The older I get, the more I seem to tire of London.
My brother moved down pretty much straight after graduating and there have been times when I thought I’d follow suit. I never did, but the city is quite familiar to me because of the trips I’ve made for work and to see him and friends.
I always love seeing the people I know who live there, and there’s no doubt the capital offers some wonderful things to do, but more often than not these days I find the place quite exhausting.
I can enjoy the novelty, the hustle and bustle, for a day or two but then I find myself dying to get back up north. I think it’s just the sheer volume of people, the time it takes to get from place to place.
I was in London for the bank holiday weekend, to see my brother, his wife, my beautiful new niece and some friends. I arrived on Saturday with a couple of hours to kill and after a quick trip to West Elm made the mistake of going to Oxford Street. My mood slumped and stress levels soared. Maybe it was because I had to drag my suitcase along behind me, maybe it was because of the hordes of people, who always walk too slowly or stop suddenly in a bunch, blocking the whole pavement.
The thing is, I don’t want to lose my rag with this city: I think we have a wonderful capital. I’ve never felt prouder to be British than during the 2012 Olympics. I’ve had some of the most special days of my life here, like when I was a guest of the Queen.
So when I feel like I might be falling out of London I go to South Bank. I love the riverside setting, the colour, the anyone-is-welcome attitude. I feel like this place, unlike much of London, is about spending time, not money. It’s probably my favourite spot in the city, and here’s why.
I’m no tour guide but if you want to follow in my footsteps, you should come out of the Embankment tube station and cross the Hungerford or Golden Jubilee bridge. Start with the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament on your right and this skateboard graveyard on your left.
At the other side of the bridge, turn left and pass the street food vans, the huge book stall, the skaters and BMXers and the Southbank Centre. The Southbank Centre is currently hosting a colourful installation as part of its Festival of Love. It’s by Morag Myerscough and Luke Morgan and called Temple of Agape, representing love of humanity. (Ironically, they also have a work at The Orangery in my home town in Yorkshire that I haven’t seen yet).
At the end of the strip, you can admire St Paul’s and the Oxo Tower and there is even a small beach where a piper played when I was there.
What are your thoughts on London? What are your favourite parts?
PS the next day I paid my first visit to Notting Hill Carnival. More on that later in the week!