When I traveled to London about six years ago in the summer of 2012, it was the first time 14-year-old me had ever been out of the country. Within the seven days I spent there with my family, I fell in love with everything about the city, from its beautiful landmarks and tourist attractions to things as mundane as the tube system. It was where I found out I loved to travel and where I gained my first bit of independence. Then I had to leave.
So you can only imagine my absolute ecstasy at being back in this city that I love and feel comfortable in, which is saying something — I’m very picky with my cities. I take the Tube to my internship, ride the red double decker buses you see in every London photograph to get my groceries and I can be standing on the Tower Bridge within 20 minutes of leaving my campus; you truly can’t beat it.
This time around, I’m working on getting acquainted with the lesser-known parts of the city, something I’ve thankfully already accomplished to an extent. My drama class requires that we attend weekly performances at venues all around the city, which has brought me to some wild places. Namely, the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, a club that has been known as a gay bar and drag show venue since the end of World War II, and the Yard, a literal warehouse in the middle of nowhere which was especially hard to find the night I went due to a power outage that rendered it basically invisible. For more relaxed outings, this past weekend, London held its annual Lumiere London Festival, with a scavenger hunt-style setup of artistic light displays all over the city that were free and open to the public. These ranged anywhere from a long row of triangular arches along the South Bank that fizzled and lit up with sequined lights to light up seesaws in the West End to the entire side of Westminster Abbey being perfectly covered in precisely lined up psychedelic colors. Let’s just say I did a lot of walking this weekend and that I definitely earned the giant pack of Twix that I bought back near campus afterwards.
London hasn’t been without its pitfalls; the weather is unpredictable, so rain either lasts all day with heavy wind or the sky shakes it off after a few hours. The Tube is packed beyond belief during rush hour, to the point where the proximity between your face and a businessman’s on his way to work is far too intimate for eight in the morning. And for those of us staying in Flat 23 this week, we had the pleasure of losing all of our power and electricity for three and half days, which forced us to move out temporarily and to bring our mattresses with us so we could double up in new rooms meant for a single person.
Despite all of this, I’m so happy to be here that I don’t mind any of it. It’s raining today? Nice, I love the rain! Packed on the Tube? I’m a real commuter now, look at that! I’m an actual adult! Bunking in with my flatmate for three days? At least I know what she looks like now; there’s eight of us, so I’ve definitely missed her before. I’m taking it all in stride and I don’t regret a single moment. I’m so excited to make this place my second home and for all the future adventures yet to come.