Text by camparigirl – Images curated by sofagirl
That I chose to live in London, fresh out of college, surprised many who knew me. I was born in Bologna, a vibrant and colorful Italian city of easy friendships and easy living, known as the Learned, the Fat and the Red (la Dotta, la Grassa e la Rossa): for the oldest University in the Western World, the outstanding food and the red roofs and porticos that are its trademark (or, according to some, for its extremely left leaning policies).
The burnt sienna and deep terracotta my eyes filled with day and day out growing up were definitely nowhere to be found in London, nor were expansive people or, for that matter, good food.
Maybe because youth is the time to rebel and reject what you know, it was London’s severity, its thousands shades of grey, the cards kept closed to its chest that ensnared me. Its clipped language, so diametrically opposed to mine, also felt more in line with my thought processing at the time. Whatever the case, my love affair with London continued well after my many moves and, to this day, I would be happy to be plopped back in the city that saw me (and helped me) become an adult.
The most satisfying part of this one-sided love affair was none other than the Tube, the indefatigable and mostly reliable metro system that, to my eyes, was the seventh wonder of the world. Here were trains that could take me to any corner of the sprawling metropolis, allowing me to explore each and one of them. And, best of all, the system came with an ingenious and colorful map even I could understand – never mind it bears little resemblance to the actual city layout.
“According to Sam Mullins, the director of the London Transport Museum, the streets of London were crowded with pedestrians in the 1850’s, not to mention the horse-drawn carriages and traveling livestock. The town was desperate for an efficient mode of transportation that could accommodate the crowds. As such, the underground railway was implemented.” (from My Modern Met). And so it was that the first steam-powered carriage pulled out of Paddington Station in 1863.
Sofagirl was always more comfortable in double-deckers and taxis while I navigated the tube nearly every day of my 6 year London stint. Even now, before I exit Heathrow, I will buy a pass (now nicely named Oyster) and relish the moment I step on an escalator down and I am enveloped by the metallic and acrid smell that will always scream “London” to me.
Paris, Rome, Moscow, LA, New York and Milan – I have used you all but none of you comes close to the mystique and personalities of the Tube lines: the grimy Northern Line (black), perennially delayed; the festive and tourist infested Piccadilly (blue); the business like Jubilee (silver); the “Holmesian” Bakerloo (brown); the congested Central (red); the ladylike District (green)…I remember you all, without having to even google you, you are so ingrained. One glance at the map on the back of my A to Z street finder (a Londoner’s tool of choice to navigate the city before apps) and I was off to check out far flung museums, tucked away night clubs, city parks and the many wonders I could afford and quickly reach because of you.
The Tube celebrates 150 years and the city has mounted many festivities. From the other side of the pond and from the bottom of a very grateful patron’s heart: Happy Birthday Ma’am.
Images found here