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The best and worst thing about living in the same place for a long time is that eventually, everywhere reminds you of something.

Even in a city as big as London it's pretty hard to find an area that doesn't give you a tiny nudge of de ja vu; or a place where your first thought is 'hey, this is entirely new' and not, 'hey, didn't we come here once ages ago and have a better time back when we were 22?".

Once you've lived in London for ages, you'll be able to annotate a vast chunk of the tube map with things that have happened in, outside, or even between certain stations. Live or work in a particular area long enough, and you'll be able to mark out a web of significant streets on an A-Z. Doorways and corners, pubs, entire postcodes, they all mean something after a while.

That's also the best and worst thing about going to a different city for the first time: you arrive with nothing in your head, no expectations, no reminders cropping up wherever you go. You get to start somewhere again temporarily, it all feels fresh. After a few days, you settle in, and things start to look familiar. That's travel: picking a point on a map, and dumping yourself into something new. 

Usually when I go away on my own, I cheat. I try and mediate this change between the comforting known-ness of London and the wtf-am-I-doing-unknown-ness of somewhere else. I dump myself alongside something, or someone, familiar. I try to find a mid-way point, give myself a short settling in period: a friend who lives there, a group tour, something to help me navigate the ambiguities before I head off to do things at my own pace.

So I'm trying to ignore the fact that next Sunday, when I step off the plane in a new city, it'll just be me, my non-existent grasp of the language, and - at time of writing - an equally non-existent plan, bar a bunk bed in a hostel for the first few days.

I'm hoping that by the end of the two weeks it will have been a good decision to go somewhere without having that mid-way point in place. I'm hoping that the streets (and yeah, maybe some bars) will start to feel familiar in some way. And fingers crossed that I'll have made at least some temporary mates.

Because nothing reminds me of Buenos Aires at the moment. My knowledge of Argentina extends to a Jilly Cooper novel, and the yerba maté habits of a polo player I worked with years ago. But in a few week's time, when I'm back home and Argentina's spring has turned back into winter in London, I'm hoping that will have changed. 

Read more thoughts from London here.


Three things I think you might like.


1. Read. I might whinge about getting older sometimes, and this NY Times piece is truly great, but god you absolutely could not pay me to be a teenager again.

2. Listen. Alright, so I have, obviously, prepared *one* important thing for my trip.
 
3. Go on, be the person who instagrams this exhibition without any irony whatsoever.

More things you'll actually want to do in London.

PS.

Speaking of familiar places, last week I found out that my favourite local pub on Essex Road closed for good. And gah, it made me feel sad. Not only did it have the best website of any pub, but it was where we've had birthdays and lazy Sundays and rowdy Friday nights and chilled Saturdays, or any combination of the above, for years. It was also the site of a particularly booze-filled screening of the Olympic Opening Ceremony in 2012. You don't forget those kind of nights (or actually, maybe you do). 

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