In praise of London.

I am going to sing the praises of the worlds greatest city, London, today. London is where the worlds greatest empire was administrated and is an incredible mix of history and culture. The old and the new, but I’m going to look just a little deeper at what makes this great city so incredible.

Firstly London is best in the summer I think. On a hot day in London the atmosphere is amazing, mostly though it amazes scientists that so many chemicals could mix in the air without actually exploding. London’s entire above ground public transport infrastructure is powered by Diesel. When the wind doesn’t blow or it doesn’t rain for a few days the air can get a little…dense. This is why Londoners actually prefer proper British weather, no one likes to be able to chew on air that tastes of exhaust pipe.

On the buses, London has the wonderful red buses, sadly the old Routemasters are no more but the London bus is still readily identifiable.  A common phrase is that “you can wait all day for a bus, then 3 come along at once. They don’t, I have never seen that happen. What is unique about them though is that London bus drivers belong to a secret organisation that is trying to combat obesity in society. They do this by making sure you understand that slovenly behaviour and strolling to the bus stop is not to be tolerated. You must walk briskly or better still run for the door the second the driver opens it because if you are not in the right spot at the right time there is no waiting for you. It’s no good running and waving at the bus who is about to leave. You knew the rules, you now have to wait for the next one. This keeps you fit and focuses the mind. It is good for you.

Equally recognisable are the London Black cabs. These are quite the tourist draw and the cabbies are fantastically knowledgable about the great city. They know tourists love having a ride in a Black Cab and as you don’t know your way around, they will show you. Hop in a Black Cab and give him a destination in a foreign accent. He will immediately understand you are not local and you will want to see some sights on your journey between your pick up and drop off point. So will often, if he has time, take you on a scenic journey rather than a less interesting direct route. Yes you pay more but he knows you probably don’t mind and as a stranger don’t want to appear ignorant, so he very kindly won’t mention this detail to you. He will just assume you wanted to have the nice experience of the many sights of London from the comfort of his cab.

The public transport system in London is fantastic. You can easily get where ever you want to go, but the locals will tell you it can ‘cost an arm and a leg’. It is important to understand, as you will, when you are using the tube in particular, that the cost can be literal rather than figurative. Your actual arm and leg are the price you can pay if you don’t keep your wits about you at certain stations on the tube network. You will hear regular announcements about “a person under a train”. Those persons are not performing maintenance. The tube staff are very humble and know you do not want to be treated like idiots. So when one of the regular stoppages occurs on the tube, they like to keep information to a minimum as no-one wants to hear their tube or train will be delayed by an hour or more. Far better that you can hope one might be along in a minute or two. This also applies to staff on overground trains.

When you come to London it is important that you understand you are in the worlds greatest city. There is a tourist board that spends millions of pounds a year reinforcing this impression. You have travelled across the world to experience such an incredible place and the local business’s help you understand how lucky you are to be here. Restaurants and Bars for example know that you want to have the very best and of course everyone knows you pay for the best. So you will be happy to pay £10 a round for a beer and a small glass of wine. Who on earth wants to pay the sort of prices you would pay in the colonies? You want the real quality experience and paying world-class prices is part of that as any tourist knows. The hospitality trade in London will not let you down in this respect.

As I said London has a great public transport system. The people who run it aspire to it being the best in the world. Certainly with the highest prices in the world for a train ticket, you really get that world-class feeling. It can only be a matter of time before the quality of the service they provide comes to within spitting distance of the price you are paying. You can’t have your cake and eat it as the old saying goes, even if it is a stupid saying.

Londoners are very concerned that you are having a good time and it appears they employ people to ensure this. On most street corners is a person asking if you have any issues you wish to discuss. It seems if you have a big issue, they would like to hear about it. I think you have to pay a pound or so to get stuff off your chest, but it’s small change. That’s another extraordinary thing. All the parking meters and vending machines need English coins to operate and as you’ve probably only got notes on you, London has people ensuring you have the appropriate money. They wander the streets checking you are ok for coins, “Got any change”?  They will ask, I’ve always been too shy to take money from them as they look like they could do with a few bob themselves, I guess they are some sort of charity workers.

So there you go. London is a tremendous place and full to the brim with incredible sights and sounds. You will have the experience of your life here and a nice reassuring hole in your finances to remind you of what a great time you had when you get home.

Categories: Raves, Travel

5 replies »

  1. Well Sandy you obviously had your tongue firmly in your cheek when writing this but, as you know from the time you have been over here, there was a time when it really was a nice experience to be in London.

    Don’t hold me to it too specifically, but probably about 12 maybe 13 years since.

    A time when you could walk around London without trudging through filth, could enjoy the Parks without being assaulted (in other words overpowering) by alien noises and smells and enjoy an evening out without saving up for weeks before hand. I wouldn’t even go to the Proms or the Theatre today whereas they were both once a regular treat.

    But in defence of London, what city has not gone to pot in the same period?

    Although I do remember sitting eating at the pavement tables in a Parisian restaurant 15 years ago and having an oh so refined Parisienne, allow her minature dog to ‘dump’ less than a metre from our table and wander on as if it was a daily occurrence. Perhaps it was. Funnily enough, that might not happen today but has Paris improved in other ways?

    To be honest even though it is less than an hour away, I don’t want to find out.

    Now is a very good time to be old, I’ve had London and Paris, when it was good to be there and will probably spend the rest of my time avoiding going there again.

    Of course those coming up behind know no different, so to them it is probably just as wonderful as it once was for us. How bizarre is that?

  2. Actually London is still pretty fabulous, Wonderful history and architecture of course. I always try and walk from place to place if I have time. The litter is less than it used to be and I still feel safe at night. It is the price of things I am primarily having a dig at of course. My Favourite Restaurant used to be the Boisdale, but when they want £12.00 for a nip of glenmorangie and getting on for £30 for a steak you know something is amiss. My wife and I went out for dinner in London for some occasion or other a while ago and including train fare, food drink and hotel room, none of which were smart at all. We spent £500!! on a bloody night out. It is simply ridiculous. Train fares are up an average of 8% this year and there most certainly is not an equivalent increase in quality. Oh look this is have a blog post by response. Must book a trip to Paris!

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