I came to London prepared to not like it. I strive to keep an open mind when going somewhere, but I’ve heard enough ridiculous things about English culture that I was biased from the beginning. Example; you can’t say “blackboard” because that may be construed as racist. Even though it’s a board. And it’s black, a color that existed before humans were even a little squirt of DNA, oozing in primordial muck. Example; CCTV cameras everywhere, an Orwellian future come to life. Example; when travelling the loudest, drunkest, most disrespectful-of-the-local-culture chaps are usually the Brits.
Then again, the United States started the Iraq war and is on the cusp of electing a moron…
So with rather low expectations I left the club in Berlin (at 3am), got on the wrong bus to the airport (twice), gave up and took a taxi, savored the worst flight of my life on Ryanair, got glared at by the custom’s official because I meet the exact standard of a no-good backpacker with too many stamps in his passport, and then took a bus from the airport to downtown London.
A Sunny Day in the City
Getting off the bus with my backpack, the first thing on my mind wasn’t sleep. It was food, and I was damn well determined I wasn’t going to eat anything but fish in chips. If all the fish and chips shops were closed I would have had no choice but to starve.
In my quest I got to see the electric shaver building, the dildo building, the HMS Belfast, London Bridge, and Tower Bridge. I loved it because I’ve noticed these monuments in movies and seeing the sights in person was great! Tower Bridge in particular. It must be like seeing the Hollywood sign for the first time after years of being exposed to it on a screen.
Every city has a feeling. My hometown of 3,000 people feels inviting, safe, and dull. New York City feels insane and electric. Bangkok feels like a place that I never want to go again.
London feels good. I’m sure there are other adjectives a native Londoner would use, but I’ve only been here a handful of days. I like the combination of old and new. Flashy buildings next to churches that were around when people enjoyed jousting and mutton. The streets are clean, the river Thames is filthy, and the public transit system works great.
I also enjoy going to clubs, and London has some great choices. The Ministry of Sound is known by EDM fans worldwide and it didn’t disappoint. Four areas, four DJ’s, four times the fun. I also had a blast at XOYO, which fully deserves its spot on the Top 100 Clubs list. While I’ve decided to not drink on this trip, I got a kick out of learning where the word “Pub” comes from. In London there are places called “Public Houses” which are sort of like bars with better atmosphere and a place to sit down and read a book. Brilliant! Shorten “Public House” and you get “Pub”.
I wrote all of the words above while sitting in a coffee shop in an upscale hotel in London, looking out at Big Ben. Pro tip, if you ever need to sit somewhere for a few hours with a great atmosphere and comfortable seating, go to a hotel lobby. These tend to have great lounges, awesome chairs, fast WiFi, and nobody is going to bug you.
As for the resolve, I can definitely see myself spending a month or two in London. It costs about the same as New York and it offers many of the same benefits. Lots of people, great parks, good public transport, and cool clubs. When I go back to England I’d also like to get out of London and see some castles and other famed towns like Manchester or Liverpool. I get a kick out of visiting places whose name I’ve only ever heard about on TV.
So it is that I wrap up this post on London. I came, I saw, I didn’t conquer because the UK has already done enough of that in the last 500 years. If you’d like to check out London I recommend it, and if done carefully you can probably get by on about 40 pounds a day. If done very carefully, maybe even 30. For example, you can save 5 pounds a day by buying a day pass for the bus, then using it over and over again by covering up the date with your thumb and flashing it at the apathetic driver. But don’t tell the British I said to do that, I’d like to be allowed back into the UK one day.