Being an exploration on why I was wrong about London…
I made some mistakes with this trip, and I’m just glad that the trip is long enough that I could get them out of the way, and still have enough time to enjoy the rest of it–and the majority of it. The obvious mistake was overplanning. One of the minor mistakes–and the one that’s made me dislike London–was as simple as a poor choice in lodging.
I had a great day in London today. We decided to skip Oxford–two hours on a bus each way was not appealing at 9:00 this morning. So instead, we decided to take a cab (due to poor choice of lodging–see next paragraph) to the National Gallery. This was our only plan–well, this and ‘take a picture with me on one of the lions in Trafalger Square’. We arrived at the museum around 11:20, and I only know this because it turned out that the next guided tour–the 11:30 tour–started in ten minutes. We could not have planned this, and if we had tried to plan it, we surely would have missed it. So we went on the tour–which was amazing. We then took a museum break, and walked through St. Jame’s park up to Buckingham Palace–just because we could. We then returned to the National Gallery, spent a good three hours there, had tea in the nice restaurant on site, and left in time to visit St. Martin in the Fields–just in time for the Evensong Service, which we attended. It was also great. At this point we decided to ‘walk around a bit’. We happened upon Leicester Square, and Covent Garden (which I thought was an actual garden…ooops…) and had a lovely time roaming about and watching the craft vendors pack up for the day. We’d never have found any of this if we’d been looking for it. And I got to see a whole other part of London, aside from the prescribed toursit locales (Tower of London, you know I’m talking about you…) and aside from the scary neighborhood where we are staying. After stopping at a pub for a drink, we then returned to our (admittedly scary) hotel (via cab–the only way possible short of walking four miles) and treated ourselves to a dinner in a restaurant with real table cloths.
It was a great day, and I could not (and did not) plan any of it.
I can now see why people love London. The parts of London we saw today–both touristy and not–were fantastic. Though I have to admit that I messed up–the main thing causing my dislike and frustration with this city (other than my admitted control-freakishness) is where we decided to stay. We are staying–and I am typing this from–The Hoxton Hotel. The Hoxton is a very nice hotel–a VERY nice hotel–in a very, very shitty neighborhood. We do not feel safe at night walking back from the tube station–and that’s when the only nearby tube station is running–which is only during week days. Any other time, we can’t even walk to the ‘far away’ tube station, because those lines are not running, either. Had we stayed in the Soho area, or stayed in Victoria, or ANYWHERE other than the scary north east corner of The City, we’d have had a totally different experience. And spent way less on cab fare. Yes, we got this VERY nice room in a very nice hotel for less than $100 a night–but what good is that when we’ve spent over $60 a day on cab rides?
So I leave London tomorrow feeling good about it, and feeling good about Paris. I’m letting go of my super over the top planning-self, and embracing my cafe sitting, wine drinking self. And, to be fair, the wine drinking part of me is a pretty large part. I’m sure she’ll be able to take down the OCD part of me with one hand tied behind her back. Or, whilst opening a bottle of Beaujolais.