London Calling: the last call

Emily Passey

It’s almost the end of the term and there’s still so much to say about London, life, and other things. Unfortunately, my column is done after this and so I have to be picky about the last remarks I leave you with.
As I sit down to try to generalize and categorize my experiences, I find that it is almost impossible. There is no single experience that strikes me as being particularly revelatory or epitomizing.
No single place that I’ve visited thus far in the UK that I could call my “favorite.” If you hadn’t guessed from previous weeks, every moment this term has been surprising, every place visited has been memorable, every hour has been well spent.
There are still things that I want to see, and I still have time so hopefully I will. There are enough things to do and see here to fill a lifetime; if, that is, you’re willing to look at life a little differently.
A lot of tourists hit the big spots – Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, and Harrod’s. There are a lot of great museums, and a lot of famous things to see and do in this city. Yes, you could have a wonderful time just sticking to the guidebook.
However, London is not only Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square; London is not only Hyde Park; London is not only the Houses of Parliament, the Strand, Piccadilly Circus, and Covent Garden.
Here are my favorite things about London:
Regent’s Park. OK, this one’s pretty famous. But for good reason. It’s huge and incredibly intricate, and you can get lost inside of it – unlike Hyde Park, which is really just a rectangle. One hot, sunny day in April, I followed a path under some arbors, and suddenly wound up in a huge, circular rose garden, surrounded by quiet, leafy alcoves made of trellises. Very Alice in Wonderland.
Camden High Street. I get to hang out here for my Urban Anthropology project on London punks, so I’ve really come to love it. One of the markets that make up this street is built under an old train bridge, creating a dark, dank, atmosphere. The signs in this market are mostly neon and the wares are very alternative.
The rest of the street is its own sort of market, lined with stores selling all sorts of mad items and blasting all sorts of music. Camden is currently a sort of home base for punk rockers, and anyone else who is a little alternative.
There is a group of punks who sit outside the tube station daily, much like guard dogs. They sport the real gear: huge Mohawks, leather jackets with patches promoting anarchy, fishnets, and spikes in every place imaginable.
If you go here, it’s essential to be listening to the Sex Pistols on your iPod in order to pretend that you are in late ’70s London at the dawn of the punk scene (which, sorry to say, was not actually born on this street. Its real birthplace is a 15-minute walk from the Centre, in King’s Road).
Brick Lane. If you like South Asian food, go here. Brick Lane and the surrounding streets in East London are home to a population that is about 60 percent South Asian (Indian, Bangladeshi and others). There are restaurants and snack places with authentic food and cheap buffet lunches. Really cheap samosas and Indian sweets are essential for a day spent walking around.
Walking. Instead of jumping on the tube, I sometimes just walk as far as I can. It’s given me a better sense of how streets and neighborhoods are connected, where the tube actually goes, and how big and great the city really is.
Riding the night bus. The tube closes around midnight or just after, so for nights out, careful planning is often required. Fortunately, “our” bus (the one that comes to South Kens, near the centre) is the number 14 bus, which runs 24 hours a day. Basically, you can catch any bus to Leicester Square, or Piccadilly Circus (very popular destinations for most bus lines, which is convenient) and then grab the 14 home.
This has worked for us London Lawrentians. We have our own stop that is familiar and comfortable. The night bus provides lots of fun views of late nightlife in London, not just the lights of the city, but also weird drugged out people, chatty drunk foreign guys, and other random people just trying to make it home at 3 a.m. It’s a good way to end the night, really.
The free papers. It’s how every Londoner catches up on news, from the buyout of Boots by an American company to a Keira Knightley sighting in Hyde Park. Read about William, read about Maddie (the young Scottish girl who was kidnapped in Portugal while on family vacation), read your horoscope, read the football scores – all for free, people!!
There are at least three of them that I can think of offhand, and you get them when you’re getting on the tube at the busiest times of the day. Good tube reading, especially when avoiding homework.
Hopefully you’ve gotten something out of my column this term. Writing it has been good for me. This isn’t propaganda, but I also hope that at least a few readers were inspired to come to London, whether it’s for the London Centre or just for a trip.
The Lawrence London Centre – as cheesy as it sounds – really has been the best and most varied learning experience of my time at Lawrence. I know that any of my current comrades could confirm that statement and add their own ideas and experiences to my short little list.