Of the 3 cities that we visited, I thought that London resembled a typical, large US city the most. The pace in the city was much faster than the others, with people hurriedly going to wherever their feet (and the Tube) would carry them. Furthermore, there seemed to be more chain stores, both US and local companies, all over the place. More importantly, the menu at McDonald’s was almost identical.
Although we saw a lot of people that were in a rush, we also saw a lot of people that were just planted at various spots enjoying the nice weather and scenery. The most popular lounging spots that we came across were Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, and in front of the Tate Modern. I’m not used to seeing this, particularly in Texas, where the summer heat makes it hard to do anything outside, so we joined in whenever possible.
I wasn’t particularly impressed with the food, though I blame myself for not putting in any effort beforehand to try to identify good restaurants. We did eat at one very nice (and expensive) restaurant, Simpson’s in the Strand. The food was good, but like other fancy restaurants I’ve been too, I didn’t think it justified the price (guess I’m not a foodie). In the end, my favorite place was Pret A Manger, a chain that serves up homemade, natural stuff, like sandwiches and soups.
Getting around wasn’t a problem at all thanks to the Tube and our hotel’s convenient location right next to the King’s Cross St. Pancras tube station. I can’t say enough how much I love a good public transit system. It takes a little effort to figure out the lines and how to get to where you are going, but it is well worth it to avoid the hassle of driving and owning a car. I know Dallas has a small light rail system and buses, but it is years away from making it viable to forgo a car.
Doing my part to improve international relations at Buckingham Palace
We visited a pretty good set of tourist attractions without killing ourselves in the process. On most days, we didn’t even get out of the hotel room until 11 AM or so (hooray for sleeping in). The We Will Rock You musical was a lot of fun, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone visiting the city, even if they aren’t Queen fans. I really enjoyed walking along the River Walk and attending a service at Westminster Abbey. I’m not even particularly religious, but the service and accompanying boys choir were nonetheless an experience.
B crossing Abbey Road
Abbey Road was pretty cool, but I don’t think it warrants the trip out unless you are a big Beatles fan, which B is. The road was really busy, so I had to carefully time running out into the middle of the street to take pictures without getting hit by anything.
We missed out on a lot of good stuff, but I don’t mind. It gives me an excuse to eventually make my way back.
I have a few more pics from London on Flickr.
This is completely unrelated, but I knew that our trip was off to a good start when Jason Mraz (one of my favorite musicians) and his band (Grooveline Horns, Toca, etc) sat across from us at the airport in Austin before our first flight. When I mentioned to B that I thought it was him, we looked over and got caught like deer in headlights.
Jason Mraz at the airport in Austin