“Why London?” he asked as we sat after-hours in a cozy Clapham neighborhood pub tucked away on a sleeping street corner. It was the kind of pub where everyone knows each other, where the patrons are more like family rather than strangers who frequent the same bar.
I struggled to find the right words to suitably answer this native Londoner’s question. Why do I love London so?
I studied abroad in London for four months in 2014, falling so in love with this city that leaving felt like a breakup more than anything. I returned for two weeks this past May, excited to once more immerse myself in the city that my heart had remained behind in.
But why London? Why do I feel such a draw to this place more than any of the other cities I've been to and lived in?
It’s the way the city captures your attention, coaxing you outside of yourself, outside of your thoughts and into the present moment and your surroundings. It’s morning meanders with music through streets unknown with whim as your guide. It’s the way the air smells like smoke, coffee and rain. It’s the low-hanging grey swept wide over the sky.
It’s drinking a mocha outside a tiny cafe, the Shard in your eyeline, a book in your hand, different languages and accents gracing your ears as lives pass you by. It’s eating a raclette from Borough Market in the centuries-old Southwark Cathedral courtyard with the rattling of a passing train’s wheels overhead.
It’s the quieter moments, the spring picnics beneath a blooming tree and the afternoons spent walking along the Thames. It’s reading and wandering in a blissfully sunny Hyde Park. It’s sitting beneath a tree - my tree - on Primrose Hill, alone with the Big Questions of life and a sprawling London skyline set before me.
It’s the people, the way an accented “Cheers!” serves as both a thank you and a you’re welcome. It’s trying to pick out words you know in the French conversation at the table next to you at a creperie in Kensington, a warm latte cupped between your hands. It’s overhearing stories of immigrants in a coffee shop in Camden, of the flee from Israel to pursue the longing of the heart and to remove oneself from war. It’s the way community manages to exist in a sprawling city of 7 million.
It’s the bustling of the city's multitudes, the rushing wind from the train as you walk across the platform. It’s the communal reading of the Evening Standard on the commute home. It’s the planes circling overhead, the constant drone of the engine, bringing in people from all over the world. It’s listening to some lads on a crowded tube discuss the recent football match and slur through a story of a mistaken text after a night out at O’Neals.
It’s how easy it is to lose yourself in this city, the way trying to recount your day’s activities is so difficult because there has been so much seeing and so much doing that Netflix and social media and time-wasting have been crowded out by the actual living of life.
It’s the way the city is just different enough to feel electrifying, yet just familiar enough to feel comfortable.
So why London?
Because London feels like home.
"Robbers" (Acoustic) // The 1975
I listened to this song on repeat for the entirety of writing this post because a) I'm obsessed with The 1975, b) I'm obsessed with this song (standby for the post where I explain why this is my favorite song; it's on my to-write list.), c) I'm obsessed with the acoustic version of this song, and d) this band was the soundtrack to both of my sojourns in London and therefore stands as my emotional connection to the city.
I'm seeing them again in December and I may cry a li'l bit.