Perhaps it’s because I was pouring over a love-letter from an Englishman while sitting on the bus to the airport. Or maybe it’s because I’d not seen a salad in a week and my body craved home-cooked health food. Either way, I sat on the JFK Airporter bus to begin my journey home after a week spent in the USA’s arguably most famous and romanticized city, and I had a sudden, overwhelming surge of adulation for my own country’s capital. For the first time ever, I was looking forward to returning home from a trip.
My one week spent Stateside made one thing clear for me: London trumps New York City, any day.
It’s a controversial statement, I know. And don’t get me wrong: I loved my week spent in the Big Apple. It has such intensity; it’s addictive. It’s huge and it’s terrifying but wonderfully empowering all at the same time. I watched live jazz in a dingy underground club while drinking red wine out of tumblers. I shopped in enormous department stores and tucked-away vintage boutiques. I booed and cheered at a Knicks game and I took the subway at rush hour. But none of this makes up for the charm London has laid onto me, and won me over with, in the past two years.
Sure, New Yorkers are nice. They’ll talk to you – and themselves, it seems – unlike in London where conversation with strangers is often portrayed as an unwritten criminal offence. And New York City is a hedonists dream: you can get almost anything you want, pretty much whenever you want it. But it’s still not London.
There are the simple things in London: like sitting by the river on an afternoon, feeling the bite of the chilly March air contrast with the burn of the spring sunshine on your skin, watching the tourists, businessmen and runners alike pass you by.
The city has a lightness to it, no matter how dark it really is – there are comparatively few skyscrapers to block out the skies as they do down on the streets of New York. While NY sprawls upward, London sprawls outward – a seemingly infinite being, full of life, character and surprises.
There’s no thick city smog that clings to your airways with desperation in London, but there is a deep history that embraces almost every street you cross. It’s a city of every single nationality, every cuisine, and every language – which is perhaps the very thing that draws me to it in the first place. (I’ve always had a fascination with other cultures and yearned to live in foreign lands.)
London is home to eight million people. And thank God it’s home for me.