London After Midnight

A couple of nights ago, I had the extraordinary experience of taking in central London after midnight through very tired eyes and it has officially eclipsed all other sights I’ve seen since I arrived.

Normally, I make sure I’m home before last (Tube, Overground, DLR) train in the evening — I don’t like to be out (especially on my own) after about 10 or so in the evening, and so I am usually safely back in my flat by the time it’s completely dark outside. This past Sunday evening though, I happened to be headed back into London quite late from a weekend away for work and I didn’t get into the city until after 11. It being a Sunday evening, that made it impossible for me to catch the right combination of trains to get home, so I had to find a bus route. The particular bus I had to catch departs from Trafalgar Square and I had come up out of the Underground at Oxford Circus.

While walking down Regent Street toward Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square, I was surprised at how safe I felt. Everything had a lovely glow about it: the weather was warm and calm, and the buildings were beautifully lit with the colours from the shop signs reflecting off the stone walls and windows, and the usual break-neck, frantic pace of the central shopping and theatre district had slowed to a leisurely stroll. Piccadilly Circus was alight, as usual, but felt bouncy and joyful instead of claustrophobic, and when I walked into Trafalgar Square to see the buildings and statues bathed in a peaceful, silvery light, the fountains at a simple stand-still, and people of all ages walking slowly around taking in the night, I instantly felt the comfort of being at home in the midst of the overwhelming amount of beauty and history around me.

I feel as though I’m making a lot out of a little, but that seems to be what London has been so far for me: it’s the little things, the free things, the views, and the unexpected moments that are the most satisfying and that have made the last month completely magical. There are so many things to do and see, and London can be ridiculously expensive to enjoy, but it doesn’t have to be. I am still thinking about how breathtaking (seriously — I actually lost my breath for a moment) that experience was and it’s two days (and a lot of sleep) later.

I caught my bus and the route carried me through Covent Garden, through The City, and past St. Paul’s. As we were passing St. Paul’s, I looked up at the dome and thought: “My God, that’s lovely. It’s just… stunning”. After all that, it’s quite safe to say that my next paid, tourist attraction-y type activity will be catching the London By Night bus tour — London is a magical city by day, and I really can’t wait to see more of it by night.

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