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How to Find Rest in a City

We used to live in London, in Camden Town. It can be hard to find rest in a busy city, a city always awake, on the go and never stopping (some of the reasons I love it there tbh!). When you meet people who aren’t ‘city people’ or have never lived in a city, they often say ‘oh it’s so busy and noisy, I could never live there’, ‘people never stop, they’re always rushing about’, ‘I don’t like cities’ etc, etc. Having gotten to know the city of London over the last 15 years and having lived just outside the city of New York City when I was a child, I now realise that someone who says you can’t find rest in the city likely does not know that city very well.

I love the countryside, I grew up in Hampshire and in rural Connecticut in the US, beautiful quiet, green places. I love animals, I love the smell of a farm, especially horses! However I also love cities, they’re fascinating places full of cultural diversity, delicious food, interesting architecture, coffee shops on every corner, never a dull moment. Yes it is easier to find quiet, calm and rest in the countryside. I do find being surrounded by nature really soothing for my soul. However it is most definitely possible to find pockets of rest and calm in London and New York (and I imagine most other cities in the world!). You just have to be more intentional about it and even better if you can avoid visiting in school holidays! The best bit is you really can find green whilst having the world at your door step.

When I had a newborn in London my way of resting was to pop the baby in the buggy, go grab a takeaway tea and brownie (from one of the numerous cafes and coffee shops) and go for a walk. I would find a place to sit and drink my tea and eat my brownie whilst baby slept (one child in particular would only sleep in the buggy so that is how this started!). Caffeine, chocolate, sleeping baby plus a walk was the perfect mood booster! London is amazing for having little pocket parks around almost every corner, little hidden oases. I would soak in the greenery and enjoy the quiet.

Ways I’ve found to rest in London:

  • Pocket park (get off the beaten track in the small neighbourhoods, most are so quiet you’d never know you were amongst one of the busiest cities in the world)
  • One of the many large parklands (the Heath, Regents park etc)
  • A canal side walk (the walk to and around Camden Lock, ending up in Regents Park, is a favourite of mine. Water is so calming for the soul.
  • A quiet coffee shop (preferably with a sleeping baby or when you have a sitter!)
  • Library visit (if you’re with kids then St Pancras library has a great kids area with a cafe so you can sit whilst kids play! The British Library has a great cafe too, this one is more relaxing without kids)
  • Art gallery
  • Southbank Centre; Royal Festival Hall cafe – A large hall with a cafe that you can easily find a spot to pull up your buggy, get a coffee and people watch looking out at the river outside. This hall is actually reasonably quiet inside when there isn’t an event on and it’s not the summer holidays. The Queen Elizabeth Roof garden cafe at the Southbank Centre – outdoor oasis overlooking the river, also buggy friendly.

And in Manhattan, New York City:

Photos taken in and around Central Park; the pond and the cafe next to Central Park Zoo

As you can see most of the ways I find rest include tea and cake or natural space with water!

Psalm 23 v 2: ‘He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters’

You can find green space and water in most cities I’ve ever visited around the world. Go search them out!

Where are your rest places where you live? What are your favourite rest places in and around your favourite cities?

If you live in a city I’d love to hear about and see pictures of the places you find to retreat to! If you have a favourite city and know of a great rest place amongst the busy please do share below in the comments. Let’s inspire each other to seek out the rest places amongst the hustle and bustle.

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