Three years ago I packed up and moved to London in pursuit of my biggest dream–living and working in London. I would’ve gotten away with it if it wasn’t for that pesky Tier 2 Visa quota. Though it didn’t end the way I’d hoped, it was still the single best experience of my life.
On this auspicious day, it seemed the right time to revisit and tally up the things I miss most about day-to-day life in my favourite city in the world. Let’s kick it off with the first two things I miss the most:
Transport for London (TfL)
Full disclosure: I am a self-confessed “TfL nerd,” obsessed with all things London transport (with the exception of timetables…couldn’t give a toss). I love reading about the Tube’s history, discovering its hidden secrets, touring its past, and riding its impressive network of trains, buses, boats, bikes and badgers. Okay, there are no badgers. But wouldn’t it be great if there were?
Simply put: TfL gets you everywhere. When you come from a city sadly lacking on the wide-spread network front, it’s something you never really get over. “You mean I can go from here to there on ONE bus? ONE? What’s the catch?” Sure the system has delays, but their notifications are insanely prompt and informative. If you’re stopped for more than 30 seconds at one station, the driver will inevitably hop on to the intercom and explain the delay. If you’re delayed more than 15 minutes on your journey due to stoppages, you can get a refund for your journey. You can even sign up to various services that will submit your refunds automatically.
There are so many different ways to pay for transport too, from the pre-paid Oyster card (for use in all zones) to contactless payment cards (debit, credit) to visitor/day passes. They’re “Plan a Journey” search is fabulous and they even have a doc that tells you when it’s just faster to walk. Helpful!
Sure the network is far from problem free (frequent system-wide 24/48 hour strikes, constant construction and diversions, and the occasional serial killer) but it’s still one of the best transit systems in the world. And did we mention they now have the Night Tube? And a fare freeze until 2020?
London is in a league of its own when it comes to theatre. At any given time, there are at least 10 productions that I would give my right arm to see. Don’t get me wrong: Broadway is amazing…but London is, well, LONDON.
The amazing history of performance is hard to ignore as you settle in for a show at the National, the Almeida, the Donmar, the Theatre Royal, the Savoy, the Haymarket, the Trafalgar and any one of London’s many other theatres. The list of familiar actors who have trod the boards from the West End to the Southbank is mind-blowingly long and prestigious. During my time in London, I’ve had the good fortune to see Judi Dench, Ben Whishaw, Benedict Cumberbatch, James McAvoy, Imelda Staunton, Ralph Fiennes, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Helen Mirren, Olivia Colman, Kenneth Branagh, Simon Russell Beale, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Damian Lewis and Nicole Kidman.
There’s no shortage of home-grown material to perform either. You’ve got the light-hearted Coward comedies of the ’30s and Rattigan’s genteel ’40s dramas. Osbourne and Pinter brought forth the angry young men of the ’50s and ’60s, while Barnes, Churchill, Bennett, Marber and Stoppard gave us a frankly ridiculous number of modern theatrical masterpieces. And if you’ve run through all that jazz, there’s still a laundry list of plays from some guys named Shakespeare and Shaw to choose from. And that’s not even considering the constant wave of new and exciting playwrights, producers and directors making themselves known to audiences.
It would be a full time job to take it all in. One that I’m more than willing to take on.
Stay tuned for Part 2…
Header Photo Credit: Baker Street Station, Platform 5 or 6, Will Goodwin.