The First Things I noticed About London (part 2)

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Erik Redli is a university graduate from Slovakia who is currently living in London. In the second of a two-part article, he looks at the things he initially found most unusual and different about London. You can read part one here.

On Weekdays the City Belongs to Tourists

PubsOnce I went for a night out on a Monday. Together with my Mexican roommate, we headed for the local Walkabout (a chain of bars in London). We did not expect many people there, it was a Monday. However, we had to wait in a queue for 45 minutes, such was the crowd.

At the weekend this multiplies as the tourists are joined by the local residents. On a Friday, locals seem to call it a day around 4pm and in the evening you can see them hanging around the pubs and bars. I like the way they rest their glasses of beer on the street lamps while immersed in lively discussions. Some of them blow a lot of money, and once I even found £10 on the street.

Often the bars are full, so you see the people standing on the street. Around midnight people move to Soho, where the life is little wilder. And hotter. Many people call at a 24-hour McDonalds to grab some refreshments. For transport they use buses, cabs and bike taxis. Once I saw a crowd of people squeezing in to an overcrowded bus so that the warning started sounding: "This bus is under attack, contact the police."

Newspapers are Free, but you have to Pay for the Toilets

Some services in London meet higher standards than you'd ever imagine. On the week days, there are free newspapers twice a day, available at train stations, shops, or simply given out by the paper boys. The papers are rather thin, but you still get the most important news. Bigger English newspapers cost about £1 each and offer really detailed information and analysis. The papers in broadsheet format take up a lot of space but there are also a number of papers in the smaller, tabloid format.

On the other hand, many other things in London are subject to fees- for example the public toilets. I know of one free toilet at Covent Garden and one at Soho, plus in any McDonalds (but you should order at least a small fries afterwards).

Prices at restaurants are higher than in Slovakia, but you can come across some good bargains or meal deals- I was lucky at the Fire & Stone restaurant in Covent Garden. I would also recommend Chinatown and the "all you can eat" restaurants where you can enjoy a meal from £4-8.

Alcohol is quite expensive, except for during Happy Hour when it is almost compulsory to have as many drinks as possible. But be careful in the streets where you can be charged up to £500 fine drinking in public.

If you Want to Know What's New, Go Outside

In London one really gets a feel for world events. A few days after the death of Michael Jackson, the main entrance to the Lyrics Theatre showing Thriller was full of flowers and candles, and some fans were even sleeping there. You could buy a T-shirt with an Steve Jobsinscription "Michael Jackson, 1958 - Forever". There was a similar situation last October when Steve Jobs died, but instead of the sleepers, you could see bitten apples in front of the Apple store.

There is always something going on in the city. You can walk into a shop and be occupied for two hours. You can buy anything you can think of: various T-shirts, Star-Wars action figures. I've even seen a shop where you can buy vice-versa clothes, where the pants were designed to be worn at the top, and you would pull the T-shirt on your legs.

Designer shops have the latest collection on display but the older clothes can be bought at even a 70% discount. The streets are full of interesting people from different cultures who will provide you with information you wouldn‘t learn from the newspapers.

City Tours at the Cost of Regular Bus Fare

Many companies offer guided bus tours around the city. However, you can enjoy one simply by using the public transport buses, particularly if you are seated on the top deck. If Bus Touryou choose a good route, you will see most of the London's sights at the cost of a regular fare. For example, bus route 10 starts at King's Cross Station. From there you will travel past the British Library, and on the left you will see UCL, ranked amongst the world's top universities.

After going past the British Museum you get to the Oxford Street. There you will be held up for a while, but you will have enough time to see all the shops, the people on the street and the nervous drivers. It is the traffic jams that add to the relaxing nature of the bus journey. If you are bored, you can spot the traditional black cabs.

At Marble Arch, you will turn left. On the right you can see the Triumphal Arch, and a little further on, Hyde Park. On the left are some of the most prestigious London hotels- the Dorchester, Hilton, Le Meridien Piccadilly and the Ritz.

At the Hyde Park Corner, the bus will turn right, to Knightsbridge, passing Harrods and Harvey Nichols- two luxurious department stores. The bus terminates near South Kensington, not far from the Museum of Natural History, the Science Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

On your way back, you can take the number 9 bus towards Trafalgar Square. You have to change there, so why not visit the National Gallery with Van Gogh's Sunflowers and Caravaggio's Supper in Emaus on display? Apart from that, there is always some kind of life at Trafalgar Square, often with concerts or operas. Finally, get on a number 12 to Westminster. You will see the Parliament buildings as well as Big Ben, and over the Thames you will glance the London Eye.

Find other posts by Erik here.

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