Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Walking the streets of London

Paddington, London: N: 51º 31.022' W: 000º 10.103'
Central London is like a living museum with people from all parts of the world looking, taking photographs and experiencing the history of the place. Hence seeing I had the weekend in London before my meetings started I thought I would join them. Again, instead of boring details here are just some of my personal highlights and observations from the weekend:
* The transport system in inner London is incredible and really the perfect example of a tourist friendly inner city. Double decker buses seem to be coming every few minutes to the bus stops and it was very easy to find your way around. Inner London is also a great walking city with all the tourist highlights in easy walking distance. In fact getting lost is the best part because you wander into an area off the normal tourist route. Needless to say I did this frequently!
* Public transport is excellent heading out of London as well. The trains are fast and clean but not cheap though. The train to Hatfield, 35 km out of London was A$25. I don't know how people can commute at that price unless they are on a very good wage. The fast trains are pretty amazing an dthat journey only took 20 minutes!
* By the way, London City has encouraged the use of public transport by imposing a A$20 congestion tax on all cars coming into the centre of London.
* Westminster Abbey was an amazing place to visit which brought the history books alive. As most of my generation was brought up on British and Commonwealth history it really was amazing to see this building full of what the textbooks said.
* Walking along the banks of the Thames day and night was a delight and safe. Not sure about the London Eye? To me this is the visually ugly side of tourism but it seemed popular.
* I have visited plenty of museums but my favourite was the HMS Belfast in the Thames and Churchill’s war rooms. Really well done museums with plenty of good information and original items.
* The new British Library is a great venue to work, read and relax. Great old books and the speical collection was full of some absolute gems, such as Lenin's reading room library card and original Beetle lyrics. That is where I am doing my blog each night.
* I mentioned in my last blog that Toronto was multicultural but London is the epitome of a multicultural place. I am staying on Edgeware Road which is a Middle Eastern enclave of London. With the clothing, Hooka pipes in the restaurants and signs in Arabic you would swear you were in the Middle East. All seems to work well though and again little sign on the surface of disharmony. However with the CCTV cameras everywhere, London has worked hard at making it a safe place (apparently 20% of the CCTV cameras in the world are in London). Interestingly I have not once been asked for money as I walk the streets of London compared to the frequency of being asked as I walked around the inner city streets of US cities.
* The Imperial War Museum was worth having a look at and the walk through trench re-creation exhibit was excellent.
* Compared to the atmospheric conditions in Hong Kong, the air in the city of London is clean and clear. The only problem is the number of people smoking. With the huge numbers of European tourists and other groups from the Middle East, smoking is alive and well on the streets of London compared to back at home (even though it is banned everywhere inside).
* Really just walking around the backstreets of London was a highlight for me. By the way the sun at noon is very low in the sky already and it is dark by 4.50pm. I should have expected but still surprised for this time of year. Middle of winter must be very miserable. Luckily I have had sunshine and about 14 degrees max each day I have been here. Very warm for this time of year apparently. Just looked at Bigpond homepage and it is the same in Adelaide today with rain, strange.

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