“Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
I’ve said it a thousand times before and I’m going to say it again, London is THE best City in the world! Now, I realise that’s a pretty dogmatic statement on paper, but believe me when I say, I feel it with such passion and heart-felt certainty it’s as if I’m screaming it from the rooftops with my arms flung up in the air, shouting with total admiration and unadulterated love into the neon, smog filled London night sky! (Aaaand breath!)
I say this not just as a born and bred Londoner but as someone who’s spent a lot of time in a lot of other cities around the world and loved them too – Rio, New York, Paris, Buenos Aires, Madrid, Zürich, Brussels etc. But it’s not about bias. Truly it’s not. Growing up I lived in some dives south of the river…and I was born in Lambeth (Lambeth!!)
But 35 years on, like everything you could only wish for in a long-term relationship, London still surprises me, still amazes me, still intrigues me and never fails to make my heart-race. I like to think I know London like the back of my hand but the magic of it is I’m constantly finding places I’ve never been before, experiencing things I’ve never experienced before and meeting fascinating people from all walks of life, local or otherwise. They, I think are key to making London the beauty that it is. I love that people can just be in London, every shape, size, color, creed, character, no-one bats an eyelid. It’s a place where you are so used to diversity, absolutely nothing and no-one phases you. It’s a place that feels larger than life. Because quite simply, it is.
I’ve lived outside of London of course – Cheltenham, Cambridge, Reading even Scotland as a child – but I knew the moment I graduated University in 2003 I belonged back in London. Not south of the river with my family London (they’d all moved to the Kent coast by then anyhow – goodness knows why?!) As a late teen I remember saying to myself I wanted to live the ‘Sex & The City’ lifestyle through my 20’s. I wanted to have a cool apartment in London, have a successful job and experience life in the City with my friends. And happily that’s exactly what I’ve done over the last 12 years, thanks to a lot of hard graft and determination to make it so. But as a woman of ‘balance’, I also partied [exceptionally] hard making the absolute most of my youth in the giant playground I call home. Notting Hill roof parties, Vauxhall underground raves, Ealing dinner parties, Camden festivals, Hampstead Heath picnics, East End markets – these are the moments and places that made me. You don’t tire of seeing the sun rise over the Thames on the way home after an epic all-nighter.
I was 23 when I secured my first job in TV – later than I had hoped due to a long-term relationship and his job taking us around the country – but I finally started to commute from Reading to Central London (Victoria) every day. Which I couldn’t have loved more. Pulling into Paddington station every morning thrilled me. Walking up the stairs from the tube into Victoria station excited me. This was my home, this wasn’t something new to me, but every single day, I was filled with pure joy at the grandeur and electricity of the place. To this day, that feeling has never left me. I still walk across Embankment bridge looking to St Paul’s Cathedral and the financial district with such awe and excitement that this is actually where I’m from. I used to walk across London Bridge every morning to work with a view of Tower Bridge from my office, and not a day went by when I didn’t take a picture or just stand and stare out marveling that this was where I worked!
Surprisingly for some people, I’ve never been patriotic; I don’t celebrate St Georges day or fly the Union Jack at great sporting events, I’m not even sure what purpose the Royal Family serve but when people ask me where I’m from, particularly when travelling, I instinctively and proudly answer “London”. With my love of travel, and a personality that’s more Italian than English (so I’ve been told countless times), I like to think of myself s a ‘citizen of the world’ but I always want people to know that I’m from London, specifically. One, because it’s true and two, because that’s how I feel most naturally defined. I’m not from a sleepy corner of England. I’m from the Capital of England. I’m a Londoner. It was a friend who pointed it out to me when we were in India; that I never say England, or the U.K. just London. But it hasn’t changed my answer since, because it’s the uniqueness of this great City that I have to thank for my open mind, my acceptance without question of others and my constant desire to learn about different cultures.
It’s London I have to thank for fulfilling all my teenage dreams, for my constant sense of wonder and tolerance. For the confidence I finally grew in to, for my ‘brutal’ sense of humor, for my ability to dodge traffic so effortlessly and to negotiate even the most congested of crowds with ease! For entertaining all my wild ideas and spontaneity, for making it so easy to be whoever I want to be. For the feeling of being at the center of the world on one hand yet enabling me to be so anonymous on the other.
It goes without saying that we’re all a product of where we are from and as a travel blogger I could write a thousand articles on my Guide to London or Top 10 Places etc but this one, today, is just for me.
For me and my London.