...which is what Byron grants to London in Don Juan. I went to London to meet some friends today, and, as the last couple of times, was struck by how utterly different it is from here. Here is extremely nice; it has its own vibe, a rather village-y feel that I enjoy (I love towns small enough for you to run into people you know on a regular basis). But London is, well, London. It's crowded and busy and this makes it most unpleasant, but if you are seated somewhere above, as I was today when I went to my favourite patisserie, it also makes it lovely to observe.
Also, London has a smell. Or, to be strictly accurate, London at night has a smell. Or, to be even more accurate, London at night in summer is lovely, and part of the loveliness is the smell. Whenever I think of London at night in summer the streets are always relatively empty (probably because the places I've gone at night recently have been out of the centre), the weather is fine and balmy, and there is a smell that smells, calmly and deliciously, of London at Night: not hot, not thick, but a sort of warm, gentle smell. One walks slowly through the relaxed summer evening, thinking how unhurried and enjoying it all is, the people glad to be outside or glad to be able to be outside, somehow even the streets more genteel and elegant (even when they're not). To be outside on a summer night in London is a fine thing.
You will say to yourself - and you would be justified in saying - why has she illustrated this post with a picture of a column in some unidentified ugly area? Well, that column is in fact a column in the King's Cross tube station, and every time someone comes to visit me here and we go to King's Cross (that is, every time someone comes to visit me here, since KC is our terminus tube station), I point to that column say, "That column is where Mr. Fallen kissed me good-bye before we parted, the first time I came to visit him." Which it is.
(the man kind of ruins the lonely glamour of the picture, but you try taking a photo in King's Cross tube station that has no one in it.)