On Going Back to London
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I stood on the left side of the escalator with the strap of my small overnight bag digging into my shoulders. Commuters rushed past as the escalator went up toward the street. Posters for shows went by. Maybe I’ll see Dreamgirls or Kinky Boots. When is this Ricky Gervais performance? Not when I’m here. Okay.
I was back in London, a city I’ve visited for the third time. A few months ago I hadn’t planned on going back to London so soon after my last visit (in August). Then I won a two-night apartment stay with FG Properties through the travel blog Eternal Expat. With Ryanair Flights from Dublin being about €30 return I figured it was as good as an excuse as any to go back to London. While I want to visit many places while I’m living in Ireland, I couldn’t turn down a return visit and free stay in one of my favourite cities.
My recent trip to London was at a different time of year (spring) than my previous visits, and it was much colder. I got to a different airport (Stansted instead of Gatwick) and stayed in a new neighbourhood (Kensington). Still, there is something familiar for me about coming to London. I should state that I am not a London expert who knows the city well, but there is something comforting about returning to London. It’s a city I enjoy. Getting around is easy. It is expensive (though less so going from the Euro to the Pound rather than the Canadian Dollar to the Pound), but there are plenty of free or lower-cost things to do. It has a lot of theatres (including musicals) to see. I love musicals.
Before this trip, I still got pre-travel jitters as I do for all my travels. That combination of restlessness about wanting to just be at a new place, and anxiety about how things will be when I arrive. Even though I am a pretty prepared traveller (packing well in advance, making sure I had all the documents I needed) I had a hard time sleeping the night before my flight. When I travel, I usually try to take public transit to the airport, but my flight was early in the morning (before the buses were running). Instead, I opted to use the services of Blacklane, a company that offers private ground transfers in a variety of cities around the world. The service was easy to use (booking online or through their app), with courteous drivers and well-maintained vehicles. I would highly recommend them if you are looking for private ground transportation on your next trip.
Even though I was going back to a place I’d been before, this was a different trip to London. A lot had happened in the nine years from when I first went to London (my first solo trip ever) to this most recent visit to London. There has been a lot of changes even from when I was in London last August and this trip. In August I was just getting ready to move from Canada to Ireland. Now I’ve been living in Dublin for seven months.
London has changed too. One evening I went to see a musical called The Wild Party at The Other Palace (that’s the name of the theatre). I got off at Victoria station and started walking around and couldn’t believe how different everything was. The first time I was in London I stayed at a B&B not far from Victoria Station, so I got to know the area well. Now when I looked up I saw office buildings, and glass skyscrapers, and the NYC burger chain Steak & Shake. These weren’t there on my first visit. I wasn’t experiencing the London that I had experienced on my first trip. Cities change. People change. It’s one of the reasons why I don’t believe you should feel guilty for going back somewhere you love because every trip will be different. In a city like London, you could come back several times and never see it all.
In that familiarity with returning to a new place, even with new perspectives and things to see is a possibility to get stuck. I’ve noticed I am a creature of habit. And with travel, as when I’m at home, I also get into a kind of routine. Get to your apartment/hostel/hotel, take a walk, find a park, take pictures of ducks, eat some food at a random restaurant. Even with this visit I wandered into the National Portrait Gallery and thought this looks familiar before realizing I had been there before (on both previous visits).
I returned to London for the third time and had a pleasant stay. This trip to London won’t even be my final visit because I’ll be going there again next year to see Hamilton with a couple of friends (I’m very excited about this). As much as I love returning to familiar places to see something new, I know there’s also a complacency there. I don’t want to fall into the habit of returning to the same locations over and over and missing a chance to see something new. This last trip was somewhere familiar, but for my next destination, I want to go somewhere new.
Still, it’s nice to know I can always come back to London.
Things To Know
Disclaimer: Blacklane offered me a complimentary service for which I was very grateful to use. All opinions in this post are my own. While I had a complimentary stay in London thanks to a contest I won, you can book a hotel for your stay in London here.
Where can you go back to again and again?