One of the coolest things about London is that it wasn’t really planned. That makes it incredibly frustrating to navigate, of course, since streets never go in predictable lines, let alone by number (for someone whose old town was so dedicated to numbering that it included 38 1/2 Street, this was an adjustment). But it also means that there are plenty of hidden little oases throughout the city, tucked away in isolation amidst the jostle of the city centre. It means you end up with tiny little communities like Little Italy, which had its own Boat Festival last month, where canals lined with beautiful flowers meander through the area. Or areas like mine, which are full of sleek new buildings in the middle of industrial brick (and occasional unexplained bouts of Johnny Cash, audible throughout the neighborhood at random intervals).
And you get areas that have their own completely distinct atmosphere. My favorite of these (so far, anyway) is Seven Dials. Right next to Covent Garden, it’s less crowded, more spread out, and beautiful. It’s full of boutiques in bold colors selling cute, unique things. They’re sprawled out along multiple winding paths that meet at the pillar of sundials, surrounded by a ring where pedestrians, cyclists, and cars mingle freely.
It’s also home to one of London’s most famous sites: Neal’s Yard. Its brightness and hippie feel made me think of Austin (this was reinforced by the Home Slice pizzeria present in both), but it has a unique feel all its own. When I went, a small movie or television show was being filmed, people were enjoying after-work drinks, tourists were taking photos (as was I, obviously), and somehow, it all fit in harmony. If you come to London, you should definitely visit. It’s well worth getting lost for (in fact, that’s half the fun).