When I moved to London in 2014, I was alone with a suitcase and a duvet. By the time I reached the end of the summer term, I was still alone with a suitcase and a duvet. This wasn’t because I hadn’t made any friends, it was because they’d all gleefully abandoned me to travel home for the summer. I, on the other hand, could not fathom why they would willingly leave the (arguably) most exciting city in Britain. This is not to say that there aren’t other parts of Britain in which you can laze under the sun in freshly cut grass, enjoy free outdoor concerts and eat incredible food – but there’s no other part of Britain where you can find it all in one place.
London is one of the greenest cities in the world, with 47% of its space consisting of parks, woodland and gardens. Weather permitting, they provide a haven for office workers and students. They emerge from their desks, blinking into the sun, clutching tentatively to their lunchboxes – wary of an imminent downpour. But the downpour doesn’t come, and word spreads. Suddenly, each patch of grass in the city is more occupied than a Central Line train during peak hours. The handful of friends I had left with me would make a pilgrimage to Primrose Hill, perched at the top of Regent’s Park, which was our favourite spot. The air was always electric with the sound of people chatting, singing and laughing – more often than not there’d be people ready with their instruments aloft, jamming together for a dancing crowd. Londoners are frequently labelled (rather unfairly in my opinion) as being aloof, and not wanting to make any kind of contact with strangers, but the friendliness and warmth of the crowds was palpable. Eventually the sun would set on the cranes and skyscrapers, cloaking them in a vivid pink which would then fade to the fuzzy orange-black of an inner city sky. This was probably the most peaceful place in the city, that is until everyone made a frantic scramble for the park gates before they were locked up for the night.
As a self-confessed foodie, my taste buds start tingling when the sun emerges because I know that it’s the beginning of street food season. All year round you can head to Borough Market or your nearest KERB Market to get your fix of souvlaki, bánh mì or bratwurst but in the middle of winter it’s not quite the same – who likes getting chili sauce all over their woolly gloves? In the summer, the weather gives you the liberty of mooching around the stalls leisurely and sitting kerbside or in a nearby park to eat. You can check out this article by the Evening Standard to see what was on offer in 2017.
To round off our summer, I decided to do some travelling. London is not just a gateway to the rest of the UK, but thanks to budget airlines, it’s also a gateway to mainland Europe. I’d spent a whole year studying the urban landscape of Berlin, so it was incredible to finally walk it for myself. Alongside my History degree, I’d been learning French, so I was finally able to put my skills to the test in Paris. By being in London, I’d not only been able to learn from what was on my doorstep also from its European neighbours. And it’s fair to say when my friends from university made their way back for the autumn term, I had way more stories to tell.
Despite living here for three years, I’ve barely scratched the surface of what London has to offer during the summer months. This year I’m excited to get tickets for British Summer Time in Hyde Park, visit Lambeth Country Fair and explore more parts of the city I’ve yet to discover.
Chloe is a recent graduate of the University of London (2014-2017) and current staff at Queen Mary University of London. If you’d like to spend this summer in London – check out Queen Mary Summer School opportunities.