London: A City of Authenticity - A Tiny Traveler

London: A City of Authenticity

8:00 AM

I am so excited to have another guest post from a fellow tiny traveler up on the blog today! Olive is the lifestyle blogger behind Roaring Olive where she blogs about post graduate life, encouraging thoughts, relationships, fairy tales, and recipes. (She’s currently in the middle of revamping her blog, so check out her about page to see what’s in store.) You can usually find her drinking coffee or tea while trying to capture abstract emotion through words and paint. She dreams of moving to London and will never be less than enthusiastic about the way a record player sounds after a long day.

After finishing my junior year of college, I had the opportunity to study abroad for the summer. When I spoke with my advisor and told her I wanted to go to England, she was hesitant. She suggested I broaden my horizons by studying abroad in a country where they don’t speak English— but I promptly told her England has been on my heart for nineteen years because my father is English and because I wanted to visit my family after my studies. Immediately, she understood I wasn’t choosing London because it was quaint or because I love the accents. After spending most of June and July 2014 in England, I fell completely in love with the country, regardless of the accents. I came to know England, the city of London in particular, as the most authentic place I’ve spent time in. Amidst the chaos of the World Cup and the Tour de France, I found a second  home, and I’m going to share with you four reasons why I think the city of London is filled with authenticity.

First, the people you pass on the street feel authentic. They wear what they wear because they want to wear it. No one care what anyone else thinks of them. But not in a bad way; it’s in a I-like-this-and-it’s-presentable-so-take-me-or-leave-me kind of way. It was so refreshing after spending  years in private schools where the kids wore the same clothing as other kids even outside of the uniforms, all because it was trendy. The people of London don’t wear clothes because they’re trendy—they wear them because they like them. You’ll pass a business man in a suit on his way to work and then an Indian woman in a sari. There’s this collective vibe of real-ness that you get from walking through the streets. No one apologizes for who they are. They just are. 

Second, there are so many oddities to find in London. In the middle of Trafalgar square, they switch out the statues every so often. When I visited, there was a giant blue rooster. One of our tour guides said he thought it was interesting because the Gallic Rooster is France’s national animal (the English have a historical rivalry with France—ask any English or French person.) There’s also a building shaped like a cucumber (The Gherkin) and one shaped like a shard of glass (The Shard.) You’ll find street art/ street artists at least once a day, and if you walk towards St. Peter’s Cathedral, you’ll find two wooden boats sticking out of the pavement that house a guitar and ukulele for passerby to play. London isn’t afraid of being weird or standing out. It’s a city full of little details like this that seem like they should only be found in a silly dream but  are indeed real.

Third, the food tastes more authentic. When my relatives visit America, they say the bread tastes very sweet, that eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is like eating a cake. I didn’t believe them until I bought a loaf of bread in London and toasted it in my tiny dorm kitchen—and they were right. English food is much less sweet than American food; even their chocolate is less sugary. If you’ve ever had Ezekiel Bread, that’s what I would liken their normal bread to—rather dry and bland, like there’s supposed to be something else accompanying it. It tastes more raw, and more wholesome. The generic brand food is more like our organic brands. It’s natural; it’s real; it’s authenticity in food form.

Lastly, London (England as a whole) feels more authentic because of tea time. Earlier this year, I wrote a more in depth blog post about tea time. It’s a time to slow down, a time to breathe, a time to rest, and a time to talk. For them, the world stops for that cup of tea or coffee. You grab a cup with your friend or relative and chat for a half hour over biscuits and hot beverages. It’s a reminder that we are more than just work—we are living, breathing, wonderful creations that need time to rest and time to play. And I think taking this time to rest is what promotes authenticity. If you’re just busy, busy, busy/always moving, you can’t take the time to catch up with yourself; sometimes you can get away from yourself if you’re not careful. You know that quote from Calvin and Hobbes? “If people sat outside and looked at the stars each night, I’ll bet they’d live a lot differently?” I think if the rest of the world stopped for tea time every afternoon, they’d live a lot differently.

Where do you feel the most authenticity? Is it a physical place or is it more situational and less tangible?

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