Hello Everyone. After our stay in Germany, we semi-reluctantly jetted off for a few days in London (where we needed to go to catch our flight to Dubai anyway). Hmmm….what to say about London? It’s big, crowded, filled with history, strangely familiar, and extremely expensive. After all the places we’ve been traveling to, a country where everyone speaks English was very easy (although some of their accents we’re more difficult to decipher than most “foreign” accents). While the language made it very easy to get around, it was also, to our surprise, strangely isolating. In many of the places we’ve traveled, just hearing someone speaking native-English automatically gives you something in common, making it easy to meet people and strike up a conversation. Doing that in London, where everyone speaks English, is weird and just slightly inappropriate and awkward, so we found London lonely in some ways.
The city is an interesting combination of ancient history and ultra-contemporary, as seen in this picture from the Tower of London
With only three days in the city, our trip was an exhausting whirlwind of hitting all of the most famous sites…Buckingham Palace, Big Ben/Parliament, Westminster Abbey, the “London Eye”, the British Museum, Tower of London, Tower Bridge, the Thames river and, of course, a few of London’s famous pubs.
Something else we found interesting was all of the pomp and circumstance around the royalty. You regularly see formal looking carriage procession with military escorts (wearing formal “redcoat” uniforms), and Bentley’s driving around with police escorts, driving up to places that literally have the red carpet rolled out. I think most people really like the royal family, too. It is just crazy to me that all of these people are living in this opulence merely because of who their great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather was.
Real life leprechauns in front of Buckingham Palace:-)
Getting to all of these sites was very easy on the extensive (although antiquated) London Underground subway system (also known as “the tube”). While efficient and convenient, it was ridiculously expensive for a subway. Tickets for the two of us would nearly rent us a tiny car in many cities in the US (I heard they jacked prices up to help pay for the Olympics). Of course, all things in London were expensive. Price tags were about the same as in the US, but in pounds instead of dollars. One pound is currently worth about $2.15! Everything required a fee, too (except the British Museum). The London Eye was 15 pounds each, as was the Tower of London. Even Westminister Abbey is 10 pounds each. I’ve never heard of a church that charges admission- let alone $21 each. Just locking up our bags for a few hours before we could check into our hotel cost us almost $25!
Another thing about London- the stories about the food are true. We stopped for fish & chips one day, figuring that since it is a “famous” British food, it would be OK. I don’t know how one screws up deep-fried fish, but this stuff was like chewing gum. My jaw was actually tired. The end was literally not even edible- you simply couldn’t chew it. Of course, if you aren’t budget-traveling like us, I’m sure you can find outstanding food. London is a very ethnically diverse city, so there is something for every taste- it just might end up costing you an arm and a leg.
One thing Shawn DID like in London was “Strongbow” hard cider in the pubs. In the US, any drink but beer and wine is merely a bottle of malt liquor with lipstick on it. Here, it was actually apple cider fermented from apple juice- very tasty. I, of course, would usually have a Guinness, which was also very good.
We stopped into a pub to kill a few hours before catching our plane to Dubai, and decided to look at our photos we’d taken over the prior couple of days. The owner of the pub noticed us, and invited Shawn back for a little photo-op
A few days in London was enough for us though. We’re not exactly big, crowded, bustling city people, so it was all a little overwhelming, although no more than I’d expect New York to be. (Getting used to looking the right direction before crossing the street was nerve-wracking, though.)