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Thoughts From London. Entry 2.

November 25, 2009 1 comment

Trafalgar SquareAs promised, London highlights.

Photo: Trafalgar Square

-Escalators get the point of being escalators here. They move quickly.

-Dapper gents in properly fitted, classy suits everywhere. Nothing like a handsome, slender man in a nice suit. It can lift a girl’s spirits.

-Free newspaper in the morning. Free newspaper at night. Both featuring outrageous (and often hilarious) headlines.

-Double decker buses. We have to pay good money to take one in DC. Here, it’s just your normal bus ride.

-London pubs. I would take one over any U.S. dive bar any day (and definitely over a U.S. pub). Some of these pubs have been serving beer longer than the U.S. has been in existence. But whether they opened 300 years ago, or two months ago, they all have the welcoming, cheery atmosphere that comes with gorgeous wooden bars and friendly barkeeps. And at some locations you can get delicious Thai food. Only downside: they close way too early, even on weekends.

Harrods Scarecrow-It’s been a couple of years since I’ve been in New York City at Christmas. But I do believe London has NYC beat for department store Christmas displays. I’m not sure I’ve seen anything quite like Harrods “Wizard of Oz” themed storefronts this year. And if you are wondering why “Wizard of Oz”at Christmas, I found out it’s tradition here to watch that movie on Christmas Day. Also, Oxford and Regent St are both done up to the nines. Christmas lights (and other shiny stuff) galore. Photo: Scarecrow at Harrods

-Fantastic, beautiful, brilliant museums are free. I’ve now been to the Tate Modern, the British Museum, the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the Victoria&Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, and didn’t spend a penny to get in. (I did however spend quite a few pennies in the amazing gift shops). These places are worth going to for the buildings themselves. I love the Smithsonian system in DC, but London wins in the free museum category.

-For history geeks like me (and I’m not even that into it), places like the Tower of London and the Winston Churchill Cabinet War Rooms and Museum are totally worth the few pounds it costs to get in. To stand in those places, and recall the history-defining moments that happened in them, is a privilege.

-Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge. You see them over and over in pictures, movies, calendars, and so on. But, like the Sistine Chapel and the U.S Capitol, some places are worth putting in the effort to see in person.

Christmas Festival-I’ve run through Kensington Gardens twice this week. The first run I stumbled upon a Peter Pan statue. The second time, the Diana Memorial Fountain. I went to a Christmas festival in Hyde Park Monday evening. In April I spent some quality time with the tulips in St. James’ Park. The parks here are lovely, and filled with spots that will make you want to pause and stay awhile (even if it is rainy). Photo: Winter Wonderland Festival

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Categories: Christmas, London, Travel

Thoughts from London. Entry 1.

November 24, 2009 Leave a comment

This is my second trip to London this year. Some would call me lucky, others would call me crazy (mostly because of the exchange rate). But, whether lucky or crazy, London has been exactly what I needed this year. An escape from reality. A break from stress and anxiety. A bubble to happily reside in for 10 days at a time.

And while I adore London, and its inhabitants, on my second trip here I recognize it is a city with faults just like any other.

1. When its rainy, or maybe even when it’s not, Londoners avoid eye contact when walking by you on the street. Today I made an effort to smile at quite a few locals. I received no smiles in return. In fact, I don’t think a single person looked at me. If I was a newcomer in this city, with little support, I can imagine that would be a tough.

2. Fast, small cars everywhere equal reckless driving. It annoys me to no end that men (and women!) driving their small, sleek fancy European cars will accelerate to high speeds just to go a short way, therefore scaring the crap out of the pedestrians who aren’t expecting the roar of the engine. If I wasn’t so lazy, I would look up the pedestrian deaths here as compared to New York. My bet is London wins for most people taken out. Drivers here seem to care not at all for the safety of the people crossing the street. I have feared for my life at least once a day since I’ve been here.

Two faults (besides the obvious hit on the bank account), that’s all I have so far. Tomorrow…the highlights.

Categories: London, Travel