Milchtoast

Living, learning, eating in Switzerland and beyond

London, land of reversals

3 Comments

This post is a little late, seeing as it’s now nearly two months since we visited London, back in early November. I feel I have to tell you about it while it’s still 2012, or else I’ll be breaching some kind of tacit timely-blogging agreement.

Since there’s not much time left in the year, though, I’ll be brief. Brief-ish. Brief for me.

So, in brief, during our three-day sojourn I found London to be a place of many enjoyable reversals. I’m not just talking about the fact that they drive on the opposite side of the street that we’re used to, though these signs painted on the ground at pedestrian crossings did prevent me from being struck and killed on several occasions:

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Thanks for saving my hide, signs.

But no. The roads are just the beginning; a surface (ha) indication of the huge differences a person will make note of, especially if that person has been living in a somewhat — shall we say — buttoned-up country for the past two years.

First, British humour can make anything, even routine security procedures, fun. “Hope you left your heroin at home today,” quipped a smiling security officer as he processed my bag for drugs at the airport. Rest of Europe, take note: The exchange was pleasant and I was given the (reasonable) benefit of the doubt by a person who was doing their job correctly.

Another glaring reversal is that in London, you pay to see the churches, but the museums are free.

Despite my vow of brevity, I feel compelled to repeat: Churches have paid admission; museums are free. As a result, we admired the cathedrals from the outside and spent our days museum-hopping. And the museums were so great we felt compelled to donate to them. See how it works?

Also, strangely, it was a church (St. Paul’s) and not any of the museums we went to, that was equipped with a revolving door.

Come and go, all ye faithful.

Come and go, all ye faithful.

In London, unlike certain cities that I might happen to reside in, there are many good things you can buy. You can buy reasonably-priced books. You can buy brown sugar. You can buy jeans that are exactly the right length (I could, anyway). You can buy good, imaginative kinds of cereal like mini-wheats with apricot jam flavouring. You can buy common drugs like painkillers without having to endure an agonizing conversation with a gatekeeper pharmacist. The paradox here (wait…is it a paradox? I don’t know, but I’m going with it) is that if I lived in London the health foods-store staff, the tailor, and the chemist would all speak English, but I wouldn’t even need to visit them.

Finally, the food in London was really quite good, contrary to expectations. (A clever marketing trick devised by a British restaurant board? “I tell you what we’ll do, we’ll spread the rumour that the food here is terrible. Then they’ll come with low expectations and it will all seem stellar by contrast!”)

The biggest reversal of all is that London, a place I’d never felt especially drawn to or interested in, now ranks among my favourite cities. I can’t wait to return sometime, with an empty (even of my heroin) suitcase.

More photos below!

A beautiful museum facade.

One museum’s beautiful facade.

Hyde park, complete with idyllic trio of horse-riders.

Hyde park, complete with idyllic horse-riding trio.

Stelian made me take this, explaining, "it's funny 'cause there are other kinds of birds in there too."

In Hyde Park, Stelian made me take this, explaining, “It’s funny ’cause there are other kinds of birds there too.”

Obligatory London photo #1

Obligatory London photo #1

Obligatory London photo #2

Obligatory London photo #2

Obligatory London photo #3

Obligatory London photo #3

The Tower of London was really cool. I just didn't have time to tell you about it.

The Tower of London was really cool. I’m sorry I didn’t have time to tell you about it.

Except there was some gnarly torture and animal-cruelty stuff that went down.

There was some gnarly torture and animal-cruelty stuff that went down there, though.

34-inch chest? Forget it!

Pfft! Get out of here with that 34-inch chest!

What catches my eye here are the garbage bags on the street. How I've missed that.

What draws my eye here are the garbage bags on the street. How I missed that.

3 thoughts on “London, land of reversals

  1. I LOVE london – and I’m glad you did too! I’m also glad to see you didn’t get rained on too much..2012 was an absolute washout! happy new year!

    • I know you love it, too. I thought of you when we were there. Let’s hope we both get to return many times. And I know we were lucky to have nice sunny days — November is so dicey. Happy New Year!

  2. Great pictures! Very interesting to hear impressions from an English-speaking person who’s been living in other lands – London is a definite goal of mine.

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