Friday, July 18, 2008

Goodbye NY, hello LDN

I have been back in London for a week now, and already I am feeling nostalgic for the bright lights and wide avenues of New York. There is some kind of magic about that name, isn't there? New York! Even whispered under your breath, it evokes excitement, colour, glamour, drama. The buzz of life swirling around the streets, pouring into the subways, milling around the bars and leering at you from doorways. Park avenue princesses and Madison park bums. Wise-cracking doormen and edgy cab drivers.

A sense of optimism pervades NYC, noticable after the comfortable pessimism of London. New York is brimful of hope right now, especially with the election around the corner.

Despite my nostalgia, my last week in New York was far from the highlight of my trip, and being run down as I was meant I really noticed the smog, the dirt, the noise and the stench of rubbish left festering in the humidity. After I touched down at Heathrow, the thing that really struck me was how green London was, having burst gloriously forth from a wet Summer since I've been away. And how quiet the city is! It seems so peaceful after New York, especially in my little neighbourhood north of the city.

In an effort to help me settle back into my everyday life here, I present a list of things I continue to love about London (which I shall repeat to myself often, mantra-like):

1) The parks. Hampstead Heath especially - so lovely, and more suitable for rambling and picnics than Central Park. Also, there is nothing prettier than an English cottage garden.

2) The quirky style of the inhabitants. People are more free-spirited in the way they dress here, and more rough around the edges.

3) The buses. They are a great way to get around, if you don't mind taking a bit longer, and the sight of a red double-decker bus is inherently cheering.

4) The variety of food that is available. London is a foodie town, there is no denying it. Borough Market, I missed you and your awe-inspiring arrays of meat, seafood, spices, coffee, cakes, bread, and local and exotic fruits and vegetables.

5) My bike and London's increasingly bike-friendly roads (really!). Good to be back in the saddle.

6) Proper world news, delivered by people I can take seriously. Living in New York, you tend to forget about the existence of an outside world.

7) The generally "good natured despite the weather/the fact that nothing works as it should" attitude of the people here.

8) A nice cup of English (or more likely some kind of herbal) tea. It just didn't seem right drinking tea in NY, and I missed the ritual.

9) The sense of history, of course. I hope to see more and do more in this historic town; having made the most of my time in NY, I feel a little like I have taken London for granted.

10) The vast variety of accents, some of which I have become immune to, but some of which still manage to tickle me (the "Cheers, Guv'nor!" to the driver when the bus waited for a tardy cockney to board).

I am sure there are many more things to love about London which I have forgotten to include here, so I will update this list as they occur to me or as I experience them.

Just don't ask me to choose which my favourite city is. I am not prepared to go there just yet.

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