When I tell people that I’m from London, it’s not uncommon for a flash of confusion to cross their face. “But, you don’t have a British accent…” they stammer as they question the legitimacy of my citizenship claim. “London, Ontario” I explain, shattering any trace of excitement the other person may have experienced at the prospect of speaking to a true Brit from the land of foggy days and royal weddings.

I’m from London, Ontario, Canada. Born in St Joe’s hospital. Native of the North-East. Highbury Ave., Fanshawe Park Rd. and Huron St. mark my turf.  Despite the amazing experiences and accent that I would have gained growing up around the corner from Big Ben, I know that I would not be the person that I am today had my roots gripped another part of the earth’s soil.

London is known as the Forest City because settlers built the original town in the middle of a forest. Ever since, trees have carried symbolic meaning for the city as it’s community grows and grows. It’s nickname proudly serves as the emblem for London’s flag, various sports clubs, and has inspired several art projects around the downtown core. My summer project, the Forest City Series, will continue to uphold this proud tradition and explore the city of London – my personal roots – one hidden gem at a time.

As a naive high schooler obsessed with the idea of travelling away from home, I hardly took the time to appreciate the city that played such a strong role in crafting my personality and cultural identity.  I considered London a working town. Not a bad place to settle down, grow a family and live a happy life… but it was always just missing something. A certain je ne sais quoi that I couldn’t put my finger on. Ottawa’s vivacity, parliament, and bilingualism had that je ne sais quoi quality that I was so desperate to satiate at 17.

Now that I’m back in London for the summer, for what may be the last time, I want to take the time to rediscover my roots. The younger me had a one-track mind; ignoring London’s hidden gems to make room for globetrotting day dreams. I didn’t give myself the opportunity to appreciate my home town, but not this time. Over the summer months, I’m determined to discover these hidden gems and share some unique London hot-spots, festivals, people and experiences with the world.

Stay tuned for more stories about Canada’s London, the Forest City.