This time last year I defied convention and proudly proclaimed that I had no fears about turning thirty. I was excited to start a new decade and experience all the thrills and inevitable spills that come with it, particularly as we had an inkling that it would most likely be our last year in London and I wanted to make the most of it. A year ago, I believed that I was entering my thirties content, happy, and hungry… and now that I have merrily made my way through the ups and downs, that statement still stands. Content with what I have in my life, happy with what I have achieved both online and offline, and hungry to eat, explore and create more. To me, this is what it means to grow up, not grow old.
For the last five years we have celebrated my birthday abroad either jetsetting to Hong Kong enroute to the Philippines, catching sunsets from the Malecon in Havana, or wining and dining in two of my favourite countries in Europe – Spain and Portugal. Last year’s celebrations were particularly special as they involved not only a certain someone but some of my closest friends in what has now become one of my favourite cities, Seville. This year we are back in the Southern hemisphere after packing up our London life and I was preparing myself for a low-key celebration back in New Zealand but true to tradition, we made the last minute decision to head abroad and we are currently in Melbourne!
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…
According to everyone, 2016 has been a stinker of a year. There have been very few highs, a great number of lows, and bad surprises lurking at every corner – shock exits and the rise of a certain powerful oompa loompa, just to name a few. But if I crawl into my rosé-tinted, food-filled bubble of a world, according to me, 2016 has been quite scrumptious and a most fitting way to see out my twenties… yep, today is my birthday and yours truly is officially thirty!
Contrary to the sexist self-help magazines and old wives tales, I’m not cowering in the corner lamenting the loss of my twenties, nor am I looking up the closest botox clinics for my first nip/tuck of the new decade… I’m feeling content, happy, and hungry. Just the same as I was yesterday, when I was only a baby at twenty-nine. I started the last year of my twenties in Madrid, and here I am in Spain again, marking the start of my thirties in Seville… but where else did I dine when I was twenty-nine?!
For ever so long, you were the city of my dreams. Thousands of miles away, in a beautiful faraway land at the bottom of the world, I would imagine myself getting lost in your immense grid of streets. I would be sashaying across Manhattan with the same carefree attitude as the Blair Waldorfs and Carrie Bradshaws of the world, having leisurely lunches at upscale restaurants, grabbing snacks at cute corner bakeries, and indulging in gigantic slices of pizza at the end of a long night out. That New York life was for me, I thought.
When we finally met, it was love at first sight. I might as well have bought the t-shirt and been the walking ‘I Heart NY’ cliche, because I did. I thought you were the one and I was ready to ditch my outbound flight, but I must confess, I’m glad I didn’t. My next stop was London, the city which has truly captured my heart. So New York, while you never failed to excite me in our short time together, I realised that what we had was a lusty holiday romance… what I have with London is for the long haul. It is here where my hungry heart and belly has been sated and feels most at home.
When I told a certain someone we were going out for an Italian dinner he was a little surprised… and I sensed, a little unimpressed. Unless we’re actually in Italy, we very rarely choose Italian over the 101 other cuisines and styles at the tips of our tastebuds here in London. Why? I honestly couldn’t tell you. I think my first instinct is that it’s a safe option, even perhaps a boring option.
Hands up, who’s dismissed Italian food because it’s just pizza and often sub-par pasta? Yep, me. Have you also been a little smug and thought, why would I order that in a restaurant when I can make it at home myself? Me again. And have you also realised that of course, you’re very wrong because Italian food is so much more diverse than that… think of the beautiful cured meats and cheeses, think of the rich ragú, think of the gelato!
When I was a foot loose and fancy free single lady, I didn’t really care for Valentine’s Day. That silly little cupid with his overpriced red roses and heart shaped chocolates can move right on because this lady was not falling for it. However, in the last couple of years, the 14th of February has held a special place in my heart… but probably not for the reasons you’re thinking!
If you’re planning a trip to old London-town, especially for the first time, you’ll have no doubt turned to trusty Tripadvisor or Lonely Planet just to get some ideas on what to do and see. And, if you’re anything like me on my first visit, you were more than a little overwhelmed with what popped up. There are well over a thousand ‘things to do’ listed on Tripadvisor, with over five hundred being ‘sights and landmarks’ while around three hundred are museums. Woah. I know I shouldn’t be stunned by those numbers as I know there is an almost neverending array of things to do here but still, woah.
With so many options, I was left scratching my head a little when Travelex asked me to come up with my ultimate ‘day out in London’. They gave me a handy Multi-Currency Cash Passport, $150 of my home currency (or the currency of our twangier neighbours) which converted to around £80, and told me to go wild!