Dr Johnson said: “If you are bored of London, you are bored of life.” Well, colour me endlessly fatigued in that case.
After 25 years here, I’m starting to question what we all see in this city. With its cocaine water, cigarette Tube lines, overpriced drinks, eye-watering rent and the kind of atmosphere that ensures everyone always has an attitude, it’s time to admit we are no longer in Kansas.
Instead, this is London: 2022 edition.
And yet still, the city has a chokehold on me, and I would gladly die on a hill defending it to someone spouting nonsense about the benefits of countryside living. The artists, the museums, the pubs, the architecture, the feeling of walking through the streets with friends, and a sense of promise and hope that London is so good at providing all make you feel invincible. But the fact remains: the cultural malaise is setting in, creatives are running to the hills, and with boredom creeping towards me, I know I want to fall in love again. I want to see the city with fresh eyes.
So, in a last-ditch attempt, I decided to strip it all back, forget what I knew about London and try to start anew. I took to the trusty(?) TripAdvisor and began my nascent journey to fall in love again with the city that has given me trust issues and rendered me near bankruptcy.
The Houses of Parliament, Bucky P and the Aquarium are all on TripAdvisor’s ‘Top Sights’ list. I lost hope when I saw Madame Tussauds is number nine on the list, above Tower Bridge and St. Pauls, but true love never runs smoothly. Valiantly, I continued plotting a sugar-fuelled, existential-spinning-black hole of a day out in London that was surprisingly upbeat!
I began atop a sightseeing bus. Nothing is worth doing in halves, so I decided to plunge myself into the deep end, even if that meant rolling my eyes like a stroppy teenager and talking about how lame it all was.
Half an hour into the sightseeing bus, I was sold, giddy with excitement. It was thrilling to start at Victoria, go up towards Marble Arch, via Buckingham Palace, down Oxford Street towards Piccadilly Circus, and then return to Westminster and the Houses of Parliament.
Dare I say the plan is working?
Don’t get me wrong, the first 15 minutes of the bus journey were spent stuck in Victoria in a concrete bus shelter, and the biggest takeaway from the person sitting in front of us was: “There’s an awful lot of scaffolding.” Then there was the obligatory temper tantrum I threw at my boyfriend for not working my angles when taking photos for this piece (boyfriends of Instagram unite).
But, it had its moments! We drove past the hotel where Michael Jackson held his baby out the window, and we even saw the back of Stephen Fry’s head walking past Waterstones on Regent Street – culture!
Then, maybe due to a sugar high from the necessary brief stint in the M & M world, I realised London is beautiful.
I don’t usually come in and play in central London unless running around Soho on a Thursday night, so coming and seeing the sights, stomping the city’s mean streets, was a refreshing change from the areas of London in which actual Londoners live.
After the bus, we trotted towards the National Portrait Gallery, which, as everyone knows, is, the Louvre of London. A sense of calm settled in me looking at paintings, snapshots into an older time that isn’t the present, crippling moment, and I had a sensible giggle at a woman who commented, “Ooh, I like his crabs”, about the nearby Van Gogh.
Then came the walk to 10 Downing Street. We waved at the King’s horses and got another view of Big ol’ – refurbished and shiny – Ben. From there, it was Covent Garden, via St. Pauls, at which point I had quite the dip. It might have been the sugar wearing off, but what is there to say about Covent Garden, apart from coming here if you enjoy being terrorised by living statues?
Then, we walked towards Southbank. One goes to Southbank for two reasons: if you want an overpriced drink or to break up with someone (there are loads of benches and lots of people around, not fancy enough to be harsh when you do it, and not shit enough to make you look mean). My boyfriend and I – still together – then headed for the Shard, but of course.
Hot tip: if you want to see a view of London, don’t waste your time queueing and spending a small fortune to book ‘The View from the Shard’, instead go round the corner and ask for the restaurant (Aquashard, on the 31st floor), and go to the bathroom. Swear.
Walking back up to Borough Market, home of our patron saint Bridget Jones, it hits me; the people make me love London so much. The TripAdvisor top 10 failed to make me particularly emotional, but people watching sure did.
Seeing a family having lunch, giggling and chatting together, their little girl being taken on a big day out in London, all so excited, that’s what it’s about. Because that’s what London makes you feel – it makes you feel excited, limitless, like you could do anything.
Walking down these streets that I used to walk when I was little with my parents, thinking of all the people – the Stephen Frys and dare I say even more famous folk to have paced these roads – there does feel like a sense of collective movement towards something incredible. Each person is in their little world, going about their life.
Yes, London is just filled with ‘through’ places. Everyone seems to be waiting to get somewhere else, but there is something brilliant in that. London is half filled with dreamers, living in their fantasy for something better, and half with those who believe that something better is now here. Either way, both are driven by the intangible sense of hope London gives you. It is her gift; use it as you will.
So, did it work?
The jury is out, but I know that I’m on the Tube this morning and want to be back on a London sightseeing tour bus.