London is Flirting with Me

My first time in London, I hated it. I vividly remember my first day there. I walked out of Baker Street Station and was nearly run over by the stampede of people walking the streets with great purpose. Everyone was fixated on getting to their destination and I was in their way. Then I discovered that the Londoner’s greatest pet peeve is the disoriented tourist who stands on the left side of the escalator halting everyone’s rhythm. Add to the fact that I came with a wardrobe better suited for the Mediterranean climate, and there you had it: I was miserable.

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After three days in London I had ruled it as one of Europe’s worst cities. (I so take it back now!)

Four years later I gave the city a second chance, but only because I was en route to India. I was there for a week and things went better the second time around. I was prepared for the weather, which meant I wasn’t shivering in shorts and sandals. I was able to navigate the underground with ease, knew where to and where not to stand, could get to certain landmarks without the use of a map. I was especially happy to be revisiting the Southbank again; my favourite area!

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A few days into my stay I found myself thinking, “Hmm, this is a pretty sweet place to be…” Such was the impression it made on me, that a few months later I found myself applying to graduate schools in England! Who would’ve thought?!

Well, I’ve just come back from my third trip to London, and what can I say, I have a major crush on this city!

Strolling down St. James Park, eating Afghan pastries in Spitalfields Market, walking through the tombs of Westminster Abbey, going past St. Paul’s on a rainy afternoon, wandering the galleries of the Tate Modern, listening to The Vaccines on the radio, pacing the Southbank in search of Thai cuisine, going to the pub with new friends, hanging out in Hampton Court Palace, rocking out to indie bands, being awed by Somerset House.

That’s the London that has me charmed.

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On my last night in London I sat in Trafalgar Square as the sun began to fade. The city was abuzz with the calm energy that precedes dusk, and I felt so lucky to be experiencing the heart of London.

18 Comments

  • phillegitimate says:

    I had the same first impression of London (even though I’m used to the left-side-of-the-escalator thing): too expensive, too cold, too unwelcoming. I haven’t made it back yet but I guess I should give it another shot.

    Did the grad school thing in London work out?

    • thatbackpacker says:

      I will be studying in England but I’ll be in a city just north of London. Which works out well in the end because I think London would’ve broken my student budget πŸ™‚

  • Ana says:

    My sister-in-law is one of those Londoners ticked off by tourists πŸ™‚
    I have to say, London is one of my favourite cities in the whole wide world.

  • Scott - Quirky Travel Guy says:

    Jealous… I’m still waiting to visit there!

  • Emily @ Maiden Voyage says:

    I’m very happy to hear that you love London now πŸ™‚ I liked it my first time, but didn’t love it. But I also became fonder of it the second time, even after nearly getting trampled to death during rush hour at Victoria Station! You’re right, they really do have no tolerance for slow tourists…ha. I just love London’s history, architecture, culture, hipness…there’s just something enticing about it. Now I can’t wait to go back!

  • Christy @ Ordinary Traveler says:

    I have a feeling my first reaction to London would also be a negative one. I just imagine cold, rainy and lots of people. I’m sure I will give it a fair chance someday, but it’s not at the top of my list. That’s funny you have been back so many times and love it now. Some places just grow on you. πŸ™‚

  • JennaFrancisco says:

    I love London, too. I was fortunate to spend some time there because my dad lived there for a couple years. I loved walking all around, through the parks, to museums, etc. And the food is great.
    How exciting about grad school? What are you going to study? And where?

    • thatbackpacker says:

      I’ll be getting my MSc in International Development in Birmingham. I’m really looking forward to the fall!!! I will definitely be exploring the rest of the UK πŸ˜€

      • JennaFrancisco says:

        Wow, that is so exciting. I can imagine that you are looking forward to exploring the UK more. And you’ll be so close to Paris, Amsterdam…I’m jealous! πŸ™‚

  • The Travel Chica says:

    I love London! I only spent a week there last year, but it was so amazing. Just a glimpse of everything it offered, and I knew I would pick up and move there in a heartbeat for the right opportunity.

    Good that you gave it a second chance. I don’t think I’ve ever given a place I didn’t like a second chance. Maybe I should.

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  • beach holidays blog says:

    i don’t blame you… i live in london and i hate it! haha

  • Amy says:

    I know this is an old post but I just had to comment on calling Birmingham a city “just North of London”. To a Brit, that’s a really funny way of thinking of it! To us, a city “just North of London” is Luton, maybe Cambridge at a push. Birmingham is firmly in the midlands, not many people would consider it even vaguely close to London. It’s so interesting how the sizes of countries makes such a difference to how people consider distance. Countries like the US, Canada and Australia blow my mind with how huge they are!

  • Ross says:

    Glad to hear it switched around for you. I had a very similar impression the first two times I was there with family but when I went back as a tourist for the weekend when I got older I loved it. And especially after the Olympics last year I think the city is brilliant.
    Ross recently posted..What to do in VolgogradMy Profile

  • Andrea says:

    I had an instant crush on London. I am totally and forever in love with this city. I have been 3 times in there and I am planning a trip for next year and spend 2 months there. It will be a dream come true.
    All the best!!!

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