London's a funny place.
Before I moved here, I thought it was a dirty, filthy, smelly, too-big, too-impersonal, too-anonymous metropolis of poor repute. To be fair, after having been lived here for just over a year, the conclusion is that it is, indeed, a dirty place. It's also smelly, huge, and impersonal. But it's a great place to live nonetheless. It's often said that the city is a collection of villages, which can be confirmed quite easily by taking a long stroll through it. Walking from my office in tourist-laced Covent Garden to my house in Bow, for example, takes you through a whole series of distinct feelings, each with their own feel.
Covent Garden is a mixture of tourist-trap and ex-bohemia, with buskers, jugglers, and the fantastic Covent Garden market, the impressive Masonic Grand Lodge and a hodge-podge of architectural styles. Clerkenwell (or Little Italy) is littered with good bars and a mixture of grand designs and funky little back alleys. The City is home to the once-genuine now-too-modern-for-its-own-good Spitalfields market. It's full of trendy winebars, over-priced restaurants, glass-and-steel buildings and depressed-because-of-the-depression-bankers. Hoxton/Shoreditch is the artists district which is full of people who think just a little bit too highly of themselves (but it's a pretty awesome place to people-watch for that very reason), Shoreditch is also home to the rather splendid Brick Lane and its offshoot streets; bars, clubs, quaint shops, and more curryhouses than you can shake a poppadom at. The rest of the walk comprises of Bethnal Green and Mile End, both of which have a rich local history, and quite distinctive 'feels'.
Now, these are a series of areas I'm quite familiar with, but make up only a very thin sliver of my home town. Whenever I cross south of the river, west of Soho, north of King's Cross, or east of Bow, I feel like I'm in a foreign country completely.
London is a scary place, because it's huge.
London is an exciting place, because it's huge.
I'm a bit ashamed, actually, because I don't think I've explored nearly enough of the city yet. And now that I'm leaving it - if but temporarily - I feel a sting of regret already. There's at least another 10 years of exploration to be done to feel like I really know this place... And so I'll just have to come back as soon as I can. Despite of - or perhaps because of - all its fault, it's awfully moreish...