10 Cities You MUST Visit

My favourite kind of travelling is city dwelling, or, to be a “flâneur”; someone who wanders around the streets in order to get a feel of the city and its people. For me, it is time much more better spent than spending all day, every day on a beach. That doesn’t relax me, it makes me bored and restless. Travelling is about tasting the culture, the history and the life of the place you visit. Even if it does make your feet ache.

Here is a list of cities I have visited before, that I feel are worthwhile for anyone to visit. Some are obvious choices, some are questionable ones. And whilst I picked these out for various reasons, there are so many more I haven’t listed (and one day perhaps will), or I am yet to visit and fall in love with. The world is a big place…

Paris, France

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The birthplace of the term “flâneur”. I find this city unbelievably beautiful. The architecture is lavish and breath taking, and the idyllic Parisian lifestyle of croissants and coffee is fun to re-enact (except I don’t like croissants. Or coffee). Yes, the locals are known for being rude, but the landmarks are so well-known, from the Eiffel Tower to Montmartre, I believe they are worth it. Plus, Victor Hugo is one of my all-time favourite writers and so seeing his inspirations and even his resting place allows for literature fan-girling on my behalf (not to mention the countless other Parisian icons).

Rome, Italy

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Another obvious choice. I do prefer other Italian cities such as Florence, which is also a must see, but the rich history of Rome is what made me add it to the list. The Colosseum, the Roman Forums, Castel Sant’Angelo, and endless other places to see are not just for history geeks, but for anyone. And whether you are religious or not, there are so many beautiful churches to visit. You just have to walk down a street and you will find a little but no less stunning church open to visit. And I haven’t even mentioned the food…

Las Vegas, USA

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There are so many historically beautiful cities in the world, but why not visit one famous for being, well, fake. I have visited Las Vegas, or more importantly The Strip, a few times as a child (so no gambling or weddings for me, at least it’s child friendly), and I remember it being constantly entertaining. The many, many unique hotels are all worth exploring, and each offer their own forms of attractions from roller-coasters to lions to volcanoes. It’s crazy and tacky and I love it.

New York, USA

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When I went to NY by the end of it I was exhausted from all the walking among the vast crowds. Still, it is an amazing city and I really want to go again (I’m thinking Christmas time, and that it will hopefully snow). Manhattan is very swanky, but I stayed in Brooklyn which is equally cool. It is one of those cities that no place, or street is the same. And one of my favourite things about NY? On top of the Empire State Building, the pigeons actually pose for your camera.

Chicago, USA

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The last of the USA bunch in the list, but possibly my favourite. After the hectic visit to NY, I then went to Chicago and found it much more relaxing (then again I did spend most of it at the Lollapalooza festival). I felt Chicago had a better vibe, AND it is home to the Blues Brothers, a film that I love. I also saw an amazing firework display by the pier, experienced stepping off the edge of the Willis Tower (it was a glass balcony), and it is the starting point of Route 66 which is an adventure I have done, and hope to do again. I don’t own an “I ❤ NY” t-shirt, but I do own an “I ❤ Chicago” one.

Florianopolis, Brazil

Florianopolis

For a taste of Brazil, I would highly recommend this city. It feels more tourist friendly than others, which is good as Brazil does not speak English widely and despite the World Cup it seems tourists are still a novelty. Florianopolis has over 40 beaches, some of them the most beautiful, AND it has sand dunes, which you can rent a board to go sliding down. You become covered in sand but it is so much fun. I am more used to sledging in the snow (even that I haven’t done much), so it was amazing to do it under the warm sun and in the soft sand, which is much nicer to land head first in.

Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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I visited Amsterdam recently and I left completely in love with it. The people are some of the friendliest locals I have ever met, the museums are fascinating and I stayed on a boat, which was awesome albeit cramped. It is a forward thinking city, and history proves it always has been: its two top tourist attractions of sex and drugs being just two examples. It is a very attractive city with its canals, unusually tall and narrow buildings and relaxed atmosphere (no marijuana pun intended).

Kotor, Montenegro

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Despite Kotor giving me the worst hangover I have ever endured, I adored being there and hope to return one day (with my dignity). It has a very historical looking centre, with beautiful orthodox churches, and lots of cats (they really like cats). The scenery is spectacular, as it is set against the backdrop of Montenegro’s beautiful mountains and is also by the coast. When I was there they also hosted a summer carnival, so it was one big party. It is a town rather than a city, but either way it is a place becoming more attractive to tourists, and worth visiting before it risks becoming too touristic.

Segovia, Spain

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The first thing I noticed in Segovia is that it has an aqueduct in the middle of the city centre. I thought this was an impressive sight: everyday life occurring around a huge, grand piece of history. It is another city of beautiful architecture, including the Gothic Segovia Cathedral and the Alcázar of Segovia. I have only recently begun to learn more of Spain, and to remember Segovia I think of the laid back approach to life Spain seems to possess (siestas and tapas? Yes please…).

Tirana, Albania

Tirana

Tirana is one of the most unusual cities I have ever visited. An ex-communist country, Tirana now has streets and squares named after the likes of George W. Bush and Mother Teresa. My father told me that years ago, when cars were common everywhere else Albania was still using horses. Nowadays everyone seems to own a Mercedes, old or new. Tirana is not a touristic city: there are no souvenir shops, a taxi I used did not have proper seating, and the traffic is terrifying. However I really enjoyed my visit: the mosques, the kids on the street trying to sell you plasters, and in comparison to places such as Paris or Rome its beauty is very unconventional. But it is beautiful nonetheless.

There we go. Just a tiny fraction of the world explored. It reminds me of how much I am yet to see, and there are so many more stories yet to be told or experienced. My feet are itching to step out into the world again.

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Pros and Cons of Being Tall

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I am a tall girl. Not the tallest, but definitely tall. I am about 5 ft 11, none of my pajamas reach my ankles and just yesterday I managed to get my hair caught in something dangling from the ceiling of an aquarium I was visiting (I managed to escape without anyone noticing).

When you picture a tall person you may envision a long, graceful supermodel; or you may think of someone lanky and awkward, who sticks out like a sore thumb in photos with their average sized friends (sometimes we crouch). Like everything in life, there are pros and cons of being a giant among humans. Here is just a selection.

Pros

1. Maxi clothes were made for us

(This is going to be a blog post aimed mostly at girls, but y’know, I’ve seen guys rock skirts) ANYWAY, yes, those floor length skirts and dresses must have been designed for us in mind. I can’t wear midi skirts because for some reason they make me look frumpy, and sometimes a mini skirt or dress makes me feel too self-conscious. But maxi clothes feel effortlessly glamorous, or for when I’m feeling a bit hippy like. Plus, amazingly, I can just pick out a maxi skirt or dress in shop, and I never seem to have to worry about it hanging above my ankles. Result.

2. Long Legs

Another point about being aesthetically pleasing. But yes, generally being tall comes with the gift of being leggy (a plus for both men and women) because, well, where else would we get our height from. I’ve had a few nicknames based on my legs, from Crazy Legs in high school to Detachable Legs currently (both too long and random to explain), so yes, legs are definitely a main feature of being tall. Whilst it is a general fashion tip for women that they should wear heels to “lengthen” their legs, we were born with it.

3. Instant Notable Presence

I am not the best example for this, as I am very shy and I tend to prefer being in the background and to avoid being the centre of attention. However, when I see people walking down the street, it is the tall people I remember the most. In my opinion this is an advantage in life, e.g. in job interviews, because you want to be memorable. First impressions count and being tall is generally people’s first, and memorable, impression of you. You can wow them with your personality later.

4. We can see in crowds

In any crowds, if you lose who you’re with you can easily spot/be spotted, but it is a very good advantage if you enjoy going to gigs and festivals. In occasions such as these, people become very pushy to get a good view of the stage, but if you’re tall you already have a good view of the stage. And if anyone complains they can’t see because of you, well, it’s what you were born with so there’s no point feeling bad or guilty about it.

Cons

1. We are hated in crowds

The previous point is easier said than done, when people are complaining about your height in crowds, and you’re feeling under pressure to apologise for what genetics gave you. Understandably it is very annoying to have paid for a ticket and then to be unable to see the stage- I hate it when another tall person stands directly in front of my eye line. Yes it is not our fault, but we can’t help feeling responsible for it.

2. Shoes

I hate shoe shopping. Mainly because my height has cursed me with large feet for a woman, and therefore I have to search hard for decent shoes in my size, and I’m rarely successful. Heels are scary because I feel that I’m already tall enough, and the shoes I like to wear (converse, doc martens, military boots) only serve to make my feet look even bigger. I live in fear that in a moment of desperation I may have to resort to buying men’s shoes, although they do have some nice choices…

3. People always have to comment

I meet relatives I have not seen since I was toddler. Nearly always their first comment is “Haven’t you grown!” It is a common thing for elderly relatives to say, but when you’re tall you know what they are really thinking is “Bloody hell, you’re twice the height of me”. And further comments are always made. Anybody I meet in life might at some point look at me and say “You’re really tall!” ‘Really?! I have never noticed- but that explains why I have to crouch to hug most of my friends, and why I keep hitting my head’. Of course I never want to be rude, but after 20 years of being tall, I still have no idea how to respond.

4. Dating can be hard for a tall girl

You meet a kind, good looking, all round wonderful person- but their eye-line comes into contact with your chin. I am being incredibly shallow, but there is stigma against a couple where the girl is taller than the guy. Sometimes the guy doesn’t want to be the shorter one, sometimes the girl wishes she could wear her heels without worry. And couple photos are always kinda funny. I like a guy to be at least my height, but when a couple works, they work, even when she has to be the one to reach for things.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and all that jazz. I enjoy being tall, as much as I am sure I would enjoy being short or medium. I always believe that everyone should be happy with whatever weird and wonderful body shape they have, because it is theirs: to love and to hate, but to let their personality stand out more than their looks. And even if I was a more dainty, curvy, stylish looking person, I would still complain about my looks, just like everyone else would.

Expired Polaroid Film

Gone are the days when Polaroid was a company that sold instant film and cameras. Since then, a group of previous Polaroid workers started their own company, The Impossible Project, and have been producing their own instant film for Polaroid cameras. They are life savers for instant film artists and amateurs.

You are still able to find old Polaroid film circulating websites such as eBay and Etsy. These packs of film expired long ago, so people like to use them to experiment with, as you are unable to predict the result. This is a common notion behind the use of any instant film, but is arguably even more fun when you don’t know how good the film is, and so each picture could be something unique or a total disaster.

Early last year I walked along the Thames River and the East End with my camera and some expired film, to take pictures of landmarks. The results are below: as you can tell some look kinda cool, whereas others are indistinguishable.

(Shot with a Polaroid 600 Impulse, on expired Polaroid film)

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This one was taken in a local pub by a friend of a friend (I posed for the camera, but I am where the gold bit is)

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Expired film costs the same amount as within date film, which isn’t cheap, so I don’t think it’s worth to invest too much in. However for some harmless fun, and to giggle at the results, it is worth something.

Liebster Award!

Muchas gracias to my great friend and fellow blogger Heulwen for nominating me for this award. For VERY helpful beauty and fashion tips, go on and have a look at her blog: http://www.heulwenw.wordpress.com

LIEBSTER AWARD GUIDELINES:

  • Thank and link to the person who nominated you
  • Display the award on your blog
  • Answer 11 questions from the person who nominated you
  • List 11 random facts about yourself
  • Nominate 5-11 blogs you love with less than 1000 followers for the award and create a list of 11 questions for them to answer

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1.What is your favourite childhood memory?
Hmm, possibly when I swam with dolphins in the Florida keys. My dad had arranged it as a surprise for the family, and as you could probably guess; swimming with dolphins is pretty awesome.
2. What is your most prized possession?
Oo maybe my polaroid camera: it’s cheap, not the best model, heavy and bulky, but I love it. Or my bass guitar (Fender Squier American Deluxe Jazz Bass- Black), it’s an amazing guitar: great sound, great look.
3. Why did you start a blog?
Simply, I wanted a platform where I would constantly practice and (hopefully) improve my writing skills. As if writing essays for a degree wasn’t enough. But I use my blog to write about more contemporary topics, and to develop my own thoughts and feelings towards particular topics that interest me.
4. You find £50 on the floor in an empty street. What do you do?
Perhaps my morals are probably going to be brought into question, but I’d probably keep it. I have a very important “travel to Brazil” fund, any donations welcome. Maybe I’d hang around to see if anyone returns for it.
5. Where is your dream destination?
Brazil! Although to name a place I’ve never visited and would love to, somewhere like the heart of Mexico or India so I could learn more about the culture, and the food.
6. What is your number one wardrobe staple?
I’m all about the converse. My first pair I bought when I was 12 and were red, my current pair are (a very filthy) white. These days I dress more girly than I used to with floral prints, and so converse allow my inner rock vibe to still exist.
7. Which song can you listen to regardless of your mood or current disposition?
Tough one! I think One Day More from the musical Les Misérables because it is, in a single word, epic.
8. What is your favourite movie?
Full Metal Jacket by Stanley Kubrick. I find it fascinating, Kubrick films seem to have a fixation with the idea of masculinity, and how this is exploited and threatened (IMO). FMJ has this, dark humour, insight into war, and the best ad-lib ever.
9. You’re only allowed to eat one thing for the rest of your days. What is it?
Potatoes. Must be my Irish ancestry, plus they’re a very diverse food.
10. What are your “words to live by”?
I suppose I like the saying “Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it”. It encourages me to grab life by the handles, be brave, and see how things turn out. And also to give people the benefit of the doubt.
11. What do you want to accomplish in life?
A successful career, god knows what (maybe something to do with humanitarian work), nice children that don’t drive me crazy, to have travelled the world and meet people of all kinds, and to own any of the following: a German Shepherd, Border Collie, Beagle, Golden Retriever or a Miniature Dachshund.
11 Facts About Me:
1. I have an unhealthy obsession with tea and elephants.
2. I collect miniature models of famous landmarks from the places I visit.
3. My favourite perfume ever is J’adore by Dior. I don’t know much about perfumes, but it smells nice and classy.
4. Politically, I class myself as a socialist.
5. When I was a child I learned ballet. During my first ever performance, I threw up on stage.
6. I really, really, really dislike mushrooms. And mornings.
7. My favourite novel ever is Les Misérables by Victor Hugo. The musical I find is also amazing.
8. Talking about musicals…when I was 15 I became obsessed with The Phantom of the Opera. If I was to appear in Mastermind (British TV quiz show), that would have been my specialist subject.
9. My middle name is Rose (after my granny), and roses are the symbol of Yorkshire and England. Therefore, my favourite flower is the rose. Or Birds of Paradise, because they look incredible.
10. I love clothes with a tartan pattern – inherited from my punk days.
11. The first major festival I ever went to was Lollapalooza Chicago- 2009 I *think* it was.
In turn, I nominate….
(Okay, I cheated, there’s only four- a clear sign I need to start following more blogs!)
My questions are:
1. If you could travel back in time for a day, what date/era would you choose?
2. After a hard day, what is your routine to relax?
3. What advice would you give to yourself 10 years ago?
4. What inspirations do you get for your blog?
5. Who do you consider as a role model?
6. What is one of your favourite things about yourself?
7. What was the last song you listened to?
8. Is there one accomplishment you are particularly proud of?
9. Is there a painting, by any artist, you admire/love/feel drawn to?
10. What is your fondest blog post you have ever written?
11. What are you scared of?

The Perks of Being in a Long Distance Relationship

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As I have mentioned in a previous blog post (“21 things to achieve before I’m 21 (or at least, be on my way to achieving)” http://wp.me/p4FOMK-3l ), my lovely, caring, soppy and sometimes annoying boyfriend lives in Brazil, whilst I live in grey and rainy Britain. We have been going the distance for nearly a year now, which amazes and thrills me that we have come this far, but for now the future is uncertain as to when we will bridge the distance.

 

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a whinging, poor little me post about how it is so hard and how we suffer for love (ew, no). A long distance relationship is just like any other relationship: fights, laughs, in-depth talks, and enjoying each others presence. Every relationship has it’s trials and demands a lot of hard work, knowing that the person is worth it all.

 

Instead I would rather mention a few benefits of being in a long distance relationship. There are many; from the super dramatic hellos and goodbyes at airports/train stations/wherever (it’s an emotional roller-coaster, but at least you can pretend you’re in a movie), to not feeling the pressure to shave so often if you just can’t be bothered. Here are a few that I feel are quite important:

 

1. You have more time for yourself

When my relationship first became long distance, a good friend of mine told me I have the best kind, because I have the benefit of being able to be independent, but also having the lovely man by my side (metaphorically). My initial reaction was “Hmm”. However, although it does not always feel like it, I can see she has a very good point. Life is manic and stressful, and sometimes having to devote so much time to another person can just add to the pressure. We both met as university students, and so the need to devote ourselves to our studies was very important. (I even wrote a few essays whilst visiting him in Brazil). Not just university/work, but the need to concentrate on yourself and your own interests is very important. It is so easy to find yourself lost in a relationship, wondering where the other person ends and you begin, but at least with long distance you have the time to focus only on yourself. I can practice my writing, explore new music, or just spend too much time on social media, all in the comfort of “me-time”.

 

2. No friend left behind

Another fear of being in a relationship is accidentally neglecting your friends. These are the people who support you the most in your relationship, who can make you laugh so hard your stomach hurts, and ALWAYS know when chocolate is needed. Therefore, with your partner somewhere else in the country or world, they are the people you need the most. As much as I love to see my boyfriend hang out and have a laugh with my friends, I also appreciate being able to do it just by myself.

 

3. It’s the little things

Too often can you take your partner for granted, but when you hardly ever see them, you can find yourself appreciating the little things more. Whether it’s being able to cuddle in front of a film, or remembering what it is like to kiss this person you chose to be your other half, everything just seems a little more awesome when you’ve been waiting ages to do so. Those rare times you get to visit each other may take you on some amazing adventures, but it is equally satisfying when one will turn to the other to say “Fancy getting a Chinese?”

 

4. Creativity evolves

Your partner lives far, far away: you can’t go to the cinema or take them to that nice looking restaurant you’ve been intending to visit. Normal date nights can’t happen, and sometimes saying “I love you” to a computer screen feels a little….distant. The fun of dating long distance means you can think of new and creative ways to have a date night, or to let the person know how much you care for them. Sometimes it’s cheesy but a laugh to cook yourself a meal, set the table with maybe a candle, and log onto Skype with your partner having done the same. It can be expensive to send a gift to them, so on important occasions when all you have is a card, you can find yourself writing something really meaningful to make them smile. Each couple discover their own unique ways of being able to say to the other “hey, you there. I really really really really care about you. Like A LOT”.

 

5. Never take them for granted

Similarly to point 3, knowing that the reason you’ve chosen to do long distance, despite pop culture, friends and maybe even yourself telling you it’s a bad idea, is because the person is without a doubt worth it. This really helps you to not take them too much for granted. During fights you (eventually) realise they’re not worth being angry at one another, and being able to cheer each other up no matter how many miles are in between you is one of the best feelings in the world. I believe it is healthy in any relationship to on occasion ask yourself “Is this person still right for me? Am I truly happy with them?”, especially when in long distance you may look to much towards the future and forget to focus on your present self. When you know the answer to these questions is “of course!”, you also know you will make sure that you are right for your partner, and will make them truly happy in return.

 

If there are any other long distancers out there: I salute you. It’s not easy being such a hopeless romantic (ahem), but the benefits definitely outweigh the cons.

 

1stanni

10 things I have learnt since moving to London

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Moving out of your family home, and stepping out into the big wide world is always a daunting, life changing experience. Perhaps even more so when you move to East London, and although they never said anything, your parents are petrified for your life.

It’s not as scary as it may seem, and I think moving to London for university was one of the best decisions of my life. There have been many learning curves, both significant and small, so I decided to write a list of the small lessons I have learnt in these past two years.

1. It’s noisy.

Too noisy at times. When I moved into university halls, for reasons unknown my windows weren’t double glazed, therefore I had a few sleepless nights of listening to cars, buses and sirens scream past until I became used to it. Then I started dating my boyfriend and he couldn’t stand it, even on occasion refused to sleep in my room. I swear sirens are louder in London than anywhere else, and a lot more frequent.

2. The public transport is quite good.

Especially the buses. They’re so frequent- where I grew up buses were only on a half an hour basis, and even then they wouldn’t turn up. Also in London the buses announce each stop, and this is a life saver when living in such a huge city; especially at 3 am when you’re drunkenly hugging a McDonald’s and you’re not quite sure where or who you are. Even the underground, as mad and as busy as it is, I miss so much when I’m visiting home.

3. It’s expensive, but survivable.

London has been voted the most expensive city in the world to live in; rent it atrocious, pints prices are shocking, and if you want to go to a decent club you may end up paying £20 entry. However as long as you’re careful with money, and realise you may not be able to afford as many nights out or restaurant meals as your friends living in other cities, you can avoid going into your overdraft. I still cannot wait until I have a decent/well paying job and can afford more drinks in Shoreditch, but for now I am just happy to make ends meet, with enough money left over to blow on travelling and festivals.

4. Primark is horrible.

I do love Primark, even though its ethics are questionable. In London however, I wish to avoid it’s stores at any cost (why do they not do delivery?!) They are constantly packed with people pushing each other out of the way, and I hate shopping most of the time, but in London I really struggle to enjoy browsing through the pretty clothes, and trying things on. In any other city it can be quite peaceful, or at least calmer, but not in London. I feel like I’m going to war, diving into the angry rabble of shoppers to triumphantly emerge with a £5 dress and maybe some new jeans.

5. Fried chicken becomes a necessary part of your diet.

I mentioned McDonald’s earlier, but in East London it’s not always quite so high end. Instead there are friend chicken shops aplenty. The road my university is on, the first thing anyone notices is that it is essentially a road of fried chicken, from the good to the only purchase when very, very drunk. Fried chicken is readily available anywhere in London, and you can try to be healthy, but you will find yourself in a chicken shop at some point whilst you live there.

6. People are constantly in a rush.

I have warned to my friends visiting me: “Get your Oyster card out before you get to the barrier. People will hate you if you make them wait”. Luckily when we’re British we just demonstrate our frustration by glaring angrily at your back. (If you’re wondering what an Oyster card is, it is the main method of paying for public transport in London). London does something to your mindset: when people walk slowly on a busy street it makes me irrationally annoyed to be stuck behind them. It sometimes feels that in London you must always have a destination, that you can’t just wander around the city aimlessly. This is not true, but it is maybe better to wander aimlessly in a park.

7. It is beautiful.

Speaking of parks, I would argue that London has some of the most beautiful parks I have ever seen. On a summery day, it is always perfect to grab a book or some company and park your behind on a large stretch of grass. Even the main city is breathtaking. I love the London skyline because it is equally impressive due to The Shard, and quirky due to The Gherkin. A fond pastime of mine is to walk along the Thames river, and just be happy that I live here. (Yes, very cheesy.)

8. Being cosmopolitan makes it fabulous.

London doesn’t have the largest diversity of nationalities in the world, but it’s safe to say there are a lot. I have zero knowledge/proof of this, but I like to think it is why there is such a great variety of cuisine, events and just general cultural interest to span gigs, theatre and everything else. The people you meet will come from all corners of the earth and everywhere in between, and not only will your horizons and knowledge of the world broaden, you will realise the world is full of interesting people.

9. You make it your own.

A famous quote from Samuel Johnson is “When a man is tired of London he is tired of life.” Possibly because London is so vast, and there is always something to do; you will never memorise the whole of London or taste all it has to offer, even if you live there your whole life. Which is quite a daunting thought. There are so many ways to enjoy London, both on a budget and when you can spend spend spend. I like the weird and wonderful bars of the East End, whereas others are more prone to hang out in the classy West End. Some prefer to check out the theatre London offers, whilst their friends find it more exciting to view the big movie premieres on Leicester Square. London is there to mould into your own experience.

10. People are always impressed you live there.

From looking approving when you know the underground system (and judging you when you don’t) to saying “I could never live there”; it seems living in London is a feat worthy of a trophy. And yes, you’re proud to say you live in London: that you do get squashed on the Central Line, pay twice as much rent, and maybe once in a while do something touristy. It’s crazy and scary, but so, so fun.

I feel I started to get a little corny then, maybe I love London more than I realise.

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