This is the 21st post of my blog, started in Stockholm last June where I was living for one month in a small apartment in the suburbs of the city. I moved there with the purpose of starting something new and dedicating my time to writing and experiencing life in one of my favourite places in the world during its best time. Summer in Sweden is beautiful, with its long sunny days and lovely nature to spend your time in. I travelled there directly from London, where I had lived the past two years of my life and where I will be moving back at the end of the Erasmus course I am on. However, out of 21 posts, this is the first one about the British capital. Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, Italy and The Netherlands have taken over all my posts without ever giving space to a city that has made my life so special and has given me so many opportunities. And, most importantly, that never stops doing so.
I just got back from a crazy, exhausting, fun and exciting weekend in London. I took my Dutch friend Hugo with me, who never visited the place, and it gave me the chance to meet up with my friends from University who will be graduating this summer and maybe leave London soon after. The weekend was made up of sightseeing, meeting up for drinks in London’s best bars, drinking cider on a sunny afternoon in Shoreditch Park and clubbing our nights away.
London is a city that never sleeps. Go out on a Monday night and you are likely to find bars more crowded than on a regular Saturday evening. London is also a city where everyone who moved there is looking for something: a future, a job, love, real life opportunities. It is a place that offers endless prospects. But what I have learnt about that city in the past years is that nothing is ever stable and certain, especially when it comes to people. It is a city which is in constant evolution and people come and go the whole time, may they be exchange students or people who moved there to build themselves a new life and realise that service jobs do not pay enough for the sky-high rent prices and regular travel expenses. It is not a student-friendly city but students living or visiting there are guaranteed unforgettable life experiences.
One other interesting thing about the city is that when meeting someone new, you are quite likely to start the conversation by asking: where are you from? It has nothing to do with not looking or sounding british, but simply because London is so international and multi-ethnical that nobody even knows who a Londoner really is or what he or she looks like (unless you ask a UKIP member who would give you a quite specific answer). My friend Hugo thought he was asked because he does not look british, but I explained how it is usually the ice-breaker when starting a conversation.
On Saturday we met up with two close friends of mine from primary school, who are also studying in London. They brought us to a very interesting cafe in London’s hip area Hackney, where the creativeness of artists in the city is expressed at its fullest. This quite hidden place, located just walking distance from Dalston Junction overground station, is a wonderful garden with sofas, tables and chairs where having an afternoon tea or coffee is simply amazing. They also offer hot water bags to keep you warm, so that you do not have to rush to some closed space to warm up. We also wanted to visit the new Cereal bar in Brick Lane (Shoreditch, East London) sarcastically named “Cereal Killer”, which sells pots of cereal brands from all over the world, but it was unfortunately way too crowded.
Sunday was a surprisingly sunny day, spent visiting London’s main attractions and enjoying the last hours of sunshine in a summery way, drinking cider in a park. After that we met with some other university friends of mine in Camden for cocktails and ended the day and the trip with a wonderful night walk on the Thames side. The beauty and greatness of London is overwhelming when walking through those empty streets at night and surrounded by lit up skyscrapers and tall bridges; all Londoners are all busy living their own life and getting ready to start yet another working day.
They may say London is an impersonal city, where life is lived stressfully worrying about time, expenses and rushing around all day hopping on and off the Tube. And I have lived that life, getting up at 4.30am to start an early shift at Starbucks where City workers would rush just two hours later driven by their addiction to caffeine; or going to bed at 4am on a Saturday night to wake up a few hours later and realise I had an 8 hour shift ahead of me. But however bad and awful this may sound, it gave me the real joy of living every moment of life, because London prices would not allow me to give up my job and a social life is essential and worth the eye bags and hangover at work. As 18th century British writer Samuel Johnson wrote “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”. Therefore this city must be doing it right in one way or another and everyone who moves there dreams of living a more fulfilled life, and that is exactly what London has to offer.