London, why do I love thee?

January 23, 2014

Because no matter how impractical, I am always compelled to take the longest possible route from point A to B.  In a city so hectic it seems the only natural reaction is to live slowly, to take it all in, to wander and absorb. There is art, history, a heritage of something lost and permanent around every corner. The road less traveled (and more scenic) is definitely one the better.

Because of the countless magical secret bars hidden around dark corners that would take ten lifetimes to discover.

Because here I can be anything and anyone.  Excuse me, are you an art student? he asked as I snapped photos at Baker Street Station. Be still my tortured artist’s heart. Why yes, yes I am, replied the me from a parallel universe.  Here I am naked and myself and it’s ok to let it show.

Because I could be rushing to  get to an after-office business meeting and then wham! out of the blue appears Saint Paul’s Cathedral in all its illuminated gigantic glory. It is so tall and magnificent that you have to crane your neck all the way back like a penguin to see its gorgeous cupola. And even though I’m running extremely late I still stop to take a photo (or 10) because things that take your breath away are definitely worth being late for.

Because books are still beloved here.  Billboard adverts on walls, in newspapers and trains premiere book releases like they are movies. And all around the city Londoners still read – in the tube, at bus stops, in airplanes, parks and cafes.

Because running through the biting rain without an umbrella at 11pm on a cold winter night is the most beautiful memory of the day.

Because Monday midnight tequilas with a girl friend (in magical secret bars hidden around dark corners that would take ten lifetimes to discover) could totally be a weekly ritual if you wanted.

Because one day you can meet a humble street artist out of the blue who has the power to change the way you see the world and in turn change your life.

Because window shopping can be more delightful and magical than any theme park or carnival or drunken night out combined. The classical music, the moody lighting, the shiny accoutrements that could adorn a kitchen table, a desk, a finger. I’ve never longed for material things so much but not for possession’s sake but to be reminded on an ordinary day of the power of beauty. Frivolous displays, ornate and impractical. It is the impractical life that makes this place so wonderful. Who wants practical when you can have magic?

Because here the people you meet, the friendships you foster, the conversations you partake can make spaces in your heart and mind that you never thought possible. Over brunch, lunch, drinks and coffee you converse in exclamation marks over the stuff of dreams: Baroque art, Spanish vs. English colonizers, travel to Antananarivo vs. Wen Hai, moving countries and continents for love, Milanese cafes and baked nutella balls, hezbollah in Lebanon, the wisdom of dogs, yin and yang, open loops, ancient Japanese erotica, travel, music, dreams, loves and losses.  With this kind of stimulus, it is no wonder that the soul has no other choice but to explode into a million shining stars.

And because if London were a person, we’d have fallen madly, deeply, ridiculously in love, broken up in a hot mess and eventually (miraculously) become lifetime BFFs. This is, in fact, true of my relationship with Londontown. It was my refuge from heartache, my witness to sins big and small, my mirror of self loathing and then self acceptance, my window to life altering encounters, the portal to my truest self.  It has seen the best and worst of who I am and what I’m capable of.  When I had to leave it years ago, I coped with hatred. But today there is no pain or unrequited longing.  London will always be home. It is love. Love for what was and for what it inspires today.  It is the greatest city in the world.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

DG January 24, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Oh DG:

So eloquent, so sensitive, so refreshing, so beautiful . . . . just like the author.

Another DG

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Denise January 25, 2014 at 7:40 am

Oh DG – thank you for your note. Anticipating the day when we can talk about all of this in person again. xx DG

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Tania Zuniga January 24, 2014 at 9:55 pm

When you take beautiful travel photos, it’s like I’m there too. Keep writing, I absolutely love reading your experiences.

Sending warms hugs from Guam,

Tania.

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Denise January 25, 2014 at 7:41 am

Sending warm hugs and love back, Tania. Thank you for being one of my best and kindest fans. It means a lot. xx

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Andrea January 25, 2014 at 3:03 am

How many things the eye forgets to look at in the daily routine. I love London indeed but read you and am reminded if I am not simply neglecting it and taking it for granted. I suddenly want to leave my cup of tea and get my gorgeous bike for a ride in te streets under the light rain. You will always be an ispiring friend.. and that is why London loves you back. Dearly. x

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Denise January 25, 2014 at 7:44 am

Andreita, your love and friendship make London what it is for me. Thank you for helping make my visit so unforgettable. You live in an amazing place – like no other in the world. So happy to have called it home with you. Tea and bikes and light rain – all of it sounds so perfect. Missing you. xxx

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Zana@GreenGlobalTravel February 3, 2014 at 11:09 am

London definitely can be ‘magical’. I love the way you personified this city. I totally get how it feels to fall in love with a city. Thanks for sharing.

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Denise February 4, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Zana, thanks for the note. London is such great subject matter – there’s just so much to pull from!

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Kate February 4, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Oh, how I love your post!
I have only been to London once and spent three wonderful weeks there with my cousins. I fell in love with it immediately. Its beauty, people, buildings, transit system. All of it makes me smile even when I just think back on my trip. I am very excited to go again this summer for a wedding.
But your post is wonderful.
Thank you!

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Denise February 4, 2014 at 3:57 pm

Thank you, Kate! So excited for you and your trip to London this summer! It’s a wonderful city and no matter how much time I’ve spent there, I always discover something new each time I go back. Have a wonderful time and be sure to check out the tiny back streets where the tourists don’t go :)

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Aubrey February 9, 2014 at 8:15 am

Gorgeous images and words. You’ve made me all nostalgic about my 2012 trip to London and now I’m itching to go back. Lovely!

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Denise February 10, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Thank you :) . London is probably my favorite city in the world – can you tell? :)

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Chris March 12, 2014 at 8:07 pm

Thank you for bringing back some wonderful memories Denise. For 5 ½ splendid years our family lived in London (in Mill Hill). It was a long time ago now, back in the 1970′s. My sister and I still long for those days and are sometimes lucky enough to recreate them when visiting our English friends from childhood. Reading your post makes me look forward to my next visit!

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Denise March 20, 2014 at 11:07 am

Hi Chris! Thanks for your note. Having lived in London, it looks like you know exactly how I feel when I get nostalgic about the city. There really is no other place like it. It’s a city that I could come back to over and over again and never get tired. All the best to you. And I hope you’re able to visit there again soon. x

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Tara June 5, 2014 at 2:26 am

My office used to be in Covent Garden and we loved our lunch breaks. We would get lost among all small countless streets full of different life. Patisseries, coffee shops, independent merchants. art galleries, theaters, the Ivy, Jamie Oliver restaurant…London looks big and scary but once you get to know him it becomes your best friend!

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Denise June 6, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Tara, you can live then lifetimes in London and not see all of it! Thank you for your note.

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Pratibha June 5, 2014 at 2:48 am

Beautifully expressed and I share a lot of these feelings for London. Life has not been the same after we left this remarkable city ;)

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Denise June 6, 2014 at 12:02 pm

Prathiba, thank you for your comment. I understand what you mean. London brings out a part of yourself that you never knew existed. I hope you get to visit there again soon. It remains as wonderful as ever.

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Rudy July 8, 2014 at 7:24 pm

Thank you for such a beautiful piece of writing, Denise. I studied in Plymouth for six years and would always visit London at least twice a year (on a students’s budget, of course). I left in 1994. 20 years later, I was back in London for a week (end of June) with my wife. It was magical. Loved every moment there. Loved it so much that I’m planning to be back in 2016. In the mean time, I’ll be reading your post again and again. Cheers.

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Denise July 9, 2014 at 12:49 am

Rudy, thank you so much for your note. We share the same love for London. It’s a mysterious and enchanting city and will remain number one in my books. How wonderful that you’ll be going back there in 2016! I’m headed over there again end of August and can’t wait to explore new nooks and crannies. Have a lovely day and thank you, again, for your kind note.

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