Distances and directions

Next September it will be three years since I moved to London, and I still get a bit confused when I look at a London map :-D

I used to live at places where you either lived above or below the river, and saying I live above the river was the same as saying you’re place is below mine. But with all the curves and near loops the Thames describes, it’s impossible to absolutely determine if a given location is where you expect it to be.

Add to it some big parks in the middle, a couple of motorway like lanes which can’t be crossed unless you’re riding some kind of vehicle (like that horribly unpleasant Euston Road) and street layouts trying to avoid any square angle at all the times and you have a very confused me in the scene.

And what apparently looks like far away is actually quite near, such as Camden and Baker Street, yet one thinks of Camden as being way up north, but its prefix is simply NW1. Kilburn looks nearer, but its even more up north than Camden. Notting Hill looks nearer as well but it’s farther than you would expect; Bayswater road linearity is very misleading and what takes 4 minutes in a bus may take you 20 minutes of good, fast paced walking. Marble Arch and Lancaster Gate are left behind and you’re sweating and feeling the strong smell of Hyde Park’s recently cut grass deep inside your nose, and can’t see the moment when you reach Notting Hill Gate.

Even more, once you get used to non-linear streets and avenues, it somehow feels disturbing to be walking for a long time in a straight line, such as Whitehall. How come we are walking more than 25 meters without a single turn either left or right?, one wonders. Big straight avenues such as Vauxhall Bridge Road seem suspiciously European and mainstream, pretty much like taken out of context. And instead of walking all the way up Victoria Street, with its gray and boring institutional buildings, one ends up finding an alternative and erratic path in the side streets with its arch-describing shapes, intersecting one with another, which might be slower but be more entertaining.


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