Written by Swati
April 13th 2023
London, London, London, how I truly love you. Being in London is like slipping on your old favorite shoes, flipping through your favorite childhood book, finding a sweatshirt that fits just right. Wandering through Kensington and Westminster, I felt my heart fill up with the greatest sense of belonging. London bookstores feel like a boost of glucose straight to your bloodstream. A perfect mix of classics and currents, well-loved second hand treasures and mint condition newly printed novels. So many cornerstone female and feminist authors hail from these streets: Virginia Woolf, the Bronte sisters, and Mary Wollstonecraft. I spend many hours digging through bookshelves to find their stories and muses. Life in London is a thrill, it’s a city that’s exciting, it’s a city that’s inviting. Londoners, in my experience, also went out of their ways to help me. At the British Library, a man drew me a map to his favorite bookstores nearby and told me to be safe in the protesting Parisian streets when I Ieft England. Two elderly women stopped me on my march to the train station to let me know my backpack was open and made sure nothing fell out. Every upbeat pop song that dances through my head feels just right in the city. The brick architecture, the newly restored Big Ben, the London Bridge that is not actually falling down. It feels like the buzz of New York with the charm of Paris. As soon as I stepped off the platform at St Pancras International Station on Thursday morning I put on the rose colored glasses of life and didn’t take them off for six full days.
I spent my first and last day in and around books, The British Library, where I registered myself for a library card (my favorite souvenir!), and three bookstores, Waterstones, Judd Books, and Collinge and Clark for collectors. Taking the day to settle in and pop into shops while strolling the streets was the perfect beginning to my London adventure. I ran into the Thursday afternoon street market by University College London and found an Indian street food stand run by a Tamil man, from the same hometown as my mother, who made chicken curry that tasted the same as my grandfather’s. I spent hours flipping through old novels and found books written by the philosopher I met on the train in Italy. Over the next few days I saw the London Eye, Big Ben, Kensington and Buckingham Palaces, walked the streets of Soho and Chinatown, spent a morning in Wales, fell hard for the Phantom of the Opera, and indulged in English breakfasts and tea.
London is not just a place, it’s a feeling. High tea with delicate sandwiches, flower petals falling between pages, sun sparkling on the Thames. My mother says I fell in love with London before I even knew what love was. And after this past weekend, I can fully attest to that. I love people watching on the Chube, despite how slow it is. I love afternoon strolls in the Kensington Palace gardens, the fields gently caressed by clusters of spring flowers. I love walking down the streets and seeing black trench coat-clad shoulders and simple leather bags, haphazardly layered gold necklaces. I love the hum of traffic along Portobello Road, the jewelry stalls in Camden Market, the busking in Covent Garden. I like to think London taught me what love is. As soon as I stepped off the platform, it was at first sight that I fell. Dearest mum, you could’ve made me English. What a shame. Never mind the past. London, I will be back. For a year or two at the very least, the better part of this lifetime if I’m lucky.