In 1982, I spent six weeks in Britain and Ireland as part of an extended journey around the globe. My travels took me to London twice: arriving there from Australia, via a stopover in Copenhagen; and for a few days prior to flying out of Europe to the USA. Then, as now, I had mixed feelings about London as a travel destination.
Following our tour of Croatia, Maggie and I returned to London for 36 hours, caught up with friends for a wonderful meal at Bibendum restaurant, and then flew out bound for Singapore. We had intended to visit the Natural History Museum but the weather became inclement, so we barely added to the sightseeing and experiences of our initial visit to London.
In 1982, I had a very tight travel budget and I arrived in London with little or no idea of what might be a good use of my time. Thirty-three years later, Maggie and I had done plenty of homework and had reasonably adequate financial resources – we were taken aback by how expensive a city London can be for visitors – but we still struggled to feel enthusiastic about being there.
There are two common elements in my experiences of London. Time – and even money – can be quickly consumed by logistics, getting in and out of the city, moving around the city and using London as a place to make arrangements, prepare your luggage for modern air travel, etc. I take my hat off to those travellers who have this item under control.
Secondly, I just can’t get a clear mental map of London and I find that to be a limiting factor; it all feels a bit hard at times. Put me in Paris, Vienna or Singapore, and I know pretty much where I am and which direction to head to continue my explorations, which also serves to encourage and enable those precious off-the-beaten-track moments that add colour to a traveller’s day.
Having re-read all of this, I do feel a bit embarrassed by our underwhelming performance as visitors. And we do have some good memories of London. However, should it ever happen that we plan to visit there again, I might suggest that we arrive in England via another entry point, lose the jet-lag and then hit London with a go-hard, long-weekend attitude.