of us wore in 1997. I had bought them on Oxford Street, at Miss Selfridges, my new favourite store. It was my second time in England; my very first visit, in fact my first visit to another continent, was to London and Windsor for a Christmas holiday with my family only six months before. My sister and I had gone to see Spice World in Convent Garden that holiday, and let me tell you – the Spice Girls were a big deal in London at the time. Anyway, in this memory, I’m on the tube, wearing my Spice Girls shoes, being very thirteen, when I stepped on a woman’s foot.
“Watch it!” she hissed at me, and I remember thinking she was extra scary because she had a British accent.
“I really don’t want to live in London,” I remember thinking. But oh, what a decade or two can change…
The reason I love London so much is that it has a never-ending amount of things to do. You know that saying by Samuel Johnson where he says, “Tired of London, tired of life”? I have to admit, I kind of agree with it. Despite living in London for over three years (going on four, actually, I can’t believe it… it’s the longest I’ve ever lived somewhere in my adult life), I honestly never run out of things to do. The list of things I still want to do in this city grows ever longer.
One of those things, and something that topped the list for quite some time, was a silent disco at The Shard.
It’s been a while since I’ve done a “Best of London” post – in fact, looking back through this blog’s archives, I rarely write about things to do in London, despite having lived here for three years now. That’s a bit odd, considering I feel like I’m always doing cool stuff in the city; anyone who has been to London knows there is seemingly no shortage of museums, markets, neighbourhoods, restaurants, and bars to sample.
Last night, however, I did something new and wanted to share it: I went to my first rooftop cinema in London.
Back in October I wrote a post called My 2016 Travel Goals. In that post I talked about wanted to visit Greece, Moldova, Belgium, Turkey, Spain, France… basically, a whole lot of countries around Europe. At the very end of that post, I said I also wanted to see a lot more of the UK, though I didn’t really go into specifics.
I want to do more. I want to see more. I want to eat more (seriously, English food is delicious, I don’t know why that rumour still stands). While I’ve slowly been curating a list of fun things to do in London, I’ve also decided that I want to travel outside of the city at least once a month. I might not always be visiting new-to-me places, but I feel an urge to really explore this wonderful backyard of mine.
Part of the struggle of finding shows to go to in London is the cost. In March I went to see the brilliant The Ruling Class with James McAvoy, but that set me back £60 for a matinee ticket. I tried to go see Photograph 51 with Nicole Kidman, but ultimately decided I’d rather by a Eurostar ticket to Paris with the money it would have cost me. And yes, I know – you shouldn’t put a price on art, it would be worth every pound, and what have you – but I simply can’t afford to drop that kind of money all the time when I’m constantly saving to travel, and, you know, living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. But just because you can’t afford to see a show in London’s West End, doesn’t mean you can’t get involved in the theatre scene in London. There are plenty of venues, playhouses, and festivals that promote affordable theatre. My new favourite? The Albany in South East London.
London is a city that gets a bad reputation from time to time. It’s crowded. It’s expensive. It rains a lot. I get it – and sometimes I feel it so strongly, this weight of the city.
But most of the time, nearly all of the time? I love it. It’s a city that speaks to me, that excites me, that motivates me. In London I’ve found a fulfilling career, a lovely flat, and a great group of friends; in London I’ve found a home. Over the past few months, after going through a bit of a period of stress, I have made a conscious effort to enjoy every single day in London, and to fill my time here with as many museums, cafés, parks, shows, and outings with friends as possible. I’ve been very open about my love for London, writing a post about why it deserves all of that love and even why I felt strongly about settling here permanently.
And then something happened: my master’s program finished.