This time of year, the sun sets in London around 4 pm. If it was a sunny morning, the evening sky usually reflects a brilliant myriad of bright oranges and purples. If the morning hours were overcast, which is often the case, then the sun sets quietly behind soft grey clouds.
Either way, the sun goes down and the darkness brings a calm to the London streets, especially during the weekends when the bustle of rush hour is long past, now just a memory of weekday drudgery. Here, cafes close early and often run out of merchandise even sooner. As an American used to 24/7 convenience I was frustrated to find empty shelves at my usual destinations once the clock hit 7 pm. Even my local grocery store often sports blank shelves during its later hours, something I’ve frankly never seen in the US superstores I’m accustomed to. While I do miss the convenience sometimes, I also appreciate that those empty shelves represent selling just enough, cutting back on senseless waste and keeping products fresh. And besides, when your favorite sandwich isn’t guaranteed for a nighttime snack, you’re forced to take in your surroundings as you search for an alternative. Which, all things considered, isn’t a half bad way to spend 15 minutes or so.
London streets at night are enchanting. Since it’s almost guaranteed that rain has been involved sometime during the day, the sound of cars padding softly through the remaining water serves as a soothing backdrop. Additionally, the wet streets reflect the lighted cafe interiors, casting a soft glow and welcoming ambiance. Unlike New York City, which is captivating through its uniquely American oversized bright neon signs and constant bustle, London streets are much calmer. Almost no car horns are heard amongst drivers and unlike ‘the city that never sleeps’, London shops have hours that rarely stretch past 6pm.
Since it’s mid November, you might easily find yourself captivated by holiday spirit depending on which part of the city you’re exploring. Covent Garden has one of the most beautiful nighttime presences, the curved roof of the market is adorned with twinkling lights and oversized red ornaments. Disco balls are scattered among these ornaments, casting shimmering ovals across every surface.
In summary, evenings in London have a charm that’s purely European. At night, cafes serve as a place to catch up over coffee and sweet desert cakes, not as a 24/7 food stop. Pubs, another English favorite, also provide a place for friends to gather over a pint after dinner. In this way London can be very connecting, creating an atmosphere for discussion over ease and convenience. I just need to remind my wired American brain to take it easy, and enjoy the relaxed glow of London after dark.