I was in love. I was eight years old, and I was immediately, hopelessly, in love with London.
I loved the buildings, stretching into the sky; I still remember craning my neck to try and see the top of One Canada Square, then the tallest building in the city. I loved the Tube, jumping on and off and emerging somewhere new altogether, as my brother and I imitated the well-spoken ‘Please Mind the Gap’ announcements. I loved the Docklands Light Railway – the train had no drivers, and seemed magical to me then.
I loved the busyness of Oxford Street, where I distinctly remember buying a Spice Girls postcard (this was the summer of Girl Power, and the start of their career). I loved cooling down in the fountains at Trafalgar Square, and seeing all the sights that popped up on the evening news: Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament, Buckingham Palace. I loved London, full stop.
It wasn’t as if I’d never seen a city before. As a child I spent a lot of time in Glasgow, and I had visited plenty other urban places. London, however, was in a league of its own, and it started a life-long love affair with cities – the bigger, the better.
In my teenage years, I returned to London quite a lot, but – aside from a lone long weekend over three years ago – I haven’t been back recently. I can find my own way around New York City or Beijing, but the British capital? I’m ashamed to say I’d be relying on Google maps for anything outside the central tourist spots.
So this summer, I’m determined to make the most of my short trips to London: catching up with friends and checking out new neighbourhoods, coffee shops, and nightlife hotspots. There’s no doubt about it – London’s calling!
Have you ever been to London? Which off-the-beaten-track spots should I search out?
Image credit: Death to the Stock Photo