A brief review of the Places I, Helena Baker, have lived in over the past Four Years

Since I left home as a scared, (although much thinner) 18 year old, I have managed to catapult myself to a variety of different locations. In the past five years I have lived in six houses, five cities and three countries. Many of these experiences are what I refer to as “amazing learning experiences,” if for no other reason than because nobody likes the negative Nellie who whines about living in Paris. And whilst I did genuinely grow from all of these experiences, I am excited I finally have a public platform on which to pontificate on the high (well, really, low) lights of my geographical excursions: namely Durham, Paris and London.

Durham

Quite possibly the most overrated city in all of England. It carries positive connotations. Its name inspires vague visions of a beautiful pastoral landscape. And whilst I have no idea who did the PR for Durham, I think Gwyneth Paltrow and her ridiculous GOOP should do everything in her power to hire them. Because although Durham has one very very beautiful square that boasts a cathedral, a castle and a green square on which toffs often play bowls that is indeed, resplendent, idyllic and picturesque. This one square does not mean Durham looks like Cambridge in much the same way that going to the gym twice a week does not mean I look like Claudia Schiffer.

And whilst Durham is a wonderful University, that has brilliant pastoral care and genuinely cares about its students do yourself a favour and google image Palace Green. Then book a ticket to Cambridge. Not only is this a genuinely beautiful city, but it is where most people in Durham want to be in any case.

Paris

Ah Paris!
In the movies the protagonist floats around Paris, she visits the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and Arc de Triomphe. Then she falls in love and despite cultural/linguistic/geographical barriers marries the man of her dreams. She also does all of this with beautiful hair as if finding the right hair products to match your hair in a foreign country where the water is, for some bizzare reason, always different, is an easy task. The reality is somewhat different. Making friends in a city where you barely speak the language and don’t know anyone is extremely difficult. Furthermore, navigating your way through the labyrinthine tube network, the, often, rude Parisians who do not welcome foreigners (regardless of the massive boom to the economy we bring) and the mass of people who make admiring the Eiffel Tour an exercise in craning your neck and pushing your way through the crowds is no easy feat. And if you think London Tubes are difficult, Parisian tube workers strike more than Britney Spears has comeback singles. Well worth a visit, but living there is not like the movies. At all.

London

Samuel Johnson once infamously said “when a man is tired of London he is tired of life” and since then every Londoner has been haunted by the unrealistic expectations set by this cumbersome myth. London does, certainly, have a wealth of culture: boasting numerous cinemas, a variety of museums and countless theatres. But, at the end of the day, what I want more than Kim Kardashian wants her face on the front cover of US Weekly, is a place to park. Coming from the wonderous, exceptional and spectacular Northern city of Manchester I was not brought up with a paranoid need to check parking rights. I want to visit my friend, not rob the Bank of England, but now I need to consider if her zone matches my permit (which it never does), if the time slot parking is forbidden coincides with my planned visit and frankly this is more planning than should ever be necessary for a trip round the corner. And of course, regardless of the planning the one second you quickly pop into Tesco Express for milk and park where you shouldn’t the parking patrol pounces. And I wouldn’t mind, but the traffic is still horrendous, the drivers constantly angry and parking still difficult to find.

Living in all of these cities has proven one thing to me; Manchester is clearly the greatest city in all of the Land. Like Goldilocks finding the perfect fit- Manchester is not too big, not too small, not too hot and not too cold. Indeed it is just right.

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