London (noun): A city of contradictions, exceptions, majorities, minorities, hard work, orderly queues and a united belief that life here is worth all the challenges. A place that can make you fall in love and go absolutely crazy at the same time (like most romances). It is a fabulous collection of people from all over the world living under one very polluted roof. London isn’t a city - it’s a whole world of its own.
“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life." Most Londoners will know this famous phrase from the 18th-century author Samuel Johnson. But Samuel Johnson didn't take the Northern line to work every day, nor did he have to manoeuvre through hordes of selfie stick-toting tourists looking for Harrods.
In London, you will never be bored again. It is the city that invented FOMO (hey Grandma, aka my most loyal reader, that acronym means Fear of Missing Out). There is lots of exciting stuff to do. Every freakin’ weekend. Hot tub cinema? Flower market? Cat Café? Pop-up-street-food-supper-club? You will get crippling FOMO if you don’t do all of it at once immediately. Ommmm. I try to live in the moment but it’s hard, and never more so than in London. Keeping up with the pace in London can be exhausting.
But like most cities, once you adjust the novelty wears off and you become lazy about making the most of your precious time. But no matter how much you think you’ll go on long wistful walks in Hyde Park, sip a Syrah in a cave at Gordon’s or stuff raclette into your face a Borough Market EVERY weekend, you won’t. Like life everywhere, it is easy to fall into the trap of of trying to juggle life with everything else...
When I left London after grad school, I was deeply disappointed by how little I actually explored while I was here. Determined to prevent history from repeating itself, I came up with an extensive London 2.0 Bucket list to keep me on track. I made great progress: I finally went to the Tower of London; ate my first scotch egg; attended a lecture at The School of Life (appropriately on the topic of How to Fail); “dominated” at ping pong at Bounce; ate at Chin Chin in Camden where ice cream is frozen to order amid billowing clouds of liquid nitrogen; nerded out on the fact that old planes used to be made out of plywood while at the plywood exhibit at the V&A; cheered for the underdog at Kinky Boots (as well as seeing 10+ other plays and performances - can you say theatre junkie?); and roamed aimlessly through Kew Gardens while secretly wishing I was playing Sardines with friends to make the most of the huge space that screams to be played in. There are still a few things that I’ll have to save for London 3.0. Priorities include going to the bathroom at Sketch (apparently they’re fab but honest I am too cheap to bother with their high tea so I’ll have to try out my best wedding crasher moves), hunting for treasures at Portobello Market, and testing my standing stamina in order to see Shakespeare at the Globe.
Above and beyond the wonderful things to explore in London, my time was define by the great people I spent time with. I reconnected with old “friends” aka acquaintances from my time at LSE only to be surprised and delighted by how much we have in common now. This was especially wonderful since I wouldn’t have intentionally looked them up upon arrival; this was facilitated by a serendipitous Borough market run-in with Rachel as I played tour guide for a friend from NYC. I met new kindred spirits that brought so much laughter as we debated the pros and cons of terrible dating apps. And, of course, I bonded with my three fab flatmates who I hope will let me crash in the lounge in exchange for brownies the next time I pass through town.
In truth, I feel like I have a bunch of sapling friendships that I am not ready to leave behind. Four months is just too short and I deeply wish I had more time for these friendships to establish solid roots. I’d like some guarantee they will have more substance than (secretly) creeping Facebook posts during the in-between months/years but perhaps I’m just an optimist that believes that when fate brings people (back) into our lives, there is always a reason. Nevertheless, I am hopeful that we tended the proverbial friendship soil with just the right amount of the necessary fertilizers: brunch, wine, sarcasm and shenanigans.
Cheerio London! I’m going to miss you terribly.
This is my favourite installation ever by Superflex at the Tate Modern.
Nice to meet you...
I'm Andi (hence the blog name). I'm a travel aficionado, passionate eater, tireless explorer of internet rabbit-holes, and amateur thinker. Join me as I give it all up (ok, that's a bit of an exaggeration) and go around the world on a mid-career "soul sabbatical" & year-of-learning to figure out what to be NEXT when I grow up. Won’t you grab a cup of chai and stay a while?
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