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:
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.
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!