Sometimes I forget that London is one of the top tourist destinations in the world and not just any ordinary city. You see, though I live in central London, I don’t live next to Big Ben or the London Eye. When I walk out of my apartment in the morning, I see joggers out for their morning run and workers on their way to the office, not sightseers.
Living in a relatively residential area of London has made it a lot easier for me to feel like a true Londoner. During a normal day, I’m not dealing with gawking tourists walking slowly and actually waiting for the crosswalk light to turn, instead I’m going to class and working in coffee shops, grabbing dinner with friends and going to bars and pubs.
I hadn’t quite realized the transition I’d made from visitor to semi-resident until this weekend. My friend Mollie, who’s also studying abroad in London, had some friends who are studying in Paris visit for the weekend. I spent part of Saturday with them, going to some of London’s many markets, seeing Big Ben, taking photos in the signature red phone booths, walking along the Thames — some of the main things visitors do upon first arrival.
In addition to being a Saturday, it was also an absolutely gorgeous sunny day out — one I honestly haven’t seen the likes of since I left California — and it’s the start of spring break season. And that meant one thing: The tourists were out in full force. Often, I could barely move there were so many people crowded around me, and even when I could, the pace was not the brisk London speed walk I’ve gotten used to in my time here.
But though it was cool to be a guide, one of the people who knew where the tube station was and how long it would take to get from one area of the city to another, it was also kind of terrible. London was no longer my city to explore; suddenly it seemed I was surrounded by invaders. I actually missed the gray, drizzly days with people hustling to get inside rather than packing the banks of the Thames to enjoy the sunshine.
The only other time I’ve ever really felt like this, like a native surrounded by tourists is in my home for nearly all my life — Los Angeles. So though I’m very far from being a true Londoner, I guess this means I’m not just a visitor any longer.