We always knew this time would come – most expats do – but we just didn’t know when. Until now. After almost four years of calling this manic mosh pit of a city our home-sweet-home, we have decided that it’s time to say goodbye. It wasn’t an easy decision to make but our feet are getting itchy, our minds are a tad weary, and all the other little signs were pointing to the need for a change. A certain someone has done this whole ‘see ya later London’ thing before but for me, the thought of uprooting and leaving our London life behind is still a little overwhelming. Aside from all the logistical issues of packing and storing our stuff, and plotting our next steps, I’m not sure there’s anything I can do that will truly get me ready to leave.
Being a temporary Londoner has been thrilling, frustrating, engaging, challenging, rewarding – just throw in the whole gambit of human emotion and take your pick of what it might be on any given day. There are things about this city I despise, there have been brief moments where it has turned me into a person I don’t like (mainly when public transport is involved), but nowhere is perfect and all that seems trivial when I think about all the opportunities and experiences I’ve had here. So in honour of this city which I clearly love so much, these are the ten things, in no particular order, I’ll miss most about London…
1 – London Food Scene
I shudder to think about the time and money we have spent in the thousands of London restaurants since we’ve been here… but it’s been (mostly) worth the shocking bank statements and the increase in my waistline. London’s food culture is extremely dynamic; you can go from biting into a burger from a food truck to having your roast duck being chopped up in front of you in Chinatown to admiring the elaborate plating skills of the Michelin star chefs all in one day. The breadth of cuisines and styles covered is enormous and I’m constantly amazed by the quality of food being dished up all over this city!
2 – Entertainment Overload
West End shows, theatre productions, outdoor cinemas, food festivals, weekend markets, random popup events every week; and those are just the events that I’m interested in. I love living in a city where there is so much going on, every day of the week – the biggest problem is finding the time and the money to do them all. We haven’t quite managed our goal of going to some sort of show or production every month but we’ve seen some great musicals like High Society and Aladdin, eaten our way round Taste of London a number of times, and been to some interesting events all over the city!
3 – Closeness to the Continent
One of the main reasons why we, and basically all other Kiwis, moved to London was for the ease of travel across Europe. When we first arrived, we set ourselves the challenge of exploring somewhere new every month and I’m pleased to say that bar a few months where we had longer travel plans, we have managed it quite easily! Some of our favourite destinations have included two weeks in the South of France, a winter getaway to sunny Seville, and some surprise gems like Nuremberg and Gdansk!
4 – Tooting
I remember a colleague once telling me in a rather patronising fashion that ‘Tooting was supposed to be up and coming…’; well posh Kensington-dwelling Patrick will be pleased to know that it has very much arrived! Tooting has changed so much since we’ve been here – yes, that dastardly gentrification phenomenon is partly to blame but I think it’s changed it for the better. People will still love this little part of London for its abundance of fantastic curry houses but now both Tooting and Broadway Markets have been given a new lease of life with a myriad of independent food outlets moving in. Recently named one of Lonely Planet’s Coolest Neighbourhoods to Visit, I’m always going to be rooting for Tooting and am so proud to have called it home!
5 – Living Amongst the Landmarks
A walk through central London and catching a glimpse of landmarks like St Paul’s Cathedral or Tower Bridge, or even the gentle curve of Regent Street still can put a smile on my face. These were once sights I had only dreamed of seeing… and now they’re places I walk past whilst running my everyday errands or simply getting from A to B. All of them a constant, breath-taking reminder that yep, I’ve been there, done that, and basically lived the postcard!
6 – Opportunities at Every Corner
A friend who has recently moved to London told me that she loves how so many Londoners have a side hustle. It took me a second to clock onto what she meant, but she’s right – I’m forever being inspired by stories of people who start business or social enterprises or merely maintain a hobby in amongst the hustle and bustle of their normal life. London is a city of opportunities, and even I, with this food-filled corner of the internet, can attest to that.
7 – “Any Bowl Here for a Pound”
It’s no secret that the cost of living in London is extremely high, but I am still surprised by how affordable groceries are, particularly when compared to extortionate prices in New Zealand. The range of produce we’ve had access to here has really improved our homecooking skills; we’ve been more adventurous with the ingredients and techniques in our dishes… confit, ballotine, small scale butchery… all part of our cooking arsenal now. The only thing I won’t miss is the horrendous practice of supermarkets packing all their fruits and vegetables in plastic; particularly annoying when I only want to buy two carrots or really have no need for my cauliflower to be in a bag!
8 – Tube Travel
I have suffered through some fairly nasty commutes in my time here: crossing from one end of London to another, changing lines several times, being stuck under someone’s armpit in rush hour… you name it, I’ve stood, sat or sweated through it! But despite everything, I’m grateful to the tube from getting me from A to B to C and enabling me to really explore the city. It’s easy to remember all the times it’s caused me to be extremely late or nearly suffocated from the heat, but I’m trying to appreciate the fact it’s well connected and runs regularly!
9 – Always Talking About New Zealand
Brits always ask me where my accent is from, then assure me they knew all along when I tell them I’m from New Zealand (as opposed to Australia)! It’s been the best icebreaker at new jobs or social events and I find that everyone either wants to tell you about the ‘other Kiwi’ they know or how they had the most magical New Zealand holiday, or how it’s on their bucket list… I’m not the most patriotic of Kiwis but it’s always nice to talk about home!
10 – Being Busy, Busy, Busy
Being a Londoner means constantly apologising for your tardy responses to messages or emails, planning catch ups weeks in advance so you can actually find a date that suits everyone, and always feeling like you’re darting from one place to another… This has pushed me to breaking point at times, but at least I’ll always know that I gave this London life everything and have no regrets whatsoever!
So Where to Next?
At the end of November we will be closing the door on our Tooting flat one final time and heading off on the next adventure. For the next six months we will be on the road and jaunting through Asia; we have a general idea of where we want to go but no concrete plans just yet… and after that? Who knows!
Sri Lanka – December 2017
New Zealand – Christmas to January 2018
Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam – February to April 2018
Japan – May to July 2018
Have you been on a long travel adventure?
My ’10 things I’ll miss most about London’ is part of this month’s Travel Linkup – if you want to read more ’10 Things…’ travel bloggers are counting down then head over to Follow Your Sunshine, SilverSpoon London, Adventures of A London Kiwi or Erin Out and About now!
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