When my friends visited me in London a few weeks ago, something extraordinary happened: I saw London through their eyes (as a visitor) rather than my own (as a resident). Curious, they asked questions about everything - from how to flag down a bus to the CCTV cameras on the street - and suddenly, everything felt new to me again. I stopped marching around on autopilot and started looking up, down, and all around me.
It was a beautiful, refreshing experience.
More than anything, however, showing my friends around the place I now call my "hometown" instilled a sense of pride that I hadn't felt before.
Here are a few (unapologetically superficial!) reasons why:
London is stunning in the sunshine.
While a glimpse of the sun can be rare (it's England, after all), when it comes out - there's no denying that the city is at its aesthetic best. I'd forgotten about this gorgeous view of Southbank from the corner of Westminster Bridge. Of course, why else would I ever visit the overcrowded, busy corner on a "normal" day?
We have some of the most incredible architecture in the world.
This is one of my favorite ways to see St. Paul's: on the way up in the elevator at One New Change (there's a fantastic rooftop viewing platform at the top where you can get a panoramic view of the city - not many people know about it!). I love the reflection of the cathedral against the dark, plated glass of the modern shopping center. I'm an architect's daughter: whenever my dad visits, he's in full sketch-mode heaven!
Our museums are free and open to the public.
I'm almost embarrassed to admit that I work near the British Museum ... as well as the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery. Why? Because I hardly ever visit, despite them being very nearly literally on my doorstep. But I popped into the National Gallery with Kara during her last few hours in London and found it magical to sit in front of John Donne's portrait for a few minutes in silence - taking in the fact that we were surrounded by original pieces of artwork dating back hundreds and hundreds of years.
London is breathtakingly beautiful from above.
I remember my dear friend Kara getting teary eyed as we sat down for brunch at Duck & Waffle - the spectacular views (and food!) there can be so overwhelming! Whenever I visit a new city, I love to see it from above - whether that's from a rooftop bar, or at the tippity-top of a museum or landmark. It gives you a terrific sense of scope and I love the way the traffic crawls along like tiny insects down below.
The city is rich with history and tradition.
Where else can you finish reading Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall, attend the stage production, and visit the place where Thomas Cromwell was executed - all in the same day? As an American, this is a biggie for me (even though, of the two of us, John's the real history buff!), particularly since I'm from the West Coast, where everything is still relatively "new". I used to marvel at the history of my East Coast college (founded in 1837), but then I went to study abroad at Oxford and, well, I couldn't even begin to grasp or to comprehend the legacy of the buildings, the colleges, the whole city, for that matter.
We have gorgeous green spaces (both indoors and out!).
One comment that surprised me the most from Deborah and Kara was just how green London seemed to them. Although I didn't get a chance to take them to any of the amazing parks in the city, they commented on the pretty tree-lined streets of where I currently live and the fact that so many people keep their front yards (or "gardens") pristine and pretty with roses and box hedges. Or even just the fact that, driving around the City, buildings had hanging plants and floral displays embedded into the facades and doorways. It's something I take for granted, but I am so glad that London has its pretty, green spots. It's a welcome relief to escape the urban, concrete jungle of highrises and buildings for picnics in Green Park or a stroll around London Fields.
These snapshots only touch the surface of why I love living in this amazing city. Despite the negative comments I often receive in the US when I reveal that London is my now-hometown, it's a place that I am so damn lucky to have enjoyed for so many years - particularly in my early 20s.
What do you love about the place where you live?
This post was part of the new London Link-Up hosted by London-based bloggers Lauren and Amy. Head over to their blogs to read more about what makes London so special to them!