Monday, March 18, 2013

A Taste of London, England

I ask myself what my lasting overall impression of London was … dank, dark, crowded, and ultra-expensive.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t things to like about the city, there certainly are, mainly being that there is a lot to see, but today I wanted to give you an overall feeling and discuss my general experience.
The Weather
Being from Los Angeles, I’m absolutely spoiled with 75 degree weather year round, and for that reason alone, London would be an impossible place for me to live. Whereas Southern California weather in March feels like the nicest of summer days elsewhere, London was hovering near, or often below, freezing during my entire stay, with fog and grey clouds shrouding the sun for good measure. A steady and stiff wind pushes you back and chills you on the dreary nights you choose to face the cold, and flurries of snow and rain were ever-present during my stay.
If I had been an Englishman in the early 1600’s I would have assuredly been aboard the Mayflower to America with the Pilgrims, not fleeing Britain due to religious persecution, but due to perceived persecution by the weather.
Big Ben, with his permanent wintry grey jacket on

Crowds
The Underground: Rush Hour
Running hurried for my departing plane I try to hurl myself rock star like from the platform into the crowded rail car. Instead of carrying me above them like a God, I am thrown off like water trying to board a sinking ship. The next train is a six minute wait (unusual as they usually run much more quickly.)
Standing at the front of the line, the crowd swells behind me, growing impatient, as finally the train pulls into station- packed. If no one were to exit there would be no room to board.
Fortunately, a few people exit the rail car, allowing a precious "lucky" few to force their way on. There simply is no more room for another soul to board. The crowd grumbles as the train’s doors slide closed, leaving those of us inside having a huge clothed orgy in the cab. Literally, people are touching you from every possible angle; individual space is a fantasy.

Buckingham Palace
I go to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace on Saturday morning. I try to penetrate the crowd, but it is like trying to dig through marble with your fingernails, only more frustrating. I vacate the premises quickly, leaving the tourists to the pickpockets.

Expensive
London is, without a doubt, one of the most expensive cities in the world. Businesses brag about being the cheapest in town while their prices would be, at best, slightly above average in Los Angeles. A tiny, cramped room in the less than posh part of town costs $200 a night, a public transport (Oyster) card lasting you three to four days costs $30, and to deal with what would be massive congestion, British authorities charge a pretty penny for bringing your car into the center, thus assuring a crowded commute on public transport instead; at least it is more fuel efficient.
  
I actually met a computer programmer who spends about 6,000 pounds (over $9,000) a year to commute via public transport to his job! “Well, I get things done on the train,” he explains cheerfully as we sit across each other on the Gatwick Express train, $30 for the thirty minute ride. At least we have our own private seats.
Want to live in a nice area of London like South Kensington? To own a one bedroom flat would run over a million pounds (1.5 million American dollars.) Like most big cities, space is sold at a premium price.
Not only are prices through the roof, taxes are too. VAT (Value Added Tax (sales tax) of 20% in addition to up to 50% of your income taken by the tax man, plus high transport and housing costs discussed (at least in London), it’s a wonder anyone in Britain has a pound left over to buy more than groceries.

What’s Awesome
The sights of London are spectacular. The National Museums are free to get into, and sights like Big Ben and the English Parliament are a sight to behold. There is a lot to do here, and a lot to see. You could spend days wandering through the British Museum alone, and for these reasons I would go so far as to recommend this city, despite what I have written above, as a must see on your world travels.

Overall
Not at all sorry to have visited this city, but little interest in going back, but don’t let that dissuade you from stopping there for a couple days. 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Follow us + like us on Facebook as well --