Being a Londoner for a Month, Part 2
“I like the spirit of this great London which I feel around me. Who but a coward would pass his whole life in hamlets; and for ever abandon his faculties to the eating rust of obscurity?”
― Charlotte Brontë, Villette
Who would not want to live in London? After only a few days we had discovered the magic the city holds. How many great stories have been written here? How many works of art have been inspired by this city?
I’m still trying to think what it is about this city that charms everybody, or charmed me from the first time I came, three years ago in 2012. Maybe it’s its history and culture or its peculiar buses and phone booths, or its winding streets and town houses.
In October of this year, it was glowing in golden and red as Autumn covered the Northern Hemisphere. We quickly discovered what would be our favorite thing about London: parks.
There are so many of them and they are giant. Beautiful acres of grass, trees, trails, ponds, birds, memorials, people exercising, people kissing under trees, people walking their dogs and feeding the geese and the friendly squirrels. Coming from the “Land of Eternal Spring”, I have never experienced Autumn. I’ve seen tons of Tumblr posts of beautiful colored trees, or heard stories and Ella Fitzgerald songs, but London in October is more beautiful than I imagined.
Our favorite park was Hampstead Heath, for it is a giant park made of natural trails, big spaces for pets to run free, forest, ponds and fresh air. You won’t find fountains or memorials here, but you will find some pretty majestic trees.
Our second favorite thing about London is the theater. We saw the musical, Wicked, and the play War Horse that was recommended to us. Wicked had some impressive moving sets, choreographies and live orchestra. I’m still trying to understand how some of the scenes were achieved, with tricks of light and props. War Horse was a heartwarming play about a horse during the Great War. But the amazing thing about the play is that there are no horse actors, but they were made like giant puppets. You can see the people inside of them, making their every move, but you soon forget that is not a real animal you’re seeing.
There are always many shows to see in London, and we wish we’d been able to see one every weekend.
As I mentioned on Part 1 of this post, Londoners are very kind people. We met awesome people working on Cooks Yard, a really cool and cozy coworking space in East London. Leo, the owner was great with us and we were so happy to find this place where we could rely on 24/7 desks, internet and coffee for a reasonable price. It is also located in a great place, with two stations at a walking distance, restaurants, cafes, markets, and a Tesco just across the street. We met some other cool Londoners (and others I will call interesting) and we became part of the city. We commuted every morning by train and Overground and came back late every night from London Bridge Station or Charing Cross. We had a routine, we learned the voice announcements like “Mind the gap, between the train and the platform” or “This is Whitechapel. Alight here for The Royal London Hospital”. (I personally had never even heard the word Alight).
It is pretty incredible to be in a city so big and have a well connected transport system. It was not hard at all to move from east to west or south. We were constantly surprised of finding new neighborhoods as we got off at new stations. London is so big and there’s so much to see!
We also found meetups with other coders. In a city so big you will find many people like you. We found people who work on the tech industry or are getting started on it. I read online about many meetups, workshops, job fairs, etc. all over the city. It is really cool to know you don’t have to travel too far to find people like you.
If you are a tourist, the touristy things will not disappoint. It’s a beautiful sight to see Big Ben proudly standing overlooking the Thames. But if you have the time to live like a Londoner, you will find something different to do every day. You will meet people from all over the world, you will hear many languages, you will eat many foods and walk many streets.
I can say it is a myth that the weather in London is awful. Whenever we told people we would be there in October they all wished us good luck with the rains. We got there with waterproof jackets ready and were surprised, and delighted, to find that it didn’t rain as much as they said it would. It probably rained three or four days over our stay and all the weekends had clear skies and sunshine, maybe getting a bit cloudy in the afternoons, but nothing too bad. We had some spectacular sunsets in the parks and enjoyed the cold air on our walks.
I now understand why everybody wants to live in London. It is packed and rental prices go through the roof, but it is an amazing city. It inspires you to be worthy of a city so grand. It makes you feel like you belong, like you live in a place were history is being written.