The Best City in the World

If London were Elizabeth Bennet, I am Mr. Darcy, as London has “bewitched me, body and soul, and … I never wish to be parted from [there] from this day on”

*sobs*

To be fair, I haven’t been to that many cities considering London’s competition, but I have been to quite a few considering my age and my background. I’ve been to NYC, Chicago, Dublin, Galway, Edinburgh, and Glasgow. I didn’t spend anywhere near the two months I spent in London in those cities, BUT I’M IN LOVE, I’M IN LOVE, AND I DON’T CARE WHO KNOWS IT!

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Here’s why I think London is the best city ever:

  1. Public Transportation, namely the Tube
  2. Walkability
  3. The Food
  4. Activities
  5. The Neighborhoods

That, of course, doesn’t mean that London is without it’s problems. After spending considerable time in Hackney/Hoxton (what is the difference? I know there’s one, but what it is I cannot say), gentrification comes to mind, and given the last race for mayor where I realized there seems to be some kind of crazy sweeping the world and not just the U.S. presidential election (and this was written before Brexit, which was super effective at making me cry, yay humanity). Also, I think it’s worth noting that I haven’t been to a large variety of places, yet. I recognize that I’ve only been to European and American cities, where the majority of the population can speak English, and the customs aren’t that different than my own.

Anyway, let’s get to it!

Public Transportation

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A city is only as good as it is traversable by it’s population. Growing up in Michigan gives me (and others from Michigan) a unique perspective, I think, in the way that many of us have witnessed both the miraculous birth of a city, the unexplainable sprawl and liveliness that you can feel in the air — and the tragic death of one, or to be more honest several. Between crashes in the auto industry and the market collapse of 2008, many Michigan cities lack the sense of hope that one generally finds in a bustling metropolis. Instead, it’s citizenry is intent on survival, not thriving, as jobs leave and the upper (generally white) classes aren’t too far behind.

Michigan cities lack greatly in their inclusion of public transport, not to mention good public transport, and when Detroit’s biggest promise for bettering this area is heavily controlled by the largest bidder instead of by the people who live there, this fact doesn’t appear to be changing. Currently, I live near Lansing, Michigan’s capital, and one of the strangest cities I’ve been to. The feeling of loss is tangible in the city, from the empty buildings, to the massive, open, concrete lots that once were the sites of car manufacturing sites, employing thousands, that are no longer standing. And the lack of cohesion between the city, achieved through public transport (among other things) aids in the destruction of a community feel in the city. When living in a city one of the biggest draws is the ‘us’ feeling you get. You feel pride, loyalty, and when you leave your city and someone runs their mouth about it, you feel passioned to ‘correct’ their viewpoint (often mixing facts with opinions, but alas).

In London, the ability to easily move from one part of the city to another is AMAZING. After what I’ve stated above you can probably, though I’m sure not fully, imagine my wonder at the inner workings of the city’s transport system.

One last note: Night buses. Not today, Satan. While I will never stop singing the praises of London’s transportation system, this is the Achilles heel of the city. Why is everything closed at 10/11pm? Coming from the land of 24 hour access to, pretty much, anything, this was a hurdle for me. Like, how am I supposed to order food? What if I need to buy something? What if I’m bored? (Also, if your answer is ‘go to a club’, get out.)

And to be fair, I have not experienced the wonder of the Night Tube. Though if anyone knows how an American can get a job in London, hit a girl up.

Walkability

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This works in line with the public transportation in the city, but the ability to walk around London is massive. Maybe this is something that one can attribute to every European city, I know the ones I’ve been to have all fit into this, but comparing London to where I live this was refreshing. Through the creation of safe spaces, like sidewalks, cities can promote social interactions, and a general investment in an area. This is something that I’ve noted ‘dying’ cities are missing. They may seem insignificant to those that have always had access to them, but without busy sidewalks, cities lose foot traffic, and people feel less welcome.

DAS ESSEN (THE FOOD)

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Holy moly pajoely, I tasted the most wonderful things during my time in London. And some not so great things. But focusing on the positives, I think I would have gone to Borough Market for every meal if that were possible (and probably have gotten pies from Pie Minister every time too). From the deliciously refined Tayyabs, to the quirky (and tbh overpriced) Cereal Killer Cafe, London has it all!

Well…unless you’re looking for ranch in all the wrong places (#Midwesterner). And what does it take to make a half decent guacamole? C’MON PEOPLE. Guacamole’s main ingredient should always be avocado, not ‘cream’. You weirdies.

However, all hostility is put asunder by the glorious ‘Full English’.

As a recent convert to vegetarianism I can’t imagine a life (now my life) without this blessing. My favorite version included chips (french fries) as the potato side. FRENCH FRIES FOR BREAKFAST! O, my lucky stars, this has completely changed the game for me (and my caloric intake). Who would have thought that I, an American, would have experienced the most liberating freedom I’ve ever felt in the U.K.? (jk, jk, don’t tar and feather me plz)

Anyway, is the food plain? Yeah, at first, while your tastebuds are getting over their addiction to artificially flavored dust, but my tummy was never happier than when I was in London. Which is no surprise when you compare the quality of foods between the U.S. and the U.K.

Activities

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SO. MANY. THINGS. There were things in London to do that I didn’t even know I wanted to do. I didn’t realize that was a thing that people would actually take the time to organize, though looking at the events themselves it seems silly that it’s not common practice. Like…

Outdoor Cinema

Admittedly, I never made it to one of these, not for lack of desire. The showings I wanted to go to were sold out, which shows just how popular this event is.

Seeing a movie under the stars sounds like a wonderful experience, and the venues in which these events take place are stunningly beautiful (which is what gives it a leg up on the outdoor movies in the Lansing area).

Pop Ups

Pop Ups everywhere. Pop Ups for dayz.

I find it funny that here, in the U.S., we’re trying to get on board with this Pop Up game, by making Facebook events for said Pop Ups months in advance of their occurrence, which, you know, defeats the purpose.

I loved the ability to just be walking home from work, or just around on my days off, and stumbling upon something that wasn’t normally apart of my commute.

History

Everywhere has history, and I get that, but London is so old. I understand that to people in other countries that value their older history (yeah, the US hasn’t been around that long, but indigenous cultures were so before you say American doesn’t have a long history) this seems like a given, but the most any of my historical interactions have gone back in the U.S. has been about 400 years. Which is apparently nothing compared to some of the historical sites in this part of the world.

Being able to just walk around and see things in general is cool, if you can’t tell I’m super over the wide expansiveness of the midwest, but having the ability to learn about the area around you in a really accessible way was exciting. The plaques that are used in the city to describe different historical buildings, or areas, were super cool! And I now know, after my summer trips, that many places employ this, but this was my first encounter with it and I loved it.

Travel

Lastly, and this kind of goes for all of Europe, but the idea that you can just hop on a plane and within two hours (or less) be in another country is crazy! Canada is super close to Michigan, but other than that it takes hours just to get to another state, let alone a variety of countries.

Neighborhood Distinction

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I had a very particular image of what London was going to be like, in my mind, and I was completely blown out of the water upon realizing how far off base I was. Like I mentioned, I spent most of my time in Hoxton and Hackney, which differed greatly from my expectations of London. I realized, after getting there, that Southwark (where I lived) was how I had imagined all of London being, and I now realize how fortunate I was to see the variety in neighborhoods in London (though at the time I was like ‘where’s the camera? COME OUT ASHTON’

Great cities have distinction in their neighborhoods. When I say this, however, I don’t mean it in a way that supports racism and classism, which is generally the catalyst in creating the distinction we see in city neighborhoods, but rather not having everywhere be like Southwark in London, for instance, allows for people of different income levels (and interests) to live in the city. Though, it is admittedly still very expensive.

I like the idea that citizens are united by living in the same city, but they also are able to find their own niche in the city, and in that way build upon the overall community feel.

In essence, London felt like a home to me in a way that I haven’t felt in a long time, if ever. Hopefully someday soon, I’ll get to go back.

And maybe, someday, I’ll get to stay  🎬

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One thought on “The Best City in the World

  1. Pingback: London | A Life in Review

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