Sometimes I feel like I’m a confident Londoner getting the grasp of the ins and outs of the city, but that’s usually when something happens to remind me of my own ineptitude. Last week, for instance, I was taking a bus to go visit the library when a woman sitting next to me asked if the bus was going to Oxford Circus. I said yes (it was the 25, I was going to Holborn) and we rode on comfortably until the bus stopped at Bank Station (an uncomfortable distance from either Oxford Circus or Holborn) and announced it would go no further. As we exited the woman looked at me with some reproach. I smiled uneasily and walked away as fast as I could.
I learned that day that just because a bus is going in the right direction, does not mean it will go the distance. Instead of getting on another bus, I decided to walk to my destination. I had no idea where it was, but I figured that if I walked the direction the bus had been traveling until I found a map, I would get there eventually. And, eventually (about an hour later), I did. It was a beautiful day, though bitterly cold, and I enjoyed being a little lost and finding some things around the city I might not otherwise have seen. I stumbled onto Fleet Street, for instance, and found some fantastic street art.
Being able to find my way, and without the aid of an Internet map on top of that, reestablished some of my confidence in my knowledge of where things are in London. So the following Sunday, after going with a friend to the Museum of Childhood (another amazing free London museum), I realized I recognized the area around Bethnal Green Station and thought I could find my way to the Columbia Road flower market, which happens every Sunday and is entirely delightful. I convinced my friend I could get us there and she bravely followed me down numerous twists and turns which I somewhat vaguely recognized. She started to get a little doubtful towards the end, but luckily we spotted a couple carting away a bundle of tulips, and knew we were headed in the right direction. We made it to the market just as they were closing up, and were able to sniff and admire the flowers in the fading sunlight.
That little adventure also offered up truly incredible art spray-painted on the walls of an ally, this time of bees. I’ve decided to never worry again about getting lost in London, as my lengthy detours always turn out to be worth it.