I have a love hate relationship with London! I know that is bordering on sacrilege to even suggest that one might not like London but there it is.
All of my friends in the US who are travelers are enamored with London…I suspect in large part it is due… to the ease with which one can function there….common language and culture being a big part of it. And of course there is never a shortage of plays to attend as the theatre in London is perhaps the best in the world.
I first visited London in 1980 and I seem to wind up there about every 10 years. I am not a regular visitor to the city, as I am with Paris where I manage to visit every year or two, but often enough to know my way around. Since 1980 there have been amazing changes in the look and feel of the city but the things I love and dislike about the city have remained.
I love the parks, museums and architecture of the city. On this trip I did my usual… walking the “City of London”…exploring the narrow lanes, peaking into churches, evening services at Westminster Abbey, stumbling upon hidden treasures here and there and of course going to museums. My readers will have noticed a pattern by now… when I travel I go to lots of museums of every kind. I can’t help myself! It is a sickness…an addiction from which I expect I will never be cured….not that I want to be.
What I dislike about London is the COST and the HOTELS. In the old days I used to hate the food, but the food has improved immensely since 1980 and now I just hate the price of the food. I will say that it seems to me that London has the largest collection of really awful hotels that cost an arm and a leg. The rooms are always small with minuscule shower stalls and most are dowdy if not downright seedy On this trip I found a very nice place by happenstance the Victoria Inn which was on the road beside Victoria Station equal walking distance to the station and the Tate Museum. The room was small, which is a given, but had been renovated and served a really nice breakfast so one of my London dislikes was mitigated.
The weather in London for my visit was unpleasant but I’m OK with that. I have never been very lucky with good weather in England and have often been caught by the rain and cold that can come at anytime of the year…even the summers have become a crap shoot. So I just bundled up and headed out into the gray and hit the sights.
One of my favorites is the Tate Museum with its quintessential collection of British Artist…cows by Constable, horses by Stubbins, dogs by Landseer, seascapes by Turner and an amazing collection of landscapes and there you have it…the best of English art. They also have a great restaurant and I always try to have lunch there….but be prepared to spend $40 or $50 a person.
There is a boat that runs down the Thames between the Old and New Tate so I hopped on for a view of London from the river…well worth it. I had missed the new Tate on my previous visit and was looking forward to checking out the space. Located in an old power station on the river it offers great views and beautiful gallery space. The collection is 20th century and onward and consist of some of my favorite artist…most notably the Bloomsbury Artist and the current Avant Garde.
All the museums are free, which I love, but not all shows are free. The special exhibits were about $20 for a ticket and all were packed. Oddly enough, most of the special exhibits in town were American artist…Frederick Church, George Catlin, Roy Lichtenstein…so I was a bit disappointed.
From the Tate Modern the Millenium Bridge crosses the Thames and runs to Christopher Wren’s masterpiece of 17th century architecture…St Paul’s Cathedral. The views of the majestic dome command the skyline of the old city and it is one of the must do’s on anyones visit to the city. I never tire of returning again and again. But a warning…while the Museums are free they are now charging very hefty entrance fees to the major churches and will not let you take photos which makes me feel rather gypped.
I visited many of my old favorites on this trip including the British Museum to see Lord Norman Foster’s design for the Great Courtyard…the museum was crowded beyond bearable… The National Portrait Gallery and the National Gallery. But I took in a few new galleries such as the Wallace Collection with an amazing collection of 18th century French paintings and furniture. I also hit a show of early works by Picasso and viewed the collection at the Courtauld Institute.
So I did what I loved to do while in London…walked the city and partook of the cultural offerings, shopped the bookstores and walked the parks….the visit also allowed my to practice my curmudgeonry.. protesting the prices and lamenting the changes….why in 1980 I remember when you could get bangers and mash for….
London…love and hate…yin and yang!