There is a place in the capital, in central London, that overwhelms me with a great sense of London-ness, if that’s a thing. It is the epitome of London, in my opinion, as if introducing me to a city, big and beautiful. It’s a small space, in the round as you exit Piccadilly Circus station by LillyWhites sports store, cross over the road and round the slight bend into Regent street. Something about this corner makes the city come to life. Its almost unexpected even though I know its there, its a surprise, the big red bus, the taxi, the curve of the buildings, possibly the most beautiful piece of architecture I have ever seen- I always wonder how on earth that was achieved. Its wide open space that packs so much but leaves room to feel so much more.
The sun rises differently in London, the breeze blows with that quintessential London thing, the people are grumpy on Monday morning, but that feeling soon peters out and they make the best of the bunch. Londoners are serious at the best of times, in a rush to get everywhere and do everything all at once, but we miss what stands right in front of us. London boasts the best of everything but it took moving out to appreciate its best-ness.
I like playing tourist whenever I hit the capital, be it in bustling Oxford Street or enchanting Hyde Park Corner, the best park ever. I often avoid the tourist traps and I have still never been to Buckingham Palace, but there is just so much of London to see and be enchanted by- Regents’ Park another stunning space to catch THE BEST sunset and sunrise, walking the Tower Bridge, the Embarkment pier, Somerset house, Hyde Park, did I already say that? Well, Hyde Park. Take in an exhibition or ten, go to the Tate Modern, the Churchill War Rooms, hop on board the HMS Belfast to see what sacrifices were made for our freedoms, enjoy the V&A on a Saturday or have a very late night, early morning breakfast at Duck & Waffle, do a dessert drive by at Dominque Ansel… London has everything to offer and then some.
London is the place where everything happens and comes together, the seasons are unlike any other, it is a sea of cultures and colours and tones and accents, the people are fun and loving, haughty and rude, accommodating and joyful, the architecture is mind numbingly beautiful at times, a ramshackle at others, simple and stunning all at once, and there is an indisputable sense of being alive when you are in the city. These are things that characterise her effervescent, her openness and zest for life. Its amazing that she be so selfish yet selfless all at once.
An early start is the best one in London, when most of the city is still asleep, most especially on a Sunday morning and even more so in the summer. I am talking 5am in the summer months if you want to catch a most spectacular sunrise, its well worth it, but even when she wakes up, in all her grumpy glory, school children on buses, business people hurrying off to their desks, coffee guzzlers and their weird lattes, the packed Jubilee Line, she still remains a most enchanting place to be.
It’s why, no matter where I go, London will always be my city, it hits so close to home, its where I resided for the most formative years of my young adult life, a place that has left me with a great impression and I will never forget the very best of her, even as I hurry to make my train back to the sticks, it is a feeling that stays with me.
Five things to do when in London
London is more than pastel houses in Notting Hill and the London Eye but between the cliches and the classics below are my absolute must dos in London, some new, some old, some cliche, but be sure to go.
The West End– is a London institution and it would be a shame not to see a play or musical whilst in town, this here is the cliché, but its got to be done. Hamilton is here from October, but if that is too far in the year, start with the Lion King, its spectacular.
Afternoon tea at Claridges or Fortnum & Mason. Not so much a cliché as it is a classic. An age old British tradition that is better served in London. You’d be hard pressed to find better anywhere else; warm scones, crust free rectangle sandwiches, dessert on silver trays, an hundreds of ways to have your tea. By all means, feel free to engage in a debate about what goes first on the scone, clotted scream or jam, raspberry or strawberry jam. But I don’t drink tea so what do I know? Well the champagne option is fabulous at Claridges.
Eat a late or early breakfast at Duck & Waffle. This is one is new but pretty damn good to try. It is also one of the most divine places to eat any meal but most especially breakfast before the sun rises and you can watch the sun rise as a side to your scrambled eggs. Duck & Waffle is open 24 hours.
Have dessert as a main meal at the Dominique Ansel bakery in London because dessert is a food group. I have been here three times and every time is just as wonderful, even more so than the last. Dessert is the eight wonder of the world, when done right, its the best thing there is, as a person who sometimes indulges in a cup cake for breakfast, I should know. So this should be on your must do list. I’ll post about that later.
Museum run– its okay to be a lone social in London because there’s enough to appease you as a lone ranger when you just want that time alone to yourself. One of my favourite museums is the V&A, it hosted an Italian fashion designers exhibition a couple years back and its one of the best I’ve seen. From Elizabeth Taylor’s jewels to Audrey Hepburn’s dresses, after that hop along to the Tate modern there’s bound to wet your appetite. Malick Sidibe is currently on show in Somerset House until March 2017, it would be a shame to miss this if you are in town so go spend some time with yourself and indulge in some culture. There’s bound to be something on in one of the palaces.