As a student I rarely have any proper holidays, as my “study free” periods are often used to prepare for exams and to write essays, this year’s Christmas holiday included but it was worth the hard work to be able to hold a real holiday with the boyfriend two weeks ago; my first since Easter last year. And my first vacation in London as a non-tourist since I came to live here.
Now, this didn’t mean that some touristy activities didn’t take place but it was accompanied by lazy hours of chocolate eating, watching Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad, walking in the park and a trip to the cinema to see American Hustle.
The holiday was a good reminder of why I came to London in the first place and it was a great break from everything as we went to the HMS Belfast museum and saw the City as it lay down by the river.
There was something really special, almost magical about walking beside the Thames with each other, as the sun set over the city and the lights were turned on at Tower Bridge only minutes before we walked across it. Looking across the other side of the Thames from the ship, seeing the old stones of the Tower of London lit up with the glittering 30 St Mary Axe skyscraper standing in the background; all of these things reminds you why London is such a special place to be, with this juxtaposing of the old world with the new. It is a place where history is ever present, as the historical stones that build the city still stand, along with the finest examples of modern architecture.
Even as we went towards Greenwich the day after, a place where history echoes through the city more than ever, we were met with this contrast between former times and the new world. As we rode towards Greenwich, on a futuristic train ride on the Docklands Light Railway suspended high above the streets, driving in and out past the many modern office buildings and newly build apartment blocks, the O2 and the water came into view in short glimpses, only to appear again later as we turned around another corner. But we were headed towards history rather than modern times, as the boyfriend surprised me with a visit to the National Maritime Museum to see the “Turner and the Sea” exhibition I have been wanting to see for a long time but hadn’t found time to see yet.
After seeing the romantic seascapes of Turner, we walked past the impressive Cutty Sark, as it lay down by the riverfront with its three tall masts reaching up against the sunny, blue sky of that Thursday afternoon before we walked through Greenwich Market, past the tables offering spicy food, old blankets and second hand jewellery, on our way home.
For me, it is the walks around these places, which make me love London so much.*