Cancelled flight on the eve, newspapers with headlines claiming “Beast from the East” when describing the weather on the continent, replacement flight delayed by more than an hour… I sat at the airport lounge looking like death at six in the morning, already prophesying that my short trip to London would be full of misadventures. Indeed, I arrived at Gatwick airport and had to wait an additional hour before making it to the trains, which were, of course, delayed too due to adverse weather conditions! On the first day, the weather was awful. The cold got to me despite the layers of clothes I had donned and the wind only worsened it. Nevertheless, I set out to discover this foreign city and all it had to offer and to make it short: I do not regret it! London was enthralling and charming. While penning down those lines, an unexplainable nostalgia for a place I have only briefly glimpsed, overwhelms me.
The first thing that struck me about London was how different the architecture looked. During the past months, I have grown accustomed to the signature renaissance outline of buildings in Paris and their lavishly sculpted stone facades and among all countries I have visited before, nothing looks like London. It is obvious considering that each country is unique. I really appreciated the Gothic elements, that is, the intricate spires, sharp edges and walled surfaces, of the churches, the grand institutions, among others. Also, you cannot miss the fancy arrays of red bricks making up great stations and other buildings; they just add bursts of colours to the grey sky.
I also fell in love with the little “pathways” that just serpentine in the vicinity of the main streets. We often hear renowned names like Oxford Street and Piccadilly Circus and yes: they are great. But c’mon, we have to admit that there is a generic formula for grand streets, avenues, boulevards, etc. You’ve got to have a wide street, good lighting, grand buildings and designer shops along the road. And here in Paris, my sight has been blessed by one-too-many of those, so London did not differ or impress me much in that category. However, it is when you actually take the ‘shortcuts’ and the small alleys that you can appreciate the beauty of a city and get lost in its very essence. I was lucky to have had the opportunity to do so! I found myself twisting and turning in charming little alleys juxtaposing big streets, and each street had its own atmosphere and particularity. Gosh, one second you’re walking down the memorable Regent Street and the next you come face to face with the eye candy that is Carnaby Street and its suspended fairy lights by night. One moment you’re passing by restaurants in Soho and the next you mistake a sexshop for a bookshop (For real! It was written ‘Bookshop’ in my defense!) .
I also had my share of fun trying to find ‘Monopoly’ places around the city like Marylebone Station, Bond Street and so on. Sherlock Holmes’ fans might want to check out Baker Street for the Sherlock Holmes’ museum. The British Museum was a nice experience, plus it was free entrance so the detour was worth it!Unfortunately, as the Big Ben was under renovation I couldn’t take any picture as it was obscured by some sort of cloth. One of my favourite moments was the Camden Food Market and its countless food stalls from Bao buns to Halloumi fries sprinkled with yoghurt and pomegranate. And let’s not omit dessert: from vegan cookie dough in multiple flavours topped with nuts and fresh fruits to giant waffles covered in chocolate and other mouth-watering ingredients. I must have eaten my weight in asian food that day. But paying a visit to the Queen was a must. Right? So I stood in front of the Buckingham Palace and peered through the gates (secretly hoping to see some Royalty material but mostly being narcissistic and taking pictures of myself).
Moreover, the drivers in general appear kinder and more disciplined. I have neither heard a frustrated swear word nor disturbing car horns and the people in cars were very kind to let pedestrians cross first whenever there were no traffic lights. I am so fond of the British accent that I could listen to it all day long. I don’t know if that’s some sort of British thing but more than once I’ve been called ‘love’ in shops and I shamelessly state that I simply L-O-V-E it. It just makes the whole scene much more welcoming.
I regret I could not visit more due to the time constraints and considering I had only four days. But one thing is sure: London you’ll see more of me.
-Tessa Lalljee (guest writer)