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Posted July 1st, 2013 at 6:42 AM by Esper
Tags london , travel

Yesterday I got back from my London trip. It was one of those vacations where I didn't really plan anything ahead of time (except my plane ticket and hotel of course) so I didn't really know what I was going to do once I got there. I've been in big cities before and so in a lot of ways I knew what to expect. Still, there were a couple of things that were pretty surprising to me.

First, the bad so I can get that out of the way:

- There are smokers EVERYWHERE. It's disgusting. People don't smoke indoors, but they stand right outside of the door and it's just as bad. They also walk everywhere smoking so whenever I was outside and there were some people around I couldn't get away from it.

- The service. I didn't think it was going to be as bad as it was. Half the people I interacted with seemed like they couldn't be bothered to speak to me or even acknowledge I was there. I went to a restaurant and was seated and made to wait to order while people who arrived after me got seated and had their food served. It wasn't that bad everywhere and there were some good places, but I was still really surprised at how spotty it was.

- Some really weird lines queues I had to stand in. Like at the movies where there is no separate box office if you just want tickets. Or at the airport where they make you go through at least twice as many as I've been through at any other airport in America or Japan.

- I had such a hard time understanding and being understood by people. I really don't know how to account for this, but I would, for instance, go to cafe and order a cup or earl grey tea and the person would think I was asking for yogurt tea and look at me like I was a complete moron. Or I'd have someone on the street ask if I wanted to go on a bus tour and I'd just walk past and say "No thank you" and then the guy starts to ask me in Spanish as if I hadn't spoken English. I was also tripped up by the different phraseology in a lot of instances.

- And everything closes so dang early! I would have thought a city as big as London would stay awake past 8 or 9 PM.

Now for the good and surprising:

- Food. It was inexpensive, good quality, and there were vegetarian options everywhere and clearly marked on menus or packaging. I was a little worried I wouldn't have many options, but aside from some instances of bad service and one sub-par meal everything was pretty fantastic.

- Shopping. I went looking to buy books - used books - on several days, and after a few false starts I found some real gems in a couple of shops. I'd say that half my luggage was filled with books on my flight back, and it hardly cost me anything.

- All the free and tourist-y stuff. The British Museum, the London Eye, Hyde Park, Kew Gardens, the Prime Meridian - all that stuff and more I really enjoyed more than I thought I would.

Uhh, you know, this wasn't really the best format for me to talk about my trip. It makes it look like I had more bad experiences than good ones, but that is entirely not true. There were so many fun, serendipitous things that happened, like seeing the musical for Once, which is a great movie and which I hadn't known had been adapted. And I saw The Tempest (my favorite Shakespeare play) at the Globe Theatre just by chance because it had rained that day and some people must have given up their tickets. And then seeing a giant Pride parade and party at Trafalgar Square that I hadn't known was happening until I just walked into it.

Yeah. Good trip. Would go again.
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  1. Old Comment
    Overlord Drakow's Avatar
    You didn't take any photos? V_V
    Posted July 1st, 2013 at 6:58 AM by Overlord Drakow Overlord Drakow is offline
  2. Old Comment
    Sydian's Avatar
    You should also mention the straightforward prices! :) Something is 5 pounds? It's really 5 pounds. None of this "add blah percent to the blah" in your head. I really enjoyed that.

    Sorry about all the service and such though. Can't say I ran into that problem when I went, but then again, I was also in a large group and in honeymoon phase with my boyfriend, so everything was too peachy for me to notice bad stuff it seems, haha. London Eye was great though, yep! And I found their airport delightful. Whereas the American airport took us forever to get through, I remember we were astounded by how quickly we got through everything at the London airport. We were so stunned by that, we kept mentioning it on the plane even. ...We must be easily impressed.
    Posted July 1st, 2013 at 7:34 AM by Sydian Sydian is online now
  3. Old Comment
    Mana's Avatar
    London is a bit hectic, so it can give off a bit of a unfriendly vibe (especially with the service in shops/restaurants).

    Glad you had fun though! Personally, I find super big cities like that a pain in the ass, which is why I ran off to a smaller one >:3 muhaha.

    GB rules
    Posted July 1st, 2013 at 9:20 AM by Mana Mana is offline
  4. Old Comment
    Nihilego's Avatar
    ...I'm reading all of this and kinda thinking "As an American visiting England, what did you expect?", haha.

    I guess I'm kinda used to all this - although a) your smoker point - I find London to be much better than a few of our cities for that and b) your food point - idk how expensive food is where you're from but compared to everywhere else food in London is absolutely extortionately priced. Although as for variety of food - London's reallllly good for that. Also, I never knew the London Eye was free! That's pretty cool. And 8-9pm is pretty late by our standards for shops. You might get some supermarkets open a bit later but that's about it.
    Posted July 1st, 2013 at 9:42 AM by Nihilego Nihilego is online now
  5. Old Comment
    Kura's Avatar
    Spot on with all the ****tiness of the UK. I also find all those things appalling, too.. especially the closing-early and the *****y girls on their "I'm too good for this job" shifts.
    Posted July 1st, 2013 at 9:46 AM by Kura Kura is offline
  6. Old Comment
    Esper's Avatar
    I have photos, but I haven't had the willpower to go through them yet.

    I love that everything is priced as is. They do that in Japan, too, and I've heard in the rest of Europe. I wish we did that here in the states.

    And, oops! I didn't mean to say the London Eye was free. It was like 20 pounds or something. I guess I felt like a lot of stuff wasn't that pricey because when I go to a big city I expect even higher prices. But like, if you have dinner at a restaurant and you spend 8 or 9 pounds that's like 12 or 13 American dollars which isn't really that unusual if you're in a big city. And I also ate cheap a lot, like going to Pret for breakfast every other day. They aren't quite as amazing as Japanese convenience stores, but they were pretty good and miles above anything we have in America.
    Posted July 2nd, 2013 at 8:11 AM by Esper Esper is offline
  7. Old Comment
    Mr Cat Dog's Avatar
    I'm honestly surprised that you found London cheap for... well, anything! In comparison to Japan, it's definitely cheap but, in comparison to everywhere I've been in the US, it most definitely is not.

    Also WHY DIDN'T WE MEET UP!? :(
    Posted July 4th, 2013 at 3:13 AM by Mr Cat Dog Mr Cat Dog is offline

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