There’s lots that’s appealing about London: the events and the culture, the career opportunities and the sense excitement that comes from being in a place with such a history, such a continuing significance.
However, it’s also a big city, with crowds on the streets and crowds on the public transport. That’s why, whenever we do manage to get away to other parts of England, Matt and I will usually turn to each other and wonder aloud if we really have to go back.
I’m sure there are plenty of great places in England that we haven’t even been to yet, but based on almost two years of weekend mini-breaks, these would be my top three non-London-but-still-in-England places to live:
Perhaps I’m biased here, as Salisbury was the first place we visited outside London and thus it was the first time we realised how green the rest of the country was. We did the usual touristy things in Salisbury, visiting Old Sarum and the Cathedral and making a day trip to the stone circles at Avebury and Stonehenge. But I also liked the market square, the parks and the walking paths. At once point during our stay, I was so serious about a South-West move, that I even stopped by the public library to check if it would meet our needs.
Durham was another place that had us checking the real estate agent windows. Again, it had a cathedral and castle and history to spare, but what I liked most was the way the locals seemed engaged with that history. Outside the library (which unfortunately was closed) we stopped to look at a newly unveiled statue. Noticing our interest, a local man came up to us and explained the story. He’d barely finished and left when another local replaced him at our side saying that he’d got the story wrong. A strong university presence meant that what otherwise might have just been a gorgeous town – and it is gorgeous with that huge cathedral and the river – also felt quite dynamic and an appealing place to live.
We spent our first wedding anniversary in Cambridge, and fell in love with both the town and the surrounding countryside. The weather was perfect, as we wandered around the University Backs and out to The Orchard for scones and tea, ate at local pubs and were punted along the river. Central Cambridge, like central anywhere, had the usual high street shops, but the town centre felt so much more romantic with the presence of the River Cam.
Sadly, it’s probably too far to commute from Cambridge or Salisbury or especially Durham to our jobs in London every day – so moving out of the city isn’t really an option. But we’re off to explore the out-lying neighbourhood of Kingston this afternoon. I’ll let you know what I think.