Wow, London, what a very cool cosmopolitan city. My first excursion to a foreign country was to see my son who was studying in London for college in 2018. I knew London was big and had a reputation as being an international destination, but I still had this provincial American view that London was only slightly more interesting than an Agatha Christie murder mystery.
I was wrong. Yes, there is history, old buildings, and a bit of the staid British charm on most streets. But London is a huge place with a dynamic population of people. The Underground electric train system is great. The rail service to outlying communities is terrific. There is a tremendously huge variety of places to go and explore. While I love Southern California and San Francisco, I have a new appreciation and understanding for why London is such a vaunted international destination.
London, Bath, and Brighton Offered More Than I Thought
There is literally something for everyone in London and the surrounding communities. There are more museums than any place I have ever visited, and many are free. The shopping opportunities are endless from large department stores to boutiques, not just in one section of town, but spread throughout the area. There are first class theatrical presentations, sporting events, a pub on every corner, and lots of opportunities to hike around. We had fun just getting lost because we saw something new and the people are so friendly they always helped steer us in the right direction.
Contrary to what President Trump said at the NRA convention in May 2018, London is very safe. I never felt threaten by anyone.
Lots Of People, Lots Of Money, Keeps London Moving
I think a large part of London’s success is the money that pours in from around the world. First, it is a financial center for Europe and the Middle East. Second, all the countries have an embassy in region. Finally, the rich history and architecture makes the United Kingdom a great vacation destination. In the Chelsea, Kensington, Paddington, London, Greenwich, Brighton, and Bath areas we visited it was apparent that there was a sizable population of people with money.
We spent one week in the central London area and took train trips to Brighton Beach and Bath. All areas exceeded our expectations on all levels. We bought some Radley purses in Bath, a rare 1848 map of Sacramento in London, some cool Mod clothes in Brighton Beach, and saw the musicals Book of Mormon and Kinky Boots in the Piccadilly Circus area. We also toured Kensington Palace, the Banqueting Hall, and the Roman Spas in Bath, rode the British Airways i360 in Brighton Beach, and toured the Royal Observatory in Greenwich.
Great Public Transportation System
We never rode in car. All our travels were by train, bus, boat or foot. Every time we looked at the city mobile phone app it was always longer to take a cab than utilize the Underground system and walk a few blocks. Except for the overwhelming number of old and glorious stone buildings about town, if I closed my eyes I could imaging I was in France, Germany, Russia, Italy, or South Africa because so many of the people we bumped into were from another country like us. And, everyone was polite and patient.
My one complaint is that there are not enough public restrooms and often you have to pay-to-pee when you do find them. But now that I know to go easy on the morning coffee, I definitely want to go back. Okay, that is the second complaint; there is very little filtered coffee available. Most of the coffee beverages are espresso based. Fortunately our hotel, the Crown Plaza Kensington, offered brewed coffee in the mornings.
Somewhat of a surprise was that, at least in London, the UK has done away with wasteful paper towels in restrooms. Most contain blow dryers that are generally useless. I had no problem with the lack of paper towels to dry my hands as this cuts down on waste and I just wipe my hands on the nearest Underground passenger I stand next too. Plastic straws are gone. In their place are thick paper straws. They worked fine.
Pictures of our travels around London, Bath, and Bright Beach areas
Click to enlarge