Cold, wet, miserable. London felt much like a slap in the face on a winter’s morning. Given it’s rich history, dense population, and iconic land marks, London has always held some intrigue for me. When I thought of London I imagined a world from a Dickens novel, or West End theatre shows, or parades for the Queen. I thought of high-end tea houses and old pubs on every corner; the latter of those certainly holds true. Mostly what I found however was a dreary, cold, soulless city; filled with dreary, cold, miserable people. And corner pubs.
Other than those pubs, London seems just full of chain stores, chain restaurants, and chain cafes. It feels almost Americanised in the way that corporations appear to have swallowed its livelihood. This feels more sad than in America, given the backdrop that the centuries-old buildings provide. And undoubtedly due to my own English heritage. One night I rode the tube at rush-hour, and was really hit by how sad everybody around me was. Was it the cold, or the cost of living? The jobs, or the long commute home? I’ve done the same trip in New York, Tokyo, Bangkok, Delhi, Hong Kong, and more. In none of those places have I had the same difficulty in my smile being returned.
Now of course this is just an assessment based on what I saw and felt over the course of three days as a tourist in the heart of London. I certainly may have been biased by the fact that I’d just walked into a 5°C freezer after living in sunny California for the past 7 months. Many of my countrythem have in fact lived in London for many years, and it would be silly to pressume that they enjoy a life of cold, wet misery. I very much appreciate the probability of my experience inside the tourist bubble being abstract from reality. When I first visited LA I was also pretty unimpressed, and now I love living there.
Despite the gloomy introduction, London was certainly not all bad. I was lucky enough to be hosted by my high-school sweetheart, Marcus. We’ve both been living the travel life for a couple of years now, so hadn’t caught up in a while.
We ate at Borough Markets, walked the Thames, visited Old St Paul’s, Westminster, Hyde Park, Covent Gardens, Camden Lock. We basically smashed out all the tourist spots over the course of the weekend. See below for the highlight reel. We also went on an interesting walking tour of London, exploring some interesting lanes, churches, coffee houses, and the history behind them.
All said and done it was nice to visit some iconic land marks, and see a piece of history. It was also bizarre to feel like part of a monopoly set walking around some familiar streets.