What I Liked and Disliked About London
I spent last week in London, and admittedly I’ve been slacking these past two weeks on updating the blog, sorry! I had a number of things that I liked about my stay in London, but I also had a number of things I did not like about it, so I’m going to give you a quick rundown of the pros and cons I found.
We’ll start off with the bad news and transition in to the good news to end on a happy note.
I had just come from Iceland which is largely considered to be quite expensive, but where the food is concerned, London was even more expensive. Maybe I shouldn’t have planned on starting my trip in what are likely to be the two most expensive cities on my agenda! It certainly hurt the bank a little bit. For example, my first day in London I did one of the free walking tours. I’ve been trying to do as many free or nearly free activities as possible (you’re encouraged to tip on the free walking tours) to minimize my daily spending. After the walking tour I was positively famished so I went to the first place I saw for food. It was a burger place. I was surprised to see how many restaurants specialized specifically in burgers while in London. I had always thought of burgers being a distinctly American food. Anyway I went to this burger place, and the burgers cost from 15-25 pounds. That’s $23-39 for just a burger, that’s not even including fries or a drink. Insanity! And the burger wasn’t even very good, it was a little dry. The best gourmet burger place I’ve found was outside Washington D.C. And you can get a fantastic burger, fries, and a milkshake for $25. It’s fair to say that I was astounded by the price of something as simple as a hamburger, and it was thoroughly now worth it for the price. The trend was similar for other foods and drinks, though I was able to find reasonable deals for many things. For some reason the burgers were just astoundingly overpriced.Navigating the Streets:
In certain areas of the city I found it quite hard to find my way around. Street signs were very poor in areas, and it led to me occasionally walking back and forth trying to find the street I must have walked right past, when it was just under my nose. I’m sure I got some funny looks from the occasional local sitting outside a café on the street corner. Seeing as I would occasionally be standing at an intersection turning in circles trying to find the sign for the intersecting street, then being unable to locate it I would cross the street and repeat the process thinking that I might have a better view from across the street.They Drive On the Wrong Side of the Road:
Silly English people, don’t you know you’re supposed to drive on the right side of the road? I always had to look both ways multiple times before crossing a street, because I just couldn’t get it into my head that they would be driving on the left so I should look right before looking left. I also almost got ridden over by a bike a couple times either after or directly before crossing the street. This also led to me not really knowing which side of the sidewalk to walk on. Do I follow the driving rules and walk on the left or do people walk on the right? I didn’t see a clear pattern so I never really figured it out. It resulted in me doing a lot of weaving back and forth on the sidewalks to avoid pedestrian traffic coming the other way. I also discovered that not all of Europe drives on the Left side of the road the way I had thought. Aparently, it’s only countries that at one time were English colonies that now drive on the left side of the road.
I expected to see the gas powered motorized scooters zooming around all over Europe. What I did not expect to see, was so many adults wheeling around on what I equated to a grown up version of a Razor scooter from my younger days. I remember it was roughly around the time that I was in junior high school (grades 7-8) that they became the big thing that everyone needed to have. I have only seen a random kid riding one here and there in the US since that point however. And almost never saw adults riding them. The scooters I saw in London were not from the Razor brand but were a larger, less flashy, more functional product and I frequently saw adults using them as their mode of transportation. I think we need to bring this trend back to the US. Let’s all get scooters again, they were awesome!Taxis:
SO MUCH LEG ROOM! The English taxis may be a little funny looking but it serves a purpose, I had so much leg room when I climbed into the back cabin of the taxi. I was a little annoyed at having to take the taxi but it ended up being a good experience (if I bit more money than I had intended to spend getting to the hostel), and the taxi driver was very nice. I was annoyed at first because my flight got in to London Gatwick airport at about 2am. I then took the Gatwick express to Victoria Train station and was told I’d need to take a bus to Kings Cross station from there. Before leaving the building, I asked several people who worked there what I needed to do in order to take the bus. They just directed me to the bus stop, so I assumed that I would be able to pay cash or credit for my ticket on the bus. I assumed wrong. Once I eventually found the right stop and bus the driver told me I needed to purchase an oyster card inside. As the bus drove away, I walked back to the station to find the door barred with a cage and two of the men who I had previously asked about the bus system lounging outside. They told me I would need to wait until 3 or 4am when the ticket station opened again to get a card. Wish they had told me that before I left the building and they closed it behind me!The Tube System:
I used the tube system frequently during my stay in London, it was primary mode of transportation aside from my own two feet. It was very convenient with a couple different stations and lines being within easy walking distance to my hostel. It was also very easy to navigate and get a hang of. But perhaps my favorite part about it was that every station and line I used, a train came about every five minutes. All day. That’s much more frequently than the every 15 minutes during peak times and every 30-45 minutes during off peak hours that I was used to from living in Washington DC and using their metro system. The only complaint would be that there was no air conditioning and poor ventilation. You had to stand or sit by the front of each car and open the window connecting the two cars to get any breeze. That, and the tube only runs until 1am then you have to rely on the bus system which I found much more confusing. Though I did notice that starting in about a month the tube will run all night on weekends. That will definitely be beneficial for a future visit.An Abundance of Parks:
I was surprised by how many parks and the size of some of the parks were maintained in London. It was nice to be able to find a nice park walking in any direction for a little while. Getting some food to gore “Take away” as they called it, and walking to the park was a great and easy way to enjoy a nice picnic lunch. All the parks were naturally free to enter but I did go to the Kew Gardens as well which you needed to pay to get into. This was essentially a massive park on the outskirts of London which contained a vast array of plants and trees from different parts of the world, including a couple very large green houses and a tree top walkway providing a nice view over the park and a different perspective. I would highly recommend visiting the Kew Gardens if you visit London.