Oh London, how much I missed you. I visited you for the first time when I was a teenager of just 16 years. I came from Germany and I had heard so much about you, it almost felt like visiting a lost relative.
It was the nineties back then, at a time of a small British cultural revival. You could hear it in the music. New bands came popping up almost daily. They found a new sound, a new way of expressing the British way of life in catchy tunes. Bands like Suede, Blur, Pulp, and Travis – they called it the Brit-Pop era, and it was the soundtrack of my teenage years.
I will never forget the first time I hopped off the train from Sussex and descended into the depths of the London underground system. The fashionable round curves of the Tube, the colourful handrails, the functional underground maps. The rush of the speed, the exhilarating feeling of being part of an anonymous crowd of people that hailed from all walks of life.
London is part of my fabric
London is a place with many faces. It is flexible, like a soft dough that you can form into any shape you like. You can visit London and find its cultural site – theatre and music, the arts. Admire its history and rejoice in its royalty. You can spend a fortune or live on a dime. Have a G&T on a rooftop or a curry in a dingy restaurant that might be the best new thing tomorrow.
My love affair with London never stopped. More than twenty years on and I still love everything about it that people who live here may hate. The traffic and the noise, the dirt and the poverty, the rain and the clouds. I love the diversity and the surprise, the freedom and the craziness. I could spend hours just strolling through the parks and feeding the ducks, or sitting in a cafe and watching the crowds as they hurry past on their way to work.
In short, London is part of my fabric. Twenty years ago, it left a lasting impression on me like no other place on earth. The city is part of me as I am part of the city. And so it is only fair that I want to share this feeling with my children today.
The city is part of us as we are part of the city
A couple of weeks ago I took my kids to London, my secret happy place. I showed them all the corners that I love most about the city. The vintage markets in Camden Town and the street art in Shoreditch. We took the tourist bus from Westminster to the City, admired the Tower Bridge and Big Ben. We listened to the street performers on the South Bank and took the singing lift in the Southbank Centre.
But there is no better way of showing London to the uninitiated than by looking at it from above. There are many places where you can do this in London but I chose the London Eye for my kids. It’s a fun experience, and it’s nearby some of the most iconic sights of the city – the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Bridge are just a couple of metres away. Its neighbourhood, the South Bank along the river Thames is popular with families, and there are many food stalls and other attractions to make the visit an easy and well-rounded affair.
The kids loved the experience. As the gondola was lifted up slowly, their eyes lit up. We walked around the capsule, slowly, taking in all the sights. Pointing this way and that.
Below us, the grey river flowed slowly through the city like an enormous snake. The cars looked like toys as they crawled across the bridges. We made out Buckingham Palace in the distance, surrounded by a sea of trees. The Shard, London’s most recognisable high-rise, almost touching the clouds.
Look at the city, I told them, it is part of us, and now you are part of it too.
The kids played with the tablets that are installed in the cabin, looked up information on the different landmarks. Sizes and dimensions, histories. Every building has a story to tell, just like the people. The city is like a breathing organism, living and dying at the same time.
London will make you dream
Travelling is wonderful when you visit new places. But it is also a fantastic thing to do when you get the chance to re-visit places over and over again. I love coming back to London. It is my home away from home. Being able to introduce the city to my children, to show them what this place is that has had such an impact on myself when growing up, is priceless.
Just like me, they now have fallen for London. They shared aspirations with me of moving here one day when they are all grown up. Who knows, they may make this dream a reality one day. Maybe they will take their children to the London Eye, just like I did. Show them the city from above, make them wonder about all the different lives that can be lived.
London, they will realise, can do that to you. Make you dream, inspire you to take on the world with open arms, live bigger.
Practical information about the Coca-Cola London Eye
The Coca-Cola London Eye is located near Westminster Bridge on the South Bank side of the River Thames. The giant ferris wheels offers one of the best ways of seeing London from above.
The easiest way of visiting is by booking your tickets online. There are combo tickets available if you are thinking about visiting other famous London attractions as well (such as the London Dungeon or SeaLife) – combining tickets will save you real money.
You can also opt for a Fast Track ticket which will allow you to skip the queues – if you have little time or are travelling with children this may be a very useful option. More information can be found here.