A Year in London (#1)

Maybe you’d never think to compare London and Florida, but they have something in common: they both feel like places where magic dwells. London has that historic, industrial edge; Florida has its swamps, its storms, the encroaching ocean. Magic. Maybe that’s why people always get drawn back.

I’m a few weeks into my second semester in London, and I’ve been putting off this post. It’s so much easier to write about a place when you’re just passing through. Where to start?

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Is the weather as dreary as they say? Yes, but it doesn’t rain as often as you’d think, and when it does, it’s rarely more than a drizzle. After you’ve been through Florida’s rainy seasons and a hurricane or two, London’s weather doesn’t faze you.

Is it as diverse as people claim? Yes! TV & film tend to portray London – and the UK in general – as a place that’s mostly white, but it’s really not.

Is it as exciting as they say? Absolutely. There’s always a show to see, an event to attend, a new restaurant to try. I got to experience my first Bonfire Night and Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, among other things.

Summing up my year (so far):

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I’m a master’s student at a wonderful university here, and my education takes up most of my life. I only have about 6 hours of class per week, but for every 1 hour of teaching I’ve got 2-3 hours of self-study. And you must do the readings, or when term papers and dissertations come around, you’re 100% screwed.

I’m taking a course on digital media and loving it, so I actually look forward to doing my readings and writing my papers. (Yeah, I’m that kind of nerd). One of my classes is on digital publishing; others have covered politics, protest, feminism, corporate profit shifting, cyborgs. I truly feel like I’m learning a lot.

I also work, so… free time? What free time?

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I haven’t had many chances to be a tourist, however. My brief vacation to London months before I made the move here (which I’ll try and post about soon) allowed me to check out some of the top sights, but since then I’ve mostly stuck around campus and the area I live in.

I’ve explored some of the quirkier neighborhoods, like Brick Lane and Notting Hill, and every now and then I give myself a “travel blogger” day, where I go and wander the city in search of material to post about.

Things I love: the National Gallery, the Natural History Museum, West End theatre, Hyde Park. And the winter lights that went up on all the busiest streets, and how gorgeous the book stores are, and all the hidden corners of the Soho & Covent Garden areas. Just walking & looking around is a treat, especially in the evening.

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I don’t eat out very often, but I do spend far too much money on overpriced coffee. I’m a fan of the very popular Timberyard (Seven Dials location), as well as this amazing hot chocolate place, Dark Sugars on Brick Lane. There’s a five-story Foyles bookshop near Tottenham Court Road station that has a lovely little cafe at the top, which is a life-saver when I need to get some work done.

I still find myself going to Starbucks 9 times out of 10. They’re everywhere and they don’t care if you sit around with your tall soy cappuccino for 5 hours. (As far as coffee chains go, Caffe Nero is a close second.)

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TL;DR:

London living definitely works for me.

I’ll be putting together a post soonish on 2 or 3 ways to spend a perfect day in the city – if you have suggestions for little-known places that deserve some love, do let me know in a comment!

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