Best of East London – by Ariana, Boston College
After a semester at Queen Mary, I returned home to the question “What exactly is the East End?” The difference, plainly, is that I did not live in Central London. Though some would argue that this makes the experience as a “Londoner” seem inauthentic, I counter that by saying it made the experience more authentic. On my walks toward Stepney Green, I could see the Gherkin building in the city skyline. And, in my flat kitchen, I could see the HSBC building light up in Canary Wharf. Queen Mary may be located a bit away from the heart of the city, but it is not isolated.
In terms of transport Mile End, itself, is on the Central Line. Within 10 minutes on the tube I could arrive at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Also, heading one stop East, I could find myself at Stratford’s Westfield Shopping Center in 4 minutes. And, say I needed groceries, I could walk a good 30 seconds across Mile End Road into Sainsbury’s. I had access to everything I needed and more than enough resources to get anywhere I wanted to go. However, most of my favorite places were a mile and a half away: Brick Lane, Columbia Road, and Broadway Market. Hackney and Shoreditch were two of my favorite areas of East London: the markets, the pound sales on clothing, the museums. There was always so much novelty! I experienced the V&A Museum of Childhood, tried delicious Indian food, beigels, and cake on Brick Lane, sampled a scotch egg, flat white, and Meringue Girls creation at Broadway Market, ran into Russell Brand on Shoreditch High Street — the list could go on.
On one Saturday stop into Broadway Market, I made conversation with a man wearing a hat for the Boston Red Sox. I found it amusing that someone in London would be supporting my local baseball team, but it turns out he was a food critic and we bonded over great Boston eats. I loved the way East London made this enormous city feel approachable. I could find someone who had a connection to Boston and I could also run into Russell Brand. In short, anything could happen and I loved that possibility.
By the end of twelve weeks, I could navigate from Queen Mary to Brick Lane without needing a map. The path around East London became intuitive and I could sense the closest market was near on sight alone. I loved these parts of the city because they were bustling with the capacity to be peaceful. Even one mile from Queen Mary I had the option to stroll into Roman Road’s market then sit by the lake in Victoria Park. On other days, I could take the tube to Oxford Circus and find myself in an entirely different, crowded setting. Compared to East London, Central London felt very much a tourist destination. I could not navigate it as well, but that never stopped me from finding the closest spot for Ben’s Cookies. Central London was equally as amazing as Hackney and Shoreditch, but I found my home nestled on Westfield Way moments from the Mile End tube stop.
Ariana is now in her final year at Boston College and has returned to London recently to re-visit the QMUL campus!