I’m getting ready to leave London now. It’s been a pretty interesting time to be here: from the build-up from March to the fateful 23rd of June, its aftermath and the resulting struggle of the capital to come to terms with the result; to the hoards of tourists and spectators gathering outside Westminster on the 13th of July to spot the sudden change in Prime Minister, it’s been a real whirlwind and has gone so fast
On the more personal side, achieving funding for the college of Europe, getting to grips with my fourth posting in the Department of health, 10k’s and 10-mile races, making very good use of my Kew Gardens membership (thanks for encouraging me Magnus!), turning 23 (does that mark the start of the mid-twenties now?) and trying to see as many friends as possible before embarking on my next adventure have all made the last few months extremely busy and extremely good fun. Add to that a wonderful holiday to Crete with Jean-Lou and an awesome if jam-packed trip to Norway to see Nora (exhausted, I slept until 10:30 on the Sunday much to my embarrassment) and I’ve definitely made the most of the past 6-months.
A few things I’ve learned about living in London
Walk to work if you can
It makes you so much more relaxed for the rest of the day, you aren’t affected by transport trouble and you actually understand your city so much more. You can also listen to the radio – doesn’t have to be the Today programme but it does surprisingly come up in conversation a lot…
The increase in rent from the proximity to the centre is easily counteracted by the lack of need for a travel card, and pre-night tube era you can get back easily from a night-out.
Need to go faster? Get a bike or, if like me you don’t like the idea of ‘accepting you’ll be hit once a year in London’, a scooter. Note for my francophone friends: a scooter here means une trotinette! To be honest, I felt pretty cool.
*Umbrellas are an advisable investment.
Pick up Time Out but don’t fall into the FOMO trap
(Fear Of Missing Out)
London is a vibrant and super exciting place. There’s always so much happening and you’ll always feel you have to be there. What happens if you’re not? Nothing.
Sometimes the stress of trying to find the hottest and most exciting pop-up really isn’t balanced by just doing something you love with friends. Yes, everyone will be there, especially if it’s free – and that’s why it’s often good to go someplace else!
Try to get out the city every few weekends
I didn’t do this the first year I was in London. However, I’ve really enjoyed connecting with friends and family by going home every now and again. It was eye-opening for me too before the referendum and perhaps made the result a bit less surprising (although I was a bit shocked by quite how many vote leave signs were in the market place of Sleaford, where most produce has probably been picked by EU migrants and so much of the exports go to the EU…)
Particularly good was my trip with Gaby to see Hans Zimmer in Bournemouth. It’s not so long on the train and we had a fabulous time by the beach on perhaps the best day of the early summer. The next day was incredible too – I think the New Forest is my favourite place in the country: you can hire bikes for the day from Brockenhurst station and be back in Waterloo on the train about an hour later!
Make time to see your friends
Never break a plan if you can help it, it just results in chaos. But make time for yourself too. I’ve been lucky in these 6 months to have been able to see so many friends, and I’d have loved to have seen them more but diaries can be hard to coordinate!
Good housemates can help you settle and feel comfortable so much quicker. I’ve been fortunate both the first time and the second time: it was great to meet up with Kankou, Aurelien and Charlotte again after her trip to Ghana in early August and Jeremy and Sophie have been so easy to live with. I wish I’d made the time for the pub quiz more often, and our bottle of wine for coming second-to-last a few weeks ago is perhaps testament to that, but it has been lovely to live with such interesting people.
Find out what you love and don’t sacrifice it for fomo, smile at people – you’ll be surprised how many smile back in this city, don’t pay ridiculous prices (rebel!) and don’t feel obliged to tip (we’re not America!).
I’ve made some good discoveries too:
Battersea Park is perhaps my favourite London park as it’s less busy than Hyde Park; has pedaloes and is perfect for an early morning run. Apparently you can see a ceremony and the ringing of the bell at the Buddhist Peace Pagoda every morning at sunrise… Despite my early runs I’ve not yet been there so early!
Mercato Metropolitano is a new market/alternative to Borough Market. It’s open until 11pm Tuesday to Sunday, has a market selling lovely breads and Italian goods, including excellent gelato, bars selling Aperol, pizza and well… what more could you ask for? Oh and they even have live music on some nights!
The Tattershall Castle was a great place to grab a lunch on the Thames with my Uncle Darren. I seriously recommend their fish and chips, and with views of the London Eye, a sunny upper deck and beautiful lower deck –it’s a reliable and quirky place to refresh!
Serpentine Lido: first heading here with Ellie and then again with Nathalie, this gem is rarely very busy, even though it’s in Hyde Park. Whilst it’s a bit green it feels very fresh and you can get some serious laps in along it’s 100m length. You can also just laze around by the side with and optional over-priced ice cream and watch fellow swimmers getting overtaken by geese.
Darwin’s in the Walkie Talkie is a bit pricey but well worth it for a Sunday when all things are considered. You can get a brunch for around £40 per person, but that includes unlimited prosecco, incredible food (and brownies!) and access to the sky gardens. Oh and of course you get to see this lovely man:
I’ve definitely not gone to Good Gym as much as I’d of liked and am keen to give the Midnight Runners a proper go when I come back. I’ll miss the bouldering at the Arch, friends of course and the excellent gelato at Mercato Metrolpolitano, but who knows what adventures now lie ahead? Goodbye for now London – Be prepared – I’ll be aback before you know it!