Urban Warfare: London

Copylab’s Katy Gardner swings the second blow in our protracted battle of the cities.

In the words of Samuel Johnson, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”

I couldn’t agree more.

I love living in London, I really do. Having lived in both Edinburgh and Glasgow, I think I’m in a good position to provide a rational and balanced argument. And in the battle of the cities, London shall reign victorious!

London is renowned for its excellent dining experiences. In a recent Yelp poll of the top 100 restaurants in the UK, only 29 restaurants outside London made the cut. Added to which, there are 65 Michelin-starred restaurants in London, serving some of the most interesting and innovative food around. If you have a burning desire to pay hundreds of pounds for a 25-course tasting menu and wine-matching experience, then you may wish to visit one of these and have your mind blown – as well as your bank balance.

According to popular restaurant-booking website Open Table, there are 2196 restaurants available in London, and that probably doesn’t include all of the slightly dubious local eateries, Uncle Jim’s Kebab House in Richmond being one of them. Not that I’ve been there. And it’s not just the usual Italian, Chinese and French. Oh, no. If you want Argentinian food tonight, there are 28 options available to you. If street food is more your bag, then visit Borough Market for a duck wrap or Petticoat Lane for a falafel wrap.

Petticoat_Lane_Market

Photograph copyright Andrew Dunn, 2006

It’s not just the food that makes London great. London also offers people the chance to attend some of the best music and culture festivals in the UK, without a single wellie boot or dodgy tent in site. And all within the London Tube system, which brings the comfort of your own bed afterwards.

But if you’d rather skip the Portaloos, then London’s open-air theatre and cinema experiences will surely tickle your fancy. Regents Park Open Air Theatre is one of the largest in London and shows tremendous theatrical productions like Lord of the Flies and screenings of Jaws, among others.

portaloos

But enough about what I like to do at the weekend.

London is also one of the oldest and most established global financial centres, home to some of the largest multinational conglomerates in the world. It’s not just financial companies that call London home; notonthehighstreet.com and Graze were both established in London and call my borough of Richmond home. These companies are pioneering new-business ideas across the UK, and their location in the capital allows them to attract the best minds in industry.

Indeed, the best minds in London are renowned; we just need to look to history. London-born inventor Michael Faraday discovered electromagnetic induction in 1831, which paved the way for the invention of electricity. So important was this Londoner to our history that he appears on the face of the £20 note. As I’m an English graduate, the works of John Keats, John Milton and Lord Byron cannot fail to appear on my list of famous Londoners. Neither can Samuel Pepys, the historian whose diaries provide us a first-hand view of historical events such as The Great Plague.

pepys

We also have wonders such as Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London, Houses of Parliament and the Natural History Museum right on our doorstep. After thousands of years as a premier world city and with many of its sites still standing, London also remains a centre of the arts and a site of creativity and invention. Lucky Londoners can visit the Tate Modern to see the work of British artists such as Tracy Emin or Damien Hirst, or we can go to the Victoria and Albert Museum to see an exhibition dedicated to the ‘Savage Beauty’ of native Alexander McQueen’s fashion.

Which brings me to my next point: one of the greatest things about London is its transport links, and with that comes the unmistakable buzz of a bustling city. You never feel like you’re the only person in the world arriving into Euston late on a Sunday evening because there are scores of people going about their business. Have no fear about getting a taxi – the world-famous London black cab is the oldest licenced transport system in the world. Or get the Tube, which will soon be running some lines 24 hours per day. But if the buzz of London becomes too much for you, then you are never more than a few minutes away from a big open park or a stroll along the River Thames. If it’s a day at the beach you want, then Margate, Bournemouth or Clacton-On-Sea are just a day trip away.

Cockfosters_tube_station

Photograph copyright Mike Knell, 2004

Amid all of these plus points, there are of course a few negatives! London is polluted and dirty, and the daily grind of a commute into the city makes me wistful for my 10-minute walk to work when I lived in Edinburgh. Meanwhile, the overcrowded, grubby old South-West trains make me hark back to the days when I commuted between Glasgow and Edinburgh (where I used to get a seat, a cup of tea and the Metro, even at 8 in the morning). There are just so many people everywhere. All. The. Time. And no one really smiles. But! These pale when I tell you my final point, and this is an important one.

The weather.

London has an average temperature of 19 degrees in July and August and boasts some eight hours of sunshine during this time. It is not uncommon to be able to dine outside in October, and there does seem to be a real North/South divide when it comes to the swathes of rain that seem to hit my Scottish friends and family on a regular basis.

sunshine

Photograph copyright London Evening Standard

 

London, you rock!

keep_calm

Katy Gardner