The Diverse City of London and the One Thing All Parts of It Have in Common
Because London is such a multicultural city, an urban melting pot if you will, it was hard to pinpoint one specific genius loci for the city. Instead I envision different ones for different neighborhoods.
For example, the sheer quiet of Mecklenburgh Square, the area in which I reside. Occasionally that silence will be interrupted by soccer players, or I should say football players, and kids playing in Coram's Fields.
On Brick Lane, a street that stretches about a mile in East London, the genius loci for me that embodies the place is definitely one of smell. Brick Lane is probably home to the best Indian cuisine outside of India itself. The smell of spice, as well as the sight of dozens of haggling restaurant owners trying to get you to eat at their place over any of the others, embodies the area for me.
Over in the neighborhood of Shoreditch, a neighborhood I frequent at night, the sound and sight of thousands of twenty-something marching around going from pub to pub or club embodies the nature and culture of the area. The sight and smell of cigarette smoke abounds the area at night.
As you can see, London is a diverse place. Different neighborhoods have different feelings, auras, moods, even languages sometimes. The only thing that I can think of that really unites London under one genius loci no matter where you go, is the weather.
Now London is by no means famous for its beautiful weather, quite the opposite in fact. I remember a stretch of about three weeks from late January to early February where it rained at least a little each and every damn day.
Even the sun doesn't seem to come to London. It's quite a rarity to see London not overcast. Granted it can still be quite nice when its overcast, but I only remember one day where it was truly sunny outside for an extended period of time.
It's also been quite cold, apparently unusually cold this semester, with weather barely touching fifty degrees most days. It obviously hasn't been ideal, but it's certainly been an experience and it reminds me of the sometimes dreary New York City falls and winters.
I will say this about London weather. At least it's been consistent! I pretty much know what to expect everyday when I step out the door. And since I've gotten back, the weather has actually improved. It seems that spring might finally be in the air here, but I won't keep my hopes up too high. Every time it seems to get warmer, it just gets colder again.
So I would say if there's a single genius loci that identifies London to me, it would be the cold rain, the brisk air, and the clouds over my head. While this may sound dreary, it's part of what makes London London, and I feel it gives the city more character.
For a city I have truly fallen in love with over these past few months, those feelings of the cool rain hitting my face and jacket, stepping through puddles as I go from one place to the next, are some of the things I will remember most.