Caroline_london

Leaving London and getting on yet another long haul flight with all my belongings (a grand total of two suitcases, ehem) feels a bit like ending a long, exhausting and beautiful relationship. Ever wondered how you can feel that way about a city? Read my break-up letter to Europe’s most gorgeous pearl. (I dropped a few cool location tips for you which will hopefully stop both of us from bursting into tears halfway through.)

“So that’s that, hey? When I first walked home in the early morning hours after that first roof party in Dalston with people who had way more swag than I will ever have, I had no idea just how much the next few years would change and shape the way I am and the kid I wanted to be.

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I have adored and sworn at you in equal measure and I didn’t know that one could have such strong feelings towards a place. Whenever people asked me how things were, if I loved you enough to stay here forever, I usually said “It’s complicated” and ruthlessly disqualified you from being an appropriate small talk topic. I could write entire books about the dynamics of Berwick Street on a Friday at 7pm, the eclectic spirit at Brick Lane bagels on a Sunday morning at 2am or the important, grumpy business folk near Bank station at 8am on a Monday. That’s the London everyone knows, hated by a few, loved by many.

But beyond these easy-on-the-eye cliches and truths there are almost too many blurred lines to take in. A screaming couple that is throwing crockery out of the broken window of a council estate in Bethnal Green, pensioners taking a lazy stroll through Parliament Hill, police sirens, a sobbing little girl in Stoke Newington whose mum suddenly disappeared, Jude Law giving autographs at the end of his new play, or teenagers who passed out after an overdose at the A&E. You seem to effortlessly combine the very best and worst of humanity and one can take a wander through both worlds within the blink of an eye.

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But you’re also irresistibly and disturbingly hot and I’ll never be able to say no. When I hated you and your merciless ways most you suddenly threw the cheesiest sunset on Waterloo Bridge right in my face, or sent a smiling busker on London Bridge station between the Northern and Jubilee line my way, or dragged me into a sunny, flower-induced Sunday morning on Columbia Road after a 50-hour week.

You let me get hopelessly lost on roads that I’ve known for years and turned me into a stranger in the midst of a beautiful city that has everything and more. I will leave my heart here because some of the most memorable snippets of my entire life were created right here, at the Round Midnight in Angel, at a little party inside a shopping trolley in Canada Water (don’t ask!), near Regent’s Canal in Haggerston, at the Electric Brixton or next to that fancy magazine van in Carnaby.

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If someone should ever ask me what kept me sane throughout moving house seven (!) times, financial disasters, heartbreaks and other meltdowns, that would be Hampstead Heath. I hope that I will always have an equivalent to it in my life: a hill to run up to with flowers in my hair with bags full of beer bottles clashing against each other, happy spoilt dogs running up to me in summer; rosy cheeks and a tea cup in autumn with a panorama view on the city that is always either covered in snow or mud in winter, and the delicate, hopeful blue skied evenings of spring. A place with enough distance to the big smoke to give room for reflection yet close enough to real life to come up with a plan to fix it. And trust me, there was a lot of fixing to be done.

So… that’s that I guess. I look forward to coming back to Dalston and seeing that the places that used to be my faves are now closed and replaced with whatever turns out to be more hipster, but that’s how you roll, innit? Here’s to the emotional roller coaster of the last three years and to whatever crazy adventure the future holds. I don’t know the name of the city or even the country where I’ll spend the next couple of years but what I do know is that it probably cannot compare to you. And I still need to figure out if that’s just life or if that means that I inevitably have to come back. Either way, I love and hate and miss you already.”

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All photos taken by Caroline Schmitt