Henry James said this about London:
"It is difficult to speak adequately or justly of London. It is not a pleasant place; it is not agreeable, or cheerful, or easy, or exempt from reproach. It is only magnificent. You can draw up a tremendous list of reasons why it should be insupportable. The fogs, the smoke, the dirt, the darkness, the wet, the distances, the ugliness, the brutal size of the place, the horrible numerosity of society, the manner in which this senseless bigness is fatal to amenity, to convenience, to conversation, to good manners...all this and much more you may expatiate upon... But these are occasional moods, and for one who takes it as I take it, London is on the whole the most possible form of life. I take it as an artist and as a bachelor; as one who has the passion of observation and whose business is the study of human life. It is the biggest aggregation of human life - the most complete compendium of the world. The human race is better represented here than anywhere else, and if you learn to know your London you learn a great many things."
Today on Buzzfeed, there was an article titled "36 Reasons to Love London." Also all true.
London isn't pleasant (except the parks...and maybe Southbank, but only at night). It isn't agreeable. It's not cheerful, it's certainly not an easy place to be, and there's a lot to criticize (the silliness of street signs, the inability of people to walk a consistent speed, the exchange rate...), but it's magnificent. I was really homesick when I was there, and the "brutal size of the place" and the "horrible numerosity of society" didn't help, since it was very easy to feel like one in a crowd of millions (which was true) when all I wanted was some company.
That said, I did have an amazing time. I ate way too much food (best pizza I've ever had in my life is in Notting Hill, btw - Otto Pizzeria on Chepstow), went to all the museums, walked a ton, and just lived the city. Taking a boat ride up the Thames was amazing, and, as if all that wasn't enough, I got a huge amount of research for my dissertation done and met some very nice people on my adventures.
My best observation about London is that it's a place I want to live. I don't want to just visit, because it's overwhelming. I want to be in the city, know the city, and really experience it every day. I love Paris, and Paris is a place I want to visit as often as I can, but I absolutely don't want to live there. I think the difference is simple - London is alive, and constantly changing, while still holding onto the past and to tradition. It's manageable because of its modernity. Paris, on the other hand, is overwhelming to the senses because of its beauty and its timelessness. It doesn't feel real.
Here's a couple of photos, although, honestly, the experience was so much bigger than I can accurately put into pictures - I LIVED London, and that experience is still not quite settled in me yet.
This is just kind of a small sampling - I've got tons more, but I'll save those for a rainy day. :)