I first visited London when I was 22 years old, fresh out of college on my first solo travel experience. I was backpacking around England and Scotland for a month or so, the adventure of a lifetime up until that point. Naturally, I started my explorations of the UK in London, where I had several days to see all of the legendary places I had read about and dreamed of for so long. As a lover of all things Europe and a natural born Anglophile I felt destined to love London. So imagine my surprise when I left the city not loving it, but sort of loathing it.
Fast forward a decade or so and I once again found myself in London, this time with my partner, on a 4 day mini-vacation. As I did on the first time, I toured the famous sites, walked through neighborhoods, ate good food and in general didn’t have a bad time. But I didn’t love it; far from it. I felt that if I never returned it would be ok. I had moved on from hatred to indifference, which can be just as powerful a force.
Since then I’ve been to London a couple of times, never spending a lot of time there but again, not necessarily enjoying the experience either. I don’t know what it is about the city, for some reason we just don’t connect and I frankly don’t understand why. It’s a European capital, my friends all adore it, it has history and culture and a certain natural beauty and yet, there is some barrier that has kept me from connecting personally with London and therefore falling in love with it. Well, I’ve decided to give it one last chance.
Last year I was notified that I was the grand prize winner of a sweepstakes; yes, people do actually win them. The prize was a trip for two to London, all expenses paid and so on. My partner was excited of course but I was slightly ambivalent. London. Once again I would be forced to find my way around the neighborhoods that make up this great capital city, but this time I vowed it would be different.
This time I am going all out to ensure a nice experience. I have planned experiences for us, nice meals and even purchased tickets to see a play. We will shop, sightsee, eat and in general do everything possible to enjoy ourselves. We are also visiting some new neighborhoods, in an attempt to get out of the tourist bubble and see more of the real London. But this is it, this is my last shot. If I don’t fall in love with London this time, I never will.
But I don’t hate London, don’t misunderstand me. It’s more a feeling of antipathy towards it. I am fairly confident that I will return many more times in my life, but I believe this trip will define how I approach those experiences. So check out my social media streams over the next few days and come back to this space in a couple of weeks to see how I fared on this third and final attempt to fall in love with London.
Do you have any suggestions on things I can do in London that I might enjoy?
16 thoughts on “Giving London Another Chance – But For The Last Time”
I think visiting cities is very much like meeting people – there is chemistry involved, and its like finally meeting that ‘cool person’ your friends and family keep talking about, and feeling just so – so about them. As for me, London is one of those that I was actually apathetic about prior to travelling there, and unexpectedly built this relationship with the city that made it one of my favourites now. It was more of a circumstantial thing – I never really intentionally travelled there, it was all either work, or on a need-to basis and I was surprised to love it more and more. It’s all a personal experience for each traveller also. My equivalent city that I feel ambivalent about is New York, which again is surprising because with New York , I actually felt more excited visiting and do remember loving it as a kid. But having gone back as an adult now, I just didn’t feel the buzz and excitement that almost everyone has. Congratulations on winning the sweepstakes (haven’t heard of it in ages!), I hope you enjoy the trip :)
For years, I felt the same way about Paris. A bad trip there, in a heatwave, while the dollar was in the toilet, as a kid with my parents, no less, left me with a very poor impression of the city. Of course, on top of all the problems, it didn’t help that my parents had been loads of times and we were doing the C-grade activities while skipping things like the Louvre and Eiffel Tower.
When I went back years later, the place was transformed for me. Planning my own itinerary, speaking a bit of French and the fact that the dollar was in a better place changed everything. I now LOVE Paris.
London, on the other hand, is someplace that I too have come to be ambivalent about. When I was a kid, I loved going to London. For a California kid, it was exotic, without feeling dangerous or inaccessible. Now, as an adult, more than 30 years since my first visit, I see more as a landing place than a destination. It’s the city on the way to someplace else. Truth is, in our internet connected world, I know London about as well as I know LA or New York, which is to say, I don’t know it like a local, but I know it far more intimately than a tourist typically would. My trips there are now judged on how many friends I was able to see, which restaurants or shows I hit and whether the weather was good.
I say this…don’t think about “London”. Like New York or Tokyo, it’s too big and too diverse to approach in its entirety. Instead, think about what you like in other places and then find the parts of London that have those attributes. Then, just BE in those places, taking in the life and pulse of the city. Don’t try and DO the sights or else you’ll just forever see London as a crappy Olde England theme park that just isn’t very fun.
Definitely go to Borough Market – it’s foodie heaven! I never eat lunch and just eat my way around the samples before choosing a stall to get something substantial (which can be eaten standing up!). Would recommend the Wild Meats counter – they always have something interesting cooking! The last thing I bought from there was a Kangeroo Steak Baguette and it was delish!
Awesome Post, great to know about your experience in Lovely London, i had a chance to visit London before 2 years and i have spent amazing moments in British Museum, National Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum. there is also many things to do in London. Thanks for your efforts to create great post.
I’ll be interested to read your thoughts this time round. So many of my friends and family have left Glasgow and Scotland to move to the bright lights of London; many of them love it, others not so much!
I think that London is one of those cities where living there is a completely different experience than just visiting. I lived there for 7 years, on and off, and I do love it (not everything about it though) but it took me a while. I feel like that about New York, I have only visited once for 5 nights and I did enjoy myself but I couldn’t see what all of the fuss was about. I would love to stay for a few months, housesitting or something, to see if my feelings would change, I suspect they would. Good luck with your trip to London, I would say stay away from the tourist attractions this time as you have already done them before anyway. Take a day trip to Richmond, walk the Regents Canal from Paddington to Camden, visit some East London markets, get a curry on Brick Lane, visit the rose gardens of Regents Park and brunch and browse the shops in Primrose Hill. Enjoy :)
I fully understand you, Matt. While I fell in love with London from the get-go, I felt nothing but antipathy for Paris. You put it so right, the feeling is not hate at all, it’s just discomfort, lack of enthusiasm, and pure antipathy. I can appreciate the sights, the food, the beauty – but none of it really connects. I hope you can find a measure of what you’re looking for on this trip – I’m definitely going to be checking in to see what you make of it this time.
I really enjoy how you’re not afraid to say you dislike a place. It’s refreshing to read someone who doesn’t praise every item in a city.
I personally enjoyed London a lot, but as I have a friend there and we spent a considerable amount of time at the pub…I think it made me bias.
Oh I do hope you really enjoy our capital city this time.
Cindy Eve has an app called 3 Days in London – it’s great to give you walks and things to do and see. Hope you both have a fabulous time :-)
It’s funny how our expectations of a place and the reality can sometimes be so different. Sometimes there are just places we don’t click with. I used to say I’ve loved everywhere I’ve been, and while I haven’t hated anywhere there are places that left me feeling a bit ‘meh.’ You’ve given London a few tries, and you seem pretty fair about everything – if it doesn’t work out then there are always other places to explore.
I’m one of those people who loves London to death, but I don’t really have a concrete reason to explain why. I just do.
I totally understand just not “clicking” with a city, though. I felt quite “meh” about Amsterdam, even though I know tons of people who absolutely love it. Travel is such a personal thing; you can’t possibly like every place just because other people do.
I found London to be such an exciting place. But its on the outskirts of the city where you will find my favourite place. If you like gardens and sprawling peaceful parklands, check out the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew. Its such a stunning place and a photographers dream. There are the usual nice gardens but I love the structures the most. From the pagoda, to the orange palace to the rusting old palm house. I hope you have a more positive experience this time.
I’ve come to think of London as the place where I change planes. I think it’s overrated. Perhaps part of the reason for me is the value isn’t there. There are cities I love which cost a lot less. This makes it hard to justify going to London which gives less and costs more. But then Amsterdam probably falls into that category as well.
So did you end up liking London or not? I am planning a trip to London with my bf for 14 days. searching for tips and routes. cheers.
Here’s the results post :) https://landlopers.com/2014/07/09/london/
London is expensive, crowded, and full of tourist traps. But it’s also lovely, lively, and full of history. I adore it. It’s one of only a couple of large cities in which I feel I could live. I can’t wait for my upcoming second visit (I’ve waited far too long to go back). I will be getting out of the city a bit, but I’ve left quite a bit of time to visit with family and go places that are off the beaten track.
My meh city is New York. I’ve only been there once and it wasn’t for long, but meh. I just wasn’t dazzled.
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