Review: London, England

Posted by Sean Blanda on Oct 10, 2008 in Commentary |

We’re lagging a bit, considering we’re leaving Amsterdam, but we wanted to review some of our experiences from London.

As far as foreign cities go, London likely takes the least amount of adjusting.  America’s former colonizer and longtime ally definitely has its own character and unique way of doing things, but compared to, say, the Eastern part of the continent, the US and UK are as similar as two countries can be with an ocean separating them.  The adjustments you would have to make are small, and most cultural differences are trivial at worst, and hilarious at best (just ask Chris).  Of course, most people that visit England will come talking about accents and remarking about these subtle differences.  But while the cutesy juxtapositions of cultures is reason enough to explore the city, there is lot more to this trip.

Unfortunately, one of the first attributes you will notice about London is it’s cost.  While London is an international city, the exchange rate is not favorable to Americans.  What’s worse is that it requires a different spending psychology.  A meal in America that costs $10 will cost £10.  But £10 is $20, and that pizza you just ordered is suddenly ridiculously over priced.

Like any other city, you simply have to be a little thrifty and pick your battles.  Pick up some beer at the local market instead of getting most of your kicks in at the pub (or pregame like your college days).  Take advantage of cheap food, like we mention in episode two.  And be selective in what tourist attractions you end up ponying up for (link to church).  If you are on a multi-city adventure you may want to save any change you have stashed away for a cheaper city.  But that doesn’t mean you need to sit inside all day to enjoy the city.  There are plenty of free and cheap attractions.  A quick hit of our favorites:

  • Walk the River Thames.
  • Find the London Bridge
  • Visit the Tate Modern
  • Catch a football/soccer game in a pub.  No booze needed for fun, although it may help.

If London is your first European adventure, you will notice that in America a building is considered “old” or “historical” if it is older than a century.  In England (like any other European city) a building just passed the century mark would barely be hitting architectural puberty.  The city is seeping in history, history that in the 20th century is undeniably intertwined with America and World War II.  If engineering isn’t your thing, there are loads of other attractions for the young and broke.

For example, if you were an English major you may find and endless playground of classic English author neighborhoods and museums. It may even make up for the fact that you are still looking for a job.

Ideally though, we couldn’t of asked for a better city to be our “jumping off point.”  As the title of the blog lets you know, we don’t speak any other language than English.  There aren’t many local customs or traditions that will seem to be from another planet.  All things considered,  London is different enough to feel foreign, but familiar enough to not be frighteningly exotic.  A visit may not be an accurate picture of Europe (although we will find out in our travels), but skipping London all together would be a crime.

Just mind the exchange rate.

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