To Londinium

Sunset over London Millenium BridgeI sadly don’t have a time machine, so can’t visit London as the Romans built it 2000 years ago, but I am popping over to London tomorrow for a few days to catch up with a whole variety of people. The wonders of cheap flights mean that somehow I can get from the nearest airport to us, about 15km away, to London Gatwick, and back again, for about thirty British pounds.

It will probably cost me more to get the train into London than the flight from Germany.

Admittedly, for this price I am not allowed any actual luggage, the luxury of a pre-booked seat and well, I'm probably just holding onto the wing rather than travelling inside the fuselage with everyone else, but such is life travelling economy.

I really like London, it is certainly one of my favourite cities as cities go. Two thousand years of culture and various civilisations attempting to either build it or flatten it have left their mark, and you definitely get a sense of history as you walk around it.

I lived in London for two years, and observed a change in my opinion of the place. Before I moved there, I was of the mindset of the non-Londoner, that being that it was a large, unfriendly and crowded place that you would have to be mad to live in. Plus the fact that many Londoners went on about it like it was the promised land compared to other UK cities irked somewhat.

Tower bridge London

And yes, there are certainly some flaws to a London existence. It’s not exactly cheap to live there, for starters. Rent is hilariously measured per week instead of per month as with the rest of the more financially astute country. Usually because if you actually look at the monthly cost of rent in London the figures don’t fit on the page properly.

Commuting in London is another fairly poor experience. There is, certainly, an absolutely fine transport system, and if you are travelling at any time other than rush hour, you can usually get some form of public transportation from point A to point B at any time of the day or night. Even if the night buses can be a tad scary.

But travelling at rush hour the whole thing turns into a complete nightmare, as the entire working population decide en masse to flood the system to well beyond capacity. Cattle travel better. In fact, I’m pretty sure laws exist to ensure cattle do travel better. There’s nothing quite like being pressed up against some sweaty armpits on your way to or from work to really make you question the whole purpose of life.

So, those are two fairly significant flaws with the place. But if you happen to have sufficient cash that the rent problem is not an issue, and you can somehow wangle a career or living location that allows you to largely circumscribe the rush hour commuting issues, then it turns out it’s a rather jolly place.

Skateboarder london

For starters, whilst it is a big place, a number of factors conspire to make this less of a challenge.

Firstly, an amazing and fairly cheap transport system exists to whisk you from point to point. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, London is less like a city, and more like a series of interconnected villages, each with their own character and reason for visiting. (Well ok, some of them may not be entirely worth visiting, but the thought is there.)

If you want culture and history, you can walk around the South Bank taking in all the theatres and arty venues, from the Tate Modern to Shakespeare’s Globe, then pootle down to the Houses of Parliament and through Westminster, down the corridors of political power and round to Trafalgar Square to peer at the lions and be saddened that the pigeons are no longer fed by tourists keen to get covered in bird shit.

If it’s the alternative scene you’re after, a quick tootle on the Northern line later and you’re in the heart of Camden, picking up weird stuff at the markets, feasting on goat curry and taking in the up and coming music scene.

London bridge sign writing water

If you’re more in the market for talking about sailing, rugby and fashion whilst quaffing  pints of some overpriced lager, Chelsea and the Kings Road will have you covered. Actually it’s a pretty lovely area too, and not too far from the Natural History Museum, where you can lose yourself for free for a long time. And if history doesn’t float your boat, the Science Museum next door rocks.

There are oodles and oodles more parts of London that I could talk about, but generally, it has something for everyone. If you’re into live music, you could find a venue pretty much every night that is showcasing some form of talent. Theatre is well and truly covered in the West End, arguably the worlds finest theatre district.

And if the city is just too much for you, London has a lot of parks. Central London for example, has 4,900 acres of Royal Park. You could go further afield and take in the free swimming baths of Hampstead Heath, a 320 acre park to the North of the city, which on a clear day affords tremendous views across the city. And if all you want to do is drink and eat, well, it’s safe to say you are covered. Stand in SoHo, for example, and there are 167 pubs within a kilometre. That would be an exciting pub crawl.

London phone box

My favourite activity in London, other than finding a lovely beer garden (the Woolpack on Bermondsey Road has a fine example), is just walking around and looking at all the buildings and people. From the London Eye, to the Royal Courts of Justice to the Houses of Parliament. Even Battersea Power Station. It’s a wonderful city and great to experience.

Ok, lyrical waxing over. I’m sure further updates will follow, and no doubt I’ll miss most of the above on this trip, filling it instead with visits to pubs and bars whilst catching up with friends. Another fine activity, I’m sure you’ll agree…

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