Were you wondering how to look like a tourist while in London? Never fear, I have created a guide for you so that you can figure out exactly how to act when you visit the Big Smoke.*
1. Walk very, very slowly on the sidewalk, er, pavement. Londoners are never in any rush, especially around Liverpool Street, Bank, The Strand, or any other financial district. Bonus points if your group takes up the entire pavement, making it impossible to pass you without stepping into the busy street.
2. Speak very loudly on the subway, er, tube. Why do Londoners all speak in a whisper on the tube?! So weird. Also, making conversation with the people next to you is welcomed and expected.
Last weekend, in the wee hours of Sunday morning, I put on one last swipe of lipstick, grabbed my purse, and locked the door behind me. It was just before 3am, and the streets around my flat in East London were fairly empty, save the lights from passing traffic. A group of people speaking Spanish, their night winding down, walked down the sidewalk laughing and talking. I walked to the bus stop and stood next to a man smoking a cigarette and looking at his phone. The bus pulled up a few minutes later, and I got on board, taking a seat at the back.
I was on my way to the Victoria and Albert Museum, one of my favourites in the city. I have been many times in the past, and my most memorable visit had been in 2013 to see the David Bowie exhibit. It was strange, taking the bus to the museum at such an ungodly hour of the night. Nearly everyone else on the bus seemed like they were going home, their journey ending. Mine was just beginning, on my way to see Savage Beauty, the showcase of Alexander McQueen’s work.
I’ve been sighing a lot in London lately. I often talk about how much I love this city on this blog; I wrote a whole post about why it deserves every bit of that love, just over a year ago. In that post, I cited the things to do, the galleries, the people, the restaurants, the markets. And I still stand by every word of that post. From Broadway Market to Saatchi Gallery, to afternoon tea and early morning raves, I’m more in love with this city than ever.
But we all know what love is like. It starts off like fireworks, all oohs and aahs, lust and passion. If we’re lucky, that feeling stays for a while. If we’re really lucky, that feeling stays forever.
If you live in London, or have travelled there recently, you probably visited the Tower of London to see the poppies. But for those who couldn’t make it, I wanted to share photos from last week, when I saw it for myself. 888, 426 individual ceramic poppies were placed around the Tower of London, one for each British military casualty in the First World War. While it is visually stunning, I was completely overwhelmed by the tragedy it represents.
There was always something calling me to keep travelling, to keep moving; the nomadic lifestyle appealed more than a sedentary one. That’s why all my paycheques went toward holidays or longer-term travels, and why I spent most of 2010, 2011, and 2012 on the road, with barely any breaks.
But then something changed. And although I’ve been realising the change for the last year, as I watched London go by from the cab window yesterday it all was achingly clear: I’m not ready to leave this place. I really like this place. I think that, for all of the wanderlust still in my bones, I want to settle in this place. Permanently.
The last time I saw you, you were walking away from my flat, waving. As you turned the corner I still had a smile on my face. And then – you disappeared.
We met in a crowded east London bar over the thud of dance music and the raucous laughter of those still drinking at 3am. The next day I could barely remember your face, but knew you were tall and Scottish. I remembered giving you my number and laughed out loud; as if you’d ever call, I thought. As if you’d ever call.