By Tracey Chandler
I was born, went to school, graduated, worked for seven years as a secondary school teacher, bought my first flat and lived in London for 27 years. Trying to write about what makes it one of the most charismatic cities in the world for is a tough task. Writing about what makes London my home, even though I haven’t lived there for five years, is even harder.
However, if there’s anything about London that makes it my home, it’s the variety.
Whenever I go back to London to visit friends and family, I step off of the plane and smile. I love hearing the London accent escaping from the mouths of immigration officials who come in all shapes and sizes: the East London Hindu, deftly wearing his turban and tie, the Rasta from Brixton, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed beauty in heels. The culture mix is powerful and heart-warming.
The best way to connect with London and the variety on offer is to step outside and get walking. My favourite zone one walk goes something like this:
- Get off the tube at Marble Arch and walk along Oxford Street for midday window shopping
- Turn into Regent Street and go through Piccadilly Circus into Leicester Square
- Continue down past Trafalgar Square and onto The Strand
- Pass through Embankment Tube Station and climb up the steps onto the Embankment Bridge
- Cross over The Thames as the sun goes down and take in the sites of The Gherkin, The London Eye and Big Ben
- Wander around the busy cultured hot-spots on The South Bank all the way down to The Tate Gallery
- Double back across The Millennium Bridge
- Pass by St. Paul’s Cathedral and follow the route through to Liverpool Street Station where you can pick up on the night life on Brick Lane, Carnaby Street and Old Street (if you manage to work you ways around the bars in time)
- At about 5am ride back on the night bus to your London pad and enjoy a good cup of tea and a few slices of buttered toast as the sun comes up
- Get into bed and sleep through the morning with a smile
London boys come from all over the world. Every night is a single girl’s chocolate box of assorted treats. They are tall and short, muscled and skinny, black and white, foreign and native, bohemian and clean-cut, charming and brash, loud and quiet, sexy and shy. I love not knowing who I am going to meet and where they might have come from.*
* It’s worth pointing out that the gay dating scene in London is, as my gay London friends love to tell me, just as exciting.
Tapas, pizza, curry, noodles, dim sum, a traditional roast, pie and mash, baklava, kebab, steak, feijoada, chow mein, pasta, burgers, smoothies, arepas, stews, soups, seafood paella, samosas, and empanadas. In London, the list is endless – and you can always find a native to prepare the dish for you.
Rock, punk, reggae, jazz, blues, hip hop, rap, classical, salsa, pop, indie, heavy metal, soul, rhythm and blues, techno. London has it all and can accommodate every kind of budget. There are back street pubs that host live music concerts at no extra charge, huge international stadiums where you can find the best of the very best every night of the year, and endless creative projects to get involved in.
Beyond the variety, the excitement, the pulse and the visual beauty that makes me so grateful to call London my home, I must make a final reference to something I call London pride.
Londoners LOVE London. We know that it is one of the most popular cities in the world because it knows how to get things done. London holds onto traditions, whilst still being able to move forward as a pioneer of modernity and change. Londoners are polite, respectful and incredibly hard-working and these qualities are contagious. Once you have been touched by London pride and you, too, will begin to ooze the qualities of the true Londoner: tradition alongside modernity, respect and hard work.
As I sat on my sofa in Buenos Aires this year, avidly watching the 2012 Olympics every day, I was reminded of my own London pride and a few tears were shed. Londoners might complain and make a fuss about their home town, but this inner pride never goes away. It is the key to the city’s charm and the reason why millions of people flock to visit every single year.
Tracey writes her way around the globe, focusing on culture, matters of the heart and travel ideas including house swapping popularity in Europe and luxury home exchange tips. She loves strong colours, doesn’t have the guts to jump out of a plane and cannot live without internet connection.