I’ve been living in Chiswick for the past month, on a short term lease in order to give myself time to explore London a bit before committing to a long term location. Chiswick is lovely, but a bit far out of Central London, more for the ‘yummy mummies’ and families. So I have used several weekends to go scouting areas of London in which to eventually look for a flat (that’s British for apartment).
What I am looking for in a neighbourhood (note the U):
– Close to fun, manageable for work – I decided that if I was going to do London, I wanted to be able to easily access the fun part of the city, which for me means Soho, the West End, Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.
– Easy commute – under 25 minutes, preferably one line, definitely one form (either bus or tube [British for the subway]).
– Near a tube stop – even though I have fallen in love with the bus system (shocking, I know), I would feel disconnected not being near a tube stop
– Access to parks – Lucy has loved being able to run off-leash every day on the morning walk, and having a good run on the weekends.
– Social atmosphere, nice pubs – having friends nearby would be nice, having a general positive vibe. Gay-centric wasnt necessary, and besides there is no gay ‘hood like Chelsea, Weho or Hillcrest. The closest is Soho, but that wouldnt work for the dogs, and would be like living in the middle of Times Square, too busy for everyday.
Here are some of the areas I explored:
Chelsea\Fulham – more south London, but north of the river, this is a very posh area. Beautiful streets, some lovely parks, and some slivers of green space by the river. The negative was that its a touch far from Soho and no large green park unless you crossed the bridge to Battersea Park – which is immense and beautiful. While doable, I didnt relish the idea of crossing the park in the colder months.
Marylebone – north\central London, close to Hyde Park, and Baker Street, home of Sherlock Holmes. But most of the streets were very busy with lots of foot traffic, and the ways into Regents Park were massive multi-lane streets which would not be fun navigating with the dogs.
Bayswater – this is a smaller area, north of Kensington Gardens, just east of Notting Hill. It had appeal in terms of location and value, but once I explored it on the ground, there were way too many 3 and 2 star small hotels – too many transients and collections of smoking tourists hanging out on stoops.
Earls Court – west of the parks, lots of interesting streets and gardens peppered throughout the area. A bustling high street with plenty of shops and restaurants, this was starting to look interesting.. until a good friend said he had lived there and got broken into several times. While I doubt a burglar would choose a flat with 130 lbs worth of Boxer inside, the neighborhood lost appeal.
Shoreditch – the recently gentrified area, akin to the East Village. Very cool, hip restaurants and pubs, great shopping. But not enough green space, very far from work.. if I were 10 years younger and dog-less, would have definitely considered.
Bermondsey – south of the river has undergone a lot of development in the past 5 years, and Bermondsey is just over the London Bridge. While the river views are stunning, this was again too far of a commute.
Hampstead Heath/Islington – Hampstead Heath is a magical park on a hill, with great views of London. Nearby Islington has charming pubs and shopping. But the Northern line which services both is unpredictable and often closes on the weekend. The stops have interior elevators which feel a bit like death traps. So pass on these.
So where did I focus the search? Stay tuned to find out. Have I missed any areas or made the wrong call on any of the above?