Last month, BV and I popped to London for a short city break. I’ve been dying to do a quick trip somewhere that involved just a backpack, as opposed to our usual “everything but the kitchen sink” packing trips, and this was perfect. We had a great time and my enthusiasm for the city remains. This post is a collection of my various thoughts on our short and sweet visit. Read on!
Thought 1: This is a City
Nürnberg is a city. It is Stadt Nürnberg, not Dorf or Markt Nürnberg. But arriving at London’s Liverpool Street station at 9 o’clock on a Wednesday morning made me want to pat the “city” of Nürnberg on the head like a small child. “Oh yes, you’re getting to be such a big boy!”
Why? Well, not wanting to be those jerks with backpacks trying to make our way through the Tube, we took advantage of the sunny day and walked through the city. People in suits hustled pasts us left and right. They clutched travel mugs and to-go cups, most of them speaking authoritatively into their phones about Very Important Business.
Or if you prefer…
Even when we reached the more tourist-filled areas, it was still easy to see the locals. More men in suits boldly crossed the street at a red light, as a group of tourists waited patiently curbside behind their guide and his flag. Joggers wove in and out of people with iPhones and selfie sticks clustered around a red phone booth. It was truly, most excellent and varied people-watching. A sure sign of a City, capital C intended.
Thought 2: It’s an Oddly Familiar Place
I have only spent 8 total days in London between this visit and my last one in 2012. I have, like most Americans, a drop of two of blood from some long-gone UK relation, but I can’t say for certain if they were English or Scottish or what else. However, a lifetime of reading, and a particular love of historical fiction revolving around the British monarchy, meant that nearly every turn showed me a name or a place that I already vaguely knew. Movies and TV contribute to this too, as if there are enough British accents in something, I will watch it.
A glance at the map in Hyde Park led to us making a quick detour on our route through Kensington Gardens to see the Peter Pan statue where Lady Mary dumped Lord Gillingham on Downton Abbey.
Shortly after that, we spotted and swung past the nearby Albert Memorial, though sadly there was no picnicking Dowager Countess of Grantham in sight.
As far as ACTUAL history goes, I would’ve been perfectly happy to tour the Tower of London on this trip, even if I already did it. BV and I are currently watching (rewatching for me) The Tudors, though we’re only in Season 1 and shit hasn’t really hit the fan yet. Since there’s no way he’s going to read all the books I’ve read on the subject, maybe after we finish the series (before the next trip hopefully), he’ll appreciate the creep factor of the Tower properly!
Thought 3: Look What You Did
The history of colonialism is everywhere in London from monuments of various wars to the elephants and camels around the aforementioned Albert Memorial. The oddest reminder of it, however, we happened upon by accident. My friend A used to play darts at a Mayflower Pub in San Rafael, CA. While in London, one of the few things he really wanted to do was to go visit their sister pub and so off we went. A few steps away is this statue which, since it dates from 1991, seems shockingly appropriate to the current state of affairs. Though, if the artist wanted to update the statue, he would probably have to give the figures smartphones in lieu of the magazine. Lord knows, I’ve opened Twitter and had that similar expression on my face fairly often recently. Turn back while you still can, pilgrim!
Thought 4: So Many Pubs, So Little Time
We didn’t necessarily set out to do a pub crawl on our visit, and yet we managed to hit eight of them, plus a bar and cafe with outdoor seating, aka a beer garden if you drink a beer. Which we did. I wonder if any intrepid Londoner has taken on the task of visiting all of them, which ought to earn you some sort of award from the Queen.
Keeping in mind that we live in the customer service wasteland that is Franconia, it was shocking how friendly most people were. Bartenders, patrons, the whole lot of them… it was definitely not what we are used to. From the bartender(s, it happened multiple times) who let BV sample the various choices on tap so that he could make an informed decision, to the couple who chased me outside so that they could give us their cozy nook booth when they saw us searching for a spot, it was an excellent breath of fresh air.
If you’re curious about our favorite pubs of the trip, look out for a post on that subject coming in the next few days. 🙂 Update: here!
Thought 5: The Joys of Easy-Going Friends
As alluded to earlier, we weren’t entirely on our own for this trip. We arrived on Wednesday, and on Thursday evening we met up with my old college pal A, and his lovely wife, J. We hadn’t seen them since they made their way around Germany back in 2014, and it was great to catch up. They’re fairly frequent travelers, so when they saw a good deal to London, they jumped on it and happily it worked out for us to fly up and meet them.
Anyone who has tried to travel with friends will tell you that travel style differences can be a major challenge, but this felt fairly simpatico. We stayed in different hotels (frankly, we couldn’t afford their place but its lobby was gorgeous), and met and separated as it suited us. We all had a few ideas about things we’d like to do, but no one had a checklist or a do-or-die schedule. Everyone seemed content to hang out, eat good food, see a sight or two (also from above), and wander around as long as the weather was good enough to do so. Hence our pub -> short walk to Buckingham Palace -> back to another pub on the last day. Darn you drastic temperature drop and snow!
All in all, it was a great, short city break. We could’ve had more time (so many more free museums filled with treasures!), but since Ryanair can get us there from Nürnberg for a reasonable price, hopefully we’ll get around to it again sometime.