I’m about to tell you the secret to London. It’s going to enable you to see the city in a way that the people who scurry along the streets with smartphones in hand do not.
To enter London’s hidden world is simple: just look up.
Above eye-level, there is a visual feast waiting to be admired. In London, one of the most fascinating cities on Earth, if you search high and wide you will see glimpses of the unexpected. You’ll find surprising sights that will encourage you to pause, stand tall, take a breath and relish in the little things.
Your mission will never be complete. Once you start looking up, you will never be able to stop, no matter where in the world you are.
My favourite way to view the city is by foot. Something about the act of walking calms and soothes, whilst also promising a hint of adventure. Whatever part of the world we are in, or whatever language we speak, walking is just something we do. Footsteps are the universal language.
In a city such as London, which is teeming with history and life, looking up at the diverse array of architecture is one way of viewing the passage of time through England’s capital. From sculptures of gargoyles, monsters, dragons and lions atop impressive stone and marble mansions, to the modern structures of minimalism and aesthetics – there’s always something to fix your gaze upon.
Another surefire way to bring a smile to your lips is to peruse the abundance of street art and graffiti which can be seen throughout the city. Keep your eyes peeled for political statement art, common in areas such as Shoreditch, or try to track down an infamous Banksy stencil. For the less guerrilla-fond readers, London also has a treasure trove of public art hidden around the city, so look around for these also.
People-watching is a great way to see the heart of London, the people who make it tick. Grab a coffee and sit watching the theater of life unfold in front of you. You really, really never know what you might see.
Turning skyward, a favourite activity of mine is to trace aeroplane contrails through the vanilla sky as they intersect above the rooftops of the London skyline. I always wonder where the people are going.
Autumn is arriving in London at the moment, and when I walk through my local park I can see the last rays of sunshine curling through the turning leaves. The light always seems a little softer, more golden, in autumn. A final salute before sinking into a season of grey for winter.
Looking up will also inevitably direct you towards one of the estimated six million CCTV cameras in England (smile, Big Brother is watching you!).
However, if the thought of our surveillance society gets you down, why not look down! You might just spot yourself one of these delightful pothole gardens.
Sometimes, it’s the small things that matter the most. In London, the land of Narnian lampposts, flower boxes swinging from the eaves of pubs, and romantic Mary Poppins-like chimneys, it’s the perfect place to realise this.
London will be my home for the next four months, and will own my heart for the rest of my years.