Generally, I would class myself as someone who dislikes cities, and would choose the vast, heavy silence of a valley or field over the hustle and bustle of main streets. I always feel more myself when I’m left alone atop a mountain, or go for a cycle and end up on a deserted road with no-one but the birds for company. However, over the last few days I have felt a yearning to go to London. To be amid the commuters and consumers, and breathe in (metaphorically) the life of the city. There’s something about striding across the Millennium Bridge, everyone with a sense of purpose and destination, that appeals to the ‘go out and do’ in me.
During the summer I went for a spontaneous four days in Paris with a good friend of mine. Booking into a hostel within walking distance of the Gard du Nord, we abandoned all plans and just waited to see where we ended up. This did mean however that one day we took a ‘stroll’ to the Eiffel Tower from the Notre Dame… which of course turned out to take over an hour. The walk itself was lovely, drifting along the Seine, but the cry of our stomachs at lunchtime made the unexpected trek a little more strenuous.
Even within the heart of Paris, you can always stop and find a quiet park, an unobtrustive café, a small source of refuge away from the overbearing crush of people. For me, that refuge was the stunning Shakespeare and Company bookshop, tucked away behind a tiny square of trees on the Rue Bûcherie. Stepping inside, you can feel the history in the walls and between the pages, and get lost in the little corners and staircases of a truly unique shop. I admit, I did walk out with more than just sentimental feelings, but that 1930s lavender edition of the Bronte sisters’ works is a cheap price.
This weekend I am on another excursion with the climbers, this time to the Roaches in the lower Peaks. Staying in the Don Whillans Memorial Hut (aka Rockhall Cottage), it is inevitably going to be for me a place of escape and imagination. Dreaming of moors and wandering thoughts… you can probably tell that Wuthering Heights is my favourite book.
But then again, I come back only to venture into London for a day of coffee and workshops on Monday, returned to the bustle of crowds after a weekend of relative solitude. And for once, I really don’t mind.