2014 was full of novel, exciting and previously unexplored experiences, the likes of which I was able to reflect on when recently looking through my photos of the year. And while the most significant of my year’s experiences is undoubtedly the total change which came about when I left London and moved to Mallorca, I was also given the opportunity to live out yet another novel change as the year drew to a close. I became a tourist in London.
After 12 years living in the city, I never thought it would be possible to see London as a tourist destination, and to discover it afresh in the way I would a new holiday location. Yet when I headed to London for two nights this Christmas, I suddenly felt like a stranger in my previous home city. The change was almost undoubtedly brought about by the accomodation: being able to stay in a hotel in the centre made all the difference, not least because it cut out the ghastly return tube journey which was an inevitable accompaniment of every trip to the centre when I lived in the suburbs. The hotel (we stayed at the new “Me” hotel on the Aldwych) also enabled us to see London from a new literal perspective too – our room was on the 9th floor and provided us with the most stunning of bird’s eye views. Suddenly I realised that atop buildings I thought I knew inside-out was a secret roof terrace full of plants; and from this viewpoint, the cluster of shiny new skyscrapers in the City finally made sense.
London viewed from the “Me”
We also felt like tourists because suddenly we had time on our side. With no work to get to or no reason to rush home, we could indulge in many of the treats the city has to offer: We went to see the stunning musical Miss Saigon, we visited the British Museum (with what appeared to be thousands of other tourists) we drank mulled wine in Covent Garden, and we even went ice skating at the Natural History Museum – a first for my leg post-2008 accident.
A tourist in London – ice skating, Covent Garden and the British Museum
But of course being a tourist also brought with it the inescapable frustrations of London: the eye-watering expense, the unfriendly customer service, the rushed restaurant sittings, the 12.5% “discretionary” service charge, the packed tube, and the horrible, horrible cold. So for all of the excitement of being a tourist in London, I suddenly found myself relieved to be leaving again, and full of joy to return to my new home in Mallorca. I needed nothing further to confirm that in swapping London for Palma, we have truly made a change for the better.
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