Appreciation of beauty is always surprising to me.  That’s exactly how I feel whenever I order a virgin Shirley Temple.  How can something so non-alcoholic look so good?  The shades of salmon meld so well into the meaty red at the bottom of a glass, where the ice sits and in turn buoys up those technicolor creations called marashino cherries.  A gorgeous drink that doesn’t cause the giggles or tipsy rants.  You see, I don’t always go for the heady factor in my drinks, despite my reputation.  Which is why I adore Nicole’s story about London.  Despite its reputation, the city is beautiful to someone, and that’s all that matters.  Please enjoy today’s Summer Chick Tale.

Not many people would describe London as a beautiful city, but the great thing about beauty is its subjectivity. To me, beauty is an experience, and while a lot of people these days seem to equate beauty to perfection, I see it differently – for me what defines beauty is the imperfections, and having an acceptance and love of them. My experience of beauty in this city is almost daily – from East End street art and a smiling homeless man, to riding my bike through the city streets, weaving between black cabs and red buses with the world at my pedalling feet.

London is so much more than the sights you read about in magazines and travel guides – in fact I would never define it by things like Big Ben or the London Eye – it’s the experiences going on at street level that make it unique. Within the space of five minutes you could pass anything from a man playing a traffic cone to an enthralled audience, a transvestite overtaking you on his bicycle or a naked crowd lining up for free underwear outside a West End store. Anything goes here, and it’s refreshing to feel accepted by a city that takes even the kookiest under its wing.

London certainly isn’t perfect – it’s anything but – it’s gritty, challenging, friendly and fun all within the space of minutes, but for me it’s a perfect balance of flavors that I can never get enough of. London is a little bit of everything all rolled into one, and if you accept it for all its flaws and give in to loving it anyway then she’ll love you right back –  just like that sibling that sometimes annoys the hell out of you, yet you could never imagine life without them.

Author soaking in London

Five and a half years ago I decided to make London my new home and it’s changed me in ways I never thought possible – some good, some bad, but it’s made me cherish everything that is London. It’s made me more patient, tolerable and accepting, yet it still has the power to make me frustrated at walking behind a slow-walker or having to wait more than two minutes for a train. I’ve met so many people during my time here, and every time their story is the same – ‘I didn’t mean to stay for this long, but it just kind of…happened. Now, I don’t know when I’ll leave.’ It’s all part of London’s big plan you see – she’s smarter than you think, so never underestimate her power.

I fully subscribe to the belief that that anyone that tires of London is tired of life. However deep you want to delve into her abyss of quirkiness and excitement is up to you. It’s been a gradual process for me, and while I’ll always be Australian, London also owns a part of me now, and it’s a part I know I’m never getting back. London gets under your skin while you’re not looking and takes hold – by the time you realize it, it’s too late – You’re hers now.

I’ve never felt more at home than I do living here – and that’s coming from someone who is fiercely patriotic to her home country, but there’s something about being a Londoner that’s made me grow up, gain more confidence and believe in my capabilities. Us city folk can have a bad reputation for being competitive and selfish, but in a city that will eat you up if you let it, sometimes you need to come across this way to survive. London tests you on a daily basis, so I try not be annoyed at that woman risking her life to push in front of me on the tube, or the guy who looks the other way when I smile…maybe they’re just having an off day with their city, while I’m feeling the opposite? I just take it as a chance to learn more about the way she shapes the people that live here.

She does

Whatever camp you reside on, the lovers or the haters, it makes no difference to me – London is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. This is the place that’s been like a best friend to me for the past five years – she’s seen me cry, she’s seen me laugh, and she’s seen more than enough of me drunk, dishevelled and debaucherous. And the best thing is she loves me anyway – what’s more beautiful than that?

Author bio: Nicole is a 20-something Aussie living in London, and recently set herself the goal of becoming location independent by the end of 2012.  She started a blog called Woman Seeks World focusing on helping others also achieve this goal, as well as including comprehensive travel guides and loads of content on extra income ideas and how to work from anywhere.  Nicole also just launched another website called The Living In London Guide which covers everything you need to know about moving to and living in the UK capital.  You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Summer Chick Tales was conceived from my love of the season and my obsession with slurpees.  I always have one every summer.  I also love women writers.  Lots.  If you want to submit a story or be in charge of the mojito station, see the editorial schedule.  Come on, join the XX chromosome party.

Photo of London: howzey

All other photos provided by the author