London. LDN. The big smoke. Historical producer of a ton of globally influential artists, politicians, entrepreneurs, a crazy hive of activity, home to the Queen of England and, of course, the infamous capital of my homeland.
When travelling, backpackers who have visited the UK almost always cite this insane city as the one and only location they spent their time in England. This is usually followed by questions like , ‘What’s the name of that place that does amazing blah blah, vague, blahhhhhh…” But what most tourists to England seem to fail to realise, is that anyone who is NOT a Londoner is a shameless (or shameful!) tourist when it comes to London.
Any why? Well, London is the only place in the whole of the United Kingdom that is anything like London. It’s a being unto itself. The busyness, the wonderfully multicultural crowd, Oyster cards, the seemingly endless shops, the atmosphere, the underground system, the bazillion Starbucks littered on every street. It’s fantastic, but also a stress, a hassle and a mystery to most British nationals.
A couple of years ago a dear friend treated me to a luxurious birthday treat of a tourist trip around London. Up until this point, I had visited a handful of times. The trip in question included Madame Tussaud’s, a ride on the London Eye, a wonderful meal in a swanky restaurant overlooking the Thames and, finally, an explosive West End Lion King extravaganza. God, it was great. I loved it. Being a tourist in the city is a great experience, and I have nothing but fond memories of that day.
Fast forward two years and a lot has changed for me. Graduating, I spent a year or so travelling and working in a French Alpine ski resort, and then I uprooted and moved to Amsterdam, where I’ve settled very comfortably into a Dutch way of life. I merrily ride my big, Dutch bike with my flowery basket to work every morning, I come back to my canal side flat, maybe have a picnic in Vondelpark or go for a beer. Life is pretty much stress free, something in which I’ve realised upon a short return to England’s crazy capital.
I’m back to visit a couple of friends and for a meeting as a result of this blog being shortlisted for Best Travel Blog in the Cosmopolitan Blog Awards (vote for me here pleases!). And you know what? It is stressful. It is so much stress that I’ve hidden in one of the many aforementioned Starbucks for most of the day. It’s aggressively crowded. The buildings are so big, and everyone is trying to get somewhere, fast.
For the first time, I’m also residing in a hostel for the night. Staying in a shared dorm room in my home country feels very strange, and, well, London being London and me being a perpetual pauper, I couldn’t afford one of the more pleasant accommodations. So, it’s dingy, it’s tiny and – despite my best efforts to avoid it – it’s still bloody expensive. I considered that the tourist element of my trip might incite some of that excitement I previously experienced… but, no. It’s detrimental to it. Apart from the meeting and being reunited with my wonderful friends for the night (we went to Hyde Park and drank mini bottles of prosecco – hurrah!), I am NOT excited to be here.
Is this just because I’m not acting the tourist this time? I don’t know. Maybe. But this time round, life in London just seems all a bit too much. This is undoubtedly connected to my easy breezy life in Amsterdam, but I think it also stems from experiencing the city in a more work like way. I’m not here to have fun and frolic around the sites, I have a very clear purpose and a very strict window of time in which to do it. Everywhere you look are people running, rushing and certainly not relaxing. It’s strange how much living in a completely different place and culture can change your perspective on something you once so adamantly defended!