Saturday, March 8, 2014

11 Things I Love About London

In two weeks, I leave London for five months (two months in Argentina with my team, then three months in the States renewing my visa and visiting churches - let me know if you want to hang out or see me!), so for the past few months, I have been conducting a mental list of things that I have learned to love about London in my two years of living here.

1. It is sunny and 13 degrees Celsius (55 degrees fahrenheit), which in London heralds spring.Seriously, it has been sunny for two days in a row, which, after three months of chilling rain, feels positively balmy. I went running in just a t-shirt today - the first time my pasty white arms have seen the light of day since September! The birds are chirping, people are eating outdoors at restaurants, and it might even hit 15 degrees this weekend! Time to break out the bathing suit!

2. Despite there being millions of people in the city, I can still find quiet spaces to be alone. 
London has so many parks and green spaces, and it's quite spread out. Whenever I went to New York City, I felt claustrophobic, but London has loads of places to disappear to if I need quiet and space.

3. Rail replacement services = transportation for free.
I live near the Overground, which is like the Underground, but above the ground and cheaper. They do repairs on it basically every weekend, and if I can stand the circuitous routes and traffic, I can get rides for free on the rail replacement buses. It takes two to three times the amount of time for the journey, but on the weekends, sometimes it's worth it.

4. The sky is so big in places.
There are wide streets, parks, and hills where the sky is so large that you can see the stars. Tonight, as my roommate and I walked home from the shop, we stopped to stare in awe at all of the stars and moon. We watched all the airplanes fly through constellations. From Primrose Hill, but also from some of the streets nearby, I can see the skyline, as well, which makes me feel so close to the centre, but with space to breathe and be.

5. The city is basically made up of hundreds of towns.
I live in Kensal Rise, which is right next to Harlesden and Willesden Green and at the top of Ladbroke Grove and Notting Hill. Each area has its own high street (main street), post office, butcher, hair dresser, coffee shop, etc, and feels like a small town within the whole of London. I have a local corner shop where they know who I am (and grocery store and coffee shop), and it has the benefits of small town living and the wonder of being in London.

6. Corner shops.
My roommate just reminded me of this one. I love corner shops, where you can get so many useful things for a slightly elevated price, but at a time and place that is convenient. At my local corner shop, they ring up my chocolate milk right when I walk into the shop. They ask how my housemates are. And it's always lovely to take a walk to the corner shop in my slippers and sweatpants.

7. I can get a bus to anywhere.
I can get a bus to the centre from around the corner and ride straight to Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, and the Embankment. I can also get a bus to the airport, or to Paris. Most of the time I choose the city centre, and not Paris, but hey, a girl can dream!

8. There are loads of different churches.
When my mom came to visit me, we went to my regular church, then to Hillsong London, then to Westminster Abbey for an organ concert and evensong. We heard Matt Redman songs, rap, and classical organ music. London isn't a religious city, but that doesn't stop it from having some fantastic houses of worship. It makes me feel like I have numerous homes around the city.

9. There are several markets where you can buy cheaply.
My team works out of a church a block off of Portobello Road, and I love getting fruit in the market. It's fresher than in the shops, and it's cheaper, too. We also do evangelism and prayer in Camden Market weekly, and we've begun developing friendships with shop owners there. There are dozens of ethnic food stalls in Camden, as well as clothes and trinkets that you can't find elsewhere in the city. I also love Brick Lane, a market in East London, because the live music on Brick Lane is the best. But beyond that, there are other large markets as well as small street markets throughout the city. Not only are things sold more cheaply at markets, but it's a chance to get to know people. Which brings me to my next point:

10. People are out of their houses and ready to talk.
Whether it's on the bus or Underground, in the queue for coffee, in Trafalgar Square, or at a market, there are people everywhere. Big cities can seem impersonal and lonely, because it's easy to get lost in the crowd, but for the most part, if you start talking to a person, they'll respond. For me, a missionary, this is fantastic news. For example, the people on the bus are prime opportunities for conversation, because they have nothing else to do as they wait to get wherever they are going. I'm not rude or overbearing about it, but I do enjoy speaking to people on public transportation or out on the streets. I know that England gets a bad rap for being a place where people are isolated from one another, but honestly, if you just start the conversation, you can meet so many interesting people.

11. All of the nations exist in one place.
I do a photography project that involves talking to strangers about their beliefs, and through that project alone, I have met people from dozens of nations. Without leaving London, I can experience life in Italy, China, Pakistan, India, Japan, Mali, South Africa, Colombia, Thailand, Argentina, Finland, Italy, etc, etc, etc. I can meet people from those countries in parks, I can go into their shops on Kilburn High Road, I can eat at their restaurants in Shoreditch, I can venture into their stalls in Camden Market or their religious buildings in Willesden. In Matthew, it says to go to all the nations. God sent me to London, and in doing so, He effectively sent me to all of the nations. I serve a big God in a big city, and He is giving me more and more of His heart for the people that He has placed here to live alongside me in this beautiful place.

1 comment:

  1. Hooray! I'm so glad you're loving your adopted hometown. Two years - that seems impossible....