Monday, September 12, 2011

things I learnt in London

  1. Bring your own ear buds on the plane. Even better, noise reducing headphones if you have them.
  2. Do take the Heathrow Express from the airport. Easy.
  3. Do NOT take the tube from Paddington into London if you are carrying luggage, unless you're the type that enjoys lugging 50 lb bags up and down multiple flights of stairs. I've found I do not enjoy this. Take the bus instead.
  4. Buy an Oyster card. These things are BRILLIANT. Use it to enjoy the best public transportation system EVER.
  5. Don't smile at or look people in the eye on the tube. And don't discuss anything above a whisper.
  6. Be sure to get a creme brulee latte from Costa Coffee. Mmm Mm Good! Don't worry if you just passed one. There will be another along in about 50 feet. Between two Starbucks.
  7. It will take longer to get somewhere than you think.
  8. Do not expect folks who are waiting to enter the train/lift to wait politely for you to get out first.
  9. No matter how cold it is outside, you'll be sweating on the tube platform.
  10. Do take an open topped bus tour and river tour. The laughs you get off the witty guides alone will be worth the trip.
  11. Do not try to do everything. You'll wear yourself out. Take some time to just stroll aimlessly and soak it up. Go somewhere random.
  12. Do go to an open air market like Portobello Road in Notting Hill. It's fun.
  13. If you time your visit to St. Paul's at the opening at 8:30 am, don't expect to be let into the upper galleries until 9:30 am. Do expect to have a cardiac event as you climb the stairs.
  14. Revel in any sunny day you get.
  15. Americans, ask for the bill if you are ready to leave a restaurant. They are waiting for you to ask before they bring it.
  16. Do not ask your friend with the long blond hair to tilt her head and translate some french on the mural behind her if there is a votive candle on the table. Not a good idea.
  17. Carry a mini tube map at all times.
  18. Carry an umbrella at all times.
  19. Sit down somewhere cozy and enjoy a lovely cream tea. (Extra good on a blustery day!)
  20. Don't ask anyone who is younger than 30 to take your picture. Yikes.
  21. DO NOT, repeat, DO NOT try to hop a tube train that looks like it might be closing up soon. Especially while holding a hot coffee. I cannot emphasize this enough. 
  22. Keep to the left.
  23. Don't miss Evensong at Westminster Abbey. It's soul stirring, free, and open to all worshipers.
  24. Apparently, black tights are a perfectly acceptable substitute for trousers amongst the London twenty-somethings.Yes, I said tights. By themselves.
  25. Enjoy just people watching. (At your own risk. See no. 24)
  26. Really look around to find the answer before you ask someone.
  27. Do visit Oxford if possible.
  28. Smile and say hello before asking anything. 
  29. Look RIGHT. Then left. Then right. 
  30. Don't expect to visit RyanTown during the week. Bummer!
  31. Do not jaywalk unless you absolutely positively sure you know what you are doing.
  32. Allow lots of time to browse at Liberty's beautiful craft/fabric and stationery section.
  33. Make sure your plug adapters are polarized on the US side (with one hole thingy wider than the other hole thingy).
  34. Go to the box office to get theater tickets as soon as you are able.
  35. Do go to a theater performance -- any show. It's a great experience.
  36. Do not expect to get your VAT money back easily. I think the process is designed to weed out the less determined.
  37. Food in London is fabulous. I enjoyed every meal we had, both cheap and pricey. So give no credit to the old rep.
  38. Have your Oyster card in hand and not in the bottom of your voluminous purse when you leave the tube station -- you have to swipe again to get out.
  39. Mind the gap.
  40. Try not to be too embarrassed that you don't know all the rules that natives have had their lifetime to learn. Or at least longer than 5 days.


  1. Oh you put me to shame, I only live 30mins train ride from London and I haven't done any of those things you have done!

  2. #5 has got to be hard for a Southern girl! Sounds like you had a lot of fun-I'm very envious!

  3. I try to get uo to London once a year, we live about 100 miles away - I know hardly any distance compared to the US but like a whole different world to this country mouse! Seems like you had a good time - I like to have the best fun on the tube smiling and talking to people it really freaks them out!! LOL xx

  4. Whyducks, oh, for shame! Get on a train and go. I've already made all the mistakes for you. :-)

    Stephanie, yes, it was! Unnatural I tell you.

    Nina, that's funny! I bet the whole carful of people stare at you.

  5. Oh, you made me laugh so hard I almost spat my tea on the keyboard!! What a great list ;o)

  6. Ha ha, as a native (of England, not London) this has made me laugh. We live about a 40min train ride from London and everything you have said is soooo true! :-)

  7. Good list. Good observations. I live in London, in fact I exit at Bank everyday.

    I am sorry number 8 wasn't adhered to. It makes me very cross when people don't wait. I have seen more assertive people exiting the carriage challenge the people getting on without waiting.

    r.e. 24 - might there have been some very small shorts you couldn't see because of their shirts? Or were they just wearing leggings, as opposed to tights, so perceived as outer clothes and therefore okay?

  8. thatdeangirl,
    Lucky you to live in that city! I just figured no. 8 was a fact of life. I actually got pretty good at elbowing my way through there. ha! Alas, I have to tell you that no shorts were present on this particular occasion. And they were not leggings. I saw a lot of leggings as trousers too, unfortunately, and also lots of shorty cutoffs with tights, but this was exactly as stated. I'm glad to know it is the exception to the rule!

  9. I'm surprised at #8 since that's not just good manners it's common sense. Unfortunately, the tights as pants (#24) phenomenon is not only in London, it's in Georgia too. Gross, you'd think the center gusset would be a clue that they're more like panties than pants - or that people have a mirror to see that even though it's opaque over their ankles, it's not opaque over the rest of them.

  10. Great list and touche on Nos. 16, 31, and 38. :)

    Part 2 still to come?

  11. We bookmarked this. We plan for a trip to London next year. Thank you!

  12. Great list and I will read again when I have my next day out in the big city. I can only handle one day at a time though you need to plan that day or, as you say, you'll end up wandering aimlessly around.

  13. Larissa,
    Thank you for reminding me of how soothing and hectic London can be. Also, what a wonderful travel log for both first timers as well as returning visitors. I'm on vacation and the recap of your trip was a "feel good" :) Thanks for sharing, loved it all!
    Miss Linda

  14. Wanted to let you know that with most restaurants in this country (UK), your main meal will not be cooked until after you have completed your appetizer. Your stuff is funny, I actually live in England so found it to be quite amusing.

  15. Don't carry a mini tube map - get a tube map App instead.much much more useful. As for staying on the left...... On escalators stand right ; only use the left side if you are going to walk. And if you can teach Brits to all walk on the left side of the pavement, that would be brilliant.


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