I was actually looking forward to London more than Paris, if for no other reason than being better equipped to communicate. Boy, was I in for a surprise.
First, the highlights:
The bus tour of the city was really cool. You get to see pretty much everything there is to see in London from the upper level of a roofless bus. You could also get on and off at will for 24 hours on the same fare.
The Tower of London was interesting, and the Beefeaters are very animated and amusing tour guides.
Piccadilly Circus is really cool. We walked the mile or two there several times from our hotel. It seems to be the Times Square of London, complete with large on-a-building TV screen. I also learned from a tour book that the statue of Eros, which stands in the center of Piccadilly, has faced in three directions in it's history, but never in the direction in which it was intended...towards Shaftesbury Ave (which happened to be the way back to the hotel).
Went to Harrod's...pretty much just to be able to say I was there. Like the Louvre, it is a very overwhelming place. An 8-story department store that was as busy as a New Jersey mall on December 23rd. For someone like me who absolutely abhors shopping, I couldn't get out of there too soon.
The British Museum was very cool. I liked it better than either museum in Paris. It has more of the ancient artifacts that I fancy, such as Egyptian statues and the like, the famous Rosetta stone, and Greek sculptured pieces of the Parthenon. Those were the most impressive to me. The detail in those pieces are amazing, and how well they have stood the test of time is equally impressive.
The one place I regretted not making it to was the Science Museum. That seems like it would have been an interesting place, with items such as Thomas Edison's first phonograph. Not sure why that's not in the Edison museum, but whatever.
Saw a couple of plays in London, and I must say that despite it being the most "American" thing I did, I enjoyed them the most. First we saw "We Will Rock You", a play by Queen and Ben Elton. The premise of the play was a cross between Zappa's Joe's Garage, Rush's 2112, and the Matrix. The music of Queen was so well executed by the musicians in the rafters that until I actually saw that they were there, I thought they were using instrumental tracks of actual Queen recordings.
One amusing moment during the play was during the intermission (or interval in London) when my mom commented that her "fanny" (being slang for butt in the states) was sore, and the English couple sitting next to us (of which the man now lives in the states) kindly informed her that unlike in the states, in England "fanny" is slang for vagina. :-)
The other play was Mel Brooks' The Producers, starring Nathan Lane (in place of Richard Dreyfus) and Lee Evans. Both actors and the play as a whole were hysterical. Nathan Lane was a perfect Max Bialystock and Evans was equally good as Leo Bloom. I never heard of Evans, but he looked vaguely familiar, and I was told he is a popular stand-up comic over there.
And the not-so-highlights:
The ethnic mix in London is just as diverse as NYC, and I honestly think there are proportionately less English speaking people in London than in NYC. On top of that, what I had initially expected in Paris...that being rude, pushy, arrogant, obnoxious people...I instead found in London. This is only my opinion, but I honestly felt that the people of London made New York City look like the hospitality capital of the world. Granted, there were some very nice folks...mostly the cab drivers and other "old country" type natives, but overall I felt very unwelcome and even "in the way". I must point out here that at no time did I have an "I'm an American tourist...accommodate me" attitude.
The traffic was another nightmare...both vehicle and pedestrian. The people on the streets are totally unyielding. My mother needs a walker to walk, and people were just pushing around her, cutting her off, making it near impossible for her to cross the street. I could not believe the glaring lack of compassion for fellow human beings.
On another occasion, we were waiting to cross a side street during rush hour. A cab came up to the intersection from the side street, and while he was already over the crosswalk, no part of his car was yet in the main street he was turning on to. During this time, the light for us pedestrians changed to green. A guy in front of me started to cross in front of the cab, with me right behind him. While the other guy was already in front of the cab, the cab started to move into the main street. The guy literally had to jump back out of the way. I slammed my hand on the cab (that's how close I already was) only to have an obscenity shouted at me by the cab driver as he continued to drive across our path. The sad part is that he was a typical example of the way people navigate the city, whether on foot or by car.
Just like I would not want outsiders to judge my country by their perception of NYC, I am giving the natives of England the benefit of the doubt and am assuming that they prefer not to have the city of London be their representative. There was little that I liked about London, and I would encourage any friends and family that want to visit Europe to put London at the bottom of the list of places to visit. I think I can say for a certainty that I myself will never go there again.
Joe Jackson said it best in the song "Jet Set":
"This really is a pretty place, but I wouldn't want to live here."
Oh, almost forgot...one day while I was standing on the street having a cigarette and minding my own business, a young woman (maybe in her mid-20's) walked by, looked at me, and said, "We don't like Yankees...nobody does."
Well, fuck you very much.
No matter what their political views, or their opinion of the war, don't they realize that if those planes had exploded into Parliament or something, that the USA would be backing England 110% in whatever actions were taken?
I didn't want to get too off topic and go on a political rant, but I just want to say this...it disgusts me how this war has divided people, specifically Americans. Nobody is perfect, and even the President is only a mortal human being. A decision was made based on what the administration felt was the best course of action to ensure national security. Whether a US citizen agrees or disagrees is irrelevant. He is our President, voted in by the people, and we have a civil obligation to support him and our country. The word "United" in USA is supposed to mean something, and I find it very disturbing that patriotism seems to be taboo these days. It bothers me that I am a proud American and an ashamed one at the same time.
I don't consider myself a Republican or a Democrat. I hold the antiquated notion that believes the best man should be voted in, not just whoever is running on a particular ticket. I feel that anyone who remains loyal to one party, regardless of who is running, is very narrow-minded. And just like with religion, the more a person defends their one way of thinking, the more narrow-minded they are.
A perfect example during this past election was the Democrats. Prior to running for President, John Kerry was documented as being fully supportive of Bush's attack on Iraq, including being one individual to insist that Saddam was hiding WMDs. Yet when he started campaigning, he and his supporters conveniently left that detail out. What a bunch of hypocrites.
That's why I don't buy into bipartisanship, and I don't buy into organized religion. Some may say I'm a person without direction or convictions. Whatever...I'm happy and virtually stress free. Who's better off? I am my own person with my own identity...not someone else's.
People who are devout followers of a party or religion are, IMO, no different than a cult. They remind me of those faceless school kids in Pink Floyd's 'The Wall'.
Anyway, thanks to my reliving my London experience, this is becoming too negative, so I'll sign off until I'm in a better frame of mind.