When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life. — Samuel Johnson, 1777
Yeah, well Johnson never had to ride the Tube. Put Johnson into the hell-furnace of a Tube carriage, and he’d be tired of London pretty fast.
I lived in London for a year way, way back in 1997 before we moved out into the countryside. I’ve rarely missed it, since I’ve long shifted from viewing London as a tourist destination to instead a place of work. Doing work in London for me ain’t fun. On the rare times when I go in, such as today, it involves an often late train journey, followed by a Tube trip that’s never pleasant. More and more I black cab to avoid the Tube, not out of fear of terrorism but just general hatred of how unpleasant the Tube is for a commute.
Still, as a tourist city, London is wonderful. I can remember my excitement in coming to it for the first time even more years ago, 1988. I have to confess, the magic still comes back a bit when you come up out of the Tube at Piccadilly and see this:
OK, poor quality photos shot with my camera phone, nothing special. But seeing stuff like this when makes you realize despite how much the Tube grinds you down, London’s something special.
I was in town with the family for the fun task of passport renewal. As a treat, we rewarded the kids with a trip to the London Eye. Anyone hitting London should make a visit. It’ll be a highlight, especially if you’ve got a clear day, such as today. Going up!
What you’ll be in, a bubble. This one is at the top:
Don’t panic. You’ll hardly notice that you’re moving higher and higher. Here’s an older picture from another trip showing it more clearly:
The things you’ll see, like the Houses Of Parliament:
See the clock tower, AKA Big Ben (Big Ben’s actually the bell within the tower). Now see the other big tower? That’s Victoria Tower, and I spent about a month working practically underneath it in the Lord Chancellor’s office all those many years ago. My important task was to type — a story for another day. Having lunch in the cafeteria you reach through Westminster Hall was pretty cool, too.
See that triangular building way in the distance? The Gherkin (aka, a pickle). Very cool building, and better views from the Eye than this picture suggests.
I’ve been to the Eye many times over the years, but I can never forget my first trip. We were doing SES London 2001, so I rented a bubble and marched a number of speakers down for a ride, including this guy:
That’s Google’s Craig Silverstein, employee number one, and also one of the nicest people you could ever meet.
Here’s the group shot:
Crazy Dane Mikkel deMib Svensen, Craig, Shari Thurow, Detlev Johnson and Shari’s sister keeping it from getting too searchy.
Someday I might do a longer thing on my favorite things to do in London, but the London Eye is a biggie. Along with that, try to take in a session at the Houses of Parliament. It’s great theater. I caught Thatcher once in one of her last appearances in the Commons. A walk through any of the park is great, but I especially like Hampstead Heath and Kenwood. The Tower Of London is a must — it’s like Disneyland, only real. The Changing Of The Guard? Sure — I finally saw it years after being in England. But honestly? Far better to do the Buckingham Palace tour when they run in the summer.
Finally, favorite shopping place? Hit either of the Emma Bridgewater stores in London for great fun china at discount prices, especially compared to what you’ll get in the US. And then when I’m done there with getting something for my wife, it’s time to treat myself at the ultimate sci-fi store, Forbidden Planet.