Everyday you may walk the same way to school. Turn right, left, cross at this crosswalk, right again. Get on the central line. Go 4 stops. Try not to get completely flattened in the chaos of rush hour. Walk down the main street, envy the passing heels and perfect hair of businesswomen rushing to work.
The routine is wonderful, it provides a calm pattern to a hectic city life and you already know the shortcuts and quickest coffee shops. But being here for one short year makes me yearn to break out of this monotony at times. During last week’s tube strikes, I was forced to take the longer one-hour journey to school rather than my speedy underground route. Yet this walk to school down Oxford Street, before all of the shops had opened and there was only a quarter of the typical street traffic, reminded me of the beauty of the city and how much yet there is to be explored. I’m usually thinking how little time I have just to make it to class, to my next destination, that I forget that the journey there is beautiful and exciting in itself.
This weekend I took advantage of the crisp sunny day and ventured out to Hampstead Heath. I’d been wanting to go here for ages, but thought I would save it for a warmer spring day. But with so few nice days lately, I thought I could use all the fresh air I could get. It’s only a tube ride out to zone 2, yet you suddenly feel in a completely different world. Gone are the hurried walks with crowded sidewalks, and concrete occupying your entire view. Hampstead is a beautifully quaint neighborhood, with all of the cafes you can handle, gorgeous churches, inviting toy shops and boutiques. Walk through the high street and 20 minutes later you’ll arrive at Parliament Hill. It’s a nice park with a main hill that will give you some of the best views of the London skyline. We were kept company by others letting their dogs off leash, taking their families for a play day, and friends enjoying a more relaxed day. This fresh air and green hill was exactly what I needed after a stressful week of talks, internship applications, and already whispers of impending exam anxiety.
London has so much more to offer outside of zone 1. It’s amazing what you’ll discovered when you take the opposite direction of your usual route.