Polly from Follow your sunshine is taking over the blog today. An ex Londoner and now expat in Doha, Polly is sharing what she misses the most about the greatest city on earth.
If moving away from home to become an expat wasn’t difficult enough, when that home just happens to be London it is a thousand times harder. Just the other day, I retweeted a statistic about the record 17.4 million tourists that visited our great English capital last year, and it is pretty clear to me why sightseers and travellers are flocking in in their droves. For to me, London is a city which is unparalleled; a city that once lived in, is forever in your blood, and once left, is immeasurably missed.
Here are the things I love and miss most about London, and why, 1.5 years after leaving it, it continues to be my favourite city in the world.
There is something to see and do around every corner
With ancient buildings on almost every street and historical monuments in abundance, a walk across London is akin to a stroll through an outdoor museum. Even after having lived in the capital for six years, the city still offers me something new every time I visit, whether it’s a building I have walked past but never noticed before, or a new street I have discovered after taking a detour (or, more likely, after having got myself irrevocably lost).
When I’m not strolling through this outdoor museum, I’m most likely enjoying one of its top attractions. For those that want it to be, London can also be fairground and shopping mall, entertainment centre and nightlife capital of the world. Samuel Johnson could not have said it better when he said, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”. You have to be a very unhappy person to be unable to find any joy in the plethora of options that the city offers its inhabitants.
The entertainment I miss the most: the world-class theatre of the West End
It is a foodie haven
Breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner, supper, late night snacks; London does meals like no other city I know. While desperately scouring the internet for dining options is all too common in many cities, in London you are so spoilt for choice that making a decision about where to go today is the difficult part.
London is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines, and it is not uncommon for people to experience the best of Bombay at Dishoom for brunch, to sample authentically Eastern European fare at Keen for lunch and Ethiopian cuisine at The Queen of Sheba for dinner.
The food I miss the most: My two favourite restaurants in Heron Tower – Sushi Samba and The Duck and Waffle. Also the more rustic delights of Borough Market.
It’s a city with soul
This one is a little more tenuous and something I can’t really put my finger on. But the moment I step off the plane I feel it. No, I’m not referring to the biting cold which buries itself deep into your bones (although that also hits you like a wall). I’m talking about the soul, vibrancy and ‘life’ of the city.
Maybe it comes from the 8.5 million people that call this place home. Maybe it comes from its almost 2000 year history. Whatever it is, it is palpable. And I can’t get enough of it.
The soulful times I miss the most: late night summertime concerts in one of London’s numerous parks
There’s plenty of green space
I live in Doha, which is at the edge of the Arabian desert. When I return to London, sand is replaced with grass, purposefully planted palm trees are replaced with natural tree-lined avenues, and sprawling desert landscapes are replaced by stunningly manicured parks and open space.
You don’t realise how much you value the greenery of London until you don’t see it every day, and when I’m back there, you can usually find me looking up at the blossom and trees above my head and soaking it all in.
The green space I miss the most: St James’ Park
It’s where my friends and family are
This is the most important thing of all. When I am sharing the same space as those I love the most, that is when I’m happiest. Some of them are in the city itself, some a short drive away, but there is no better feeling than knowing that in a matter of minutes or hours you can be back in the comfort of a house you know and love, chattering away with that special person as if you’ve never been apart.
And it goes without saying that I miss each and every one of these people every single day.
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