Adventures / culture / Out and About / Things to do

An American in London Week 5: Last Impressions of the Global City

This is the tenth in a weekly series that will extend until the end of June. It will chronicle my travels in Europe and the interesting things I come upon or wish someone had told me before I left.  This is my last week in London. Next week I will start a three week rail and boat trip ending in Budapest.

Well, my weeks in London have come to an end. And after thinking back on my time here, I have come up with a short list of things I have discovered during my stay.

The plumbing in London is aggressively weird. The toilets require coercion in order to flush properly, and to get the faucets to work you have to turn them on and then wait. If you get impatient, and keep turning them, they explode into action, splattering your entire front.

The weather is kind of bipolar. Because England is situated in a part of the sea where many currents converge, it gets a lot of storms. So even on the brightest day, it’s best to be prepared for rain as it can start to pour without much warning. I actually rather enjoy the rain, so I don’t mind this but it can be annoying if it takes you unawares.

Walking is the cheapest transportation. This may seem obvious but it bears repeating. Even travelling on buses can get expensive, so if your destination is within a couple miles and you have the time, it’s worth it to walk.

The police don’t carry guns. They also walk around more, wear bright yellow vests and bowler hats, and are committed to community outreach. True, they carry Tasers and have had issues with racism in the past but they are much less focused on using force. In fact, they’re even called a police service rather than a police force to emphasize it.

Camden Market will swallow you whole. The place is crammed and confusing, selling everything under the sun. It winds around and takes you underground, overground, into buildings until you have no idea where you are or where you’ve been or how you ended up buying a poster with Ryan Gosling on it. And then as you finally stumble out of whatever section you’ve been sucked into, you realize you’re only a hundred yards from the entrance you went in through.

London is quite an interesting city, and although its art and music scenes are kind of sectioned off from the more business oriented parts of town, they are very vibrant and worth visiting. Though it has some issues and is rather expensive, I highly recommend it and look forward to returning someday.

The city dwindles behind me as the train snakes away, the settlements thinning as the trees and the sheep take over the spaces in between. I am on to a whirlwind tour of Europe, train pass in hand and my life for the next three weeks crammed into a backpack and a tote bag. First stop on the tour: Ireland.

Until next week, Cheers!

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