It is my pleasure in my business to help people know about the options they have for getting around London. I realize this is not a lofty blog about some exquisite museum or London garden, but knowing a city’s transportation system is vital to a successful visit to this amazing city. What is wonderful about London is a visitor has so many options. When a London visitor calls our office and asks about the property they are considering, I ask them how they intend to move about the city. Almost always, they tell me that they have been reading about the London Underground. But, there are those who prefer the taxi while others decide that they are going to use the famous red double decker buses. Let’s talk about these options.
For me, the first option for getting around London is WALKING. I prefer an accommodation which is in the middle of everything because I can walk to all the theaters, restaurants, museums, etc.. I pack my camera and my walking stick, and I’m off. While walking, I meet people, find little corners and crannies which call for my camera, wander in shops, eat off the street, buy post cards, buy souvenirs, and listen to people from around the world all speaking their many languages. I love the sounds of the city–yes, the noise–like busses, street vendors, newspaper boys, the forever police cars, and the “lads” standing outside the pubs having a pint before they head home. For me, if I am going to be in a new city, I want to be dropped into the middle of it like landing in butter. Give me London, and I mean all of it. I want to be where my means of transportation is walking.
The London Tube is an amazing system; it takes you everywhere. Buy an OYSTER CARD at the beginning of your visit at the local tube stop, and you are free to explore the far reaches of London. The Oyster Card allows a visitor to travel by bus or by tube, and you will marvel at the options that are available. Don’t lose the card, and remember you use it as you go into the Tube as well as when you depart. 90% of all travelers use this system. You get your tube map which tells you where to change, and there are people everywhere who are willing to help you. Because so many people use the Tube, it is often very crowded. Be like the rest of the Londoners by being assertive, and don’t stand back timid hoping someone will be polite and offer you their space. You take control, and away you go. Caution, if you have to carry valuables on the tube, be sure they are secured in zippered pockets or in pouches/money belts. For goodness sakes, don’t expose your credit cards and passport. A dangling purse over your shoulder is a target for sure. I am not frightening anyone; I am saying BE SMART. MY FATHER USED TO TELL US TO PUT YOUR VALUABLES IN YOUR FRONT POCKET, AND IF SOMEONE GETS THEM, THEY DESERVE IT. Let me say as an aside, there is rarely an occasion to be out and about with your passport. If you are going into a bank, you will need it; but otherwise, leave it home safe and sound. Also, when taking the Tube, give yourself lots of time because you are moving with lots of people. The Tube is fun, and you have to take the experience in that light.
If I can’t walk to my destination, I prefer the bus. I DO NOT LIKE GOING UNDERGROUND. I like to see London, not some hole in the ground. Hey, that’s just me, right?! The double decker red bus is a real experience. You have your Oyster Card, so jump on a bus and London passes by you all day long. The bus stops are everywhere, and if you stand there with a smile, you will have every Londoner giving you directions and advice. The bus is not as swift as the Tube because the busses have to deal with London traffic, even though there are bus lanes. I am rarely in a rush these days, so I hop on a bus and prefer the seat near the exit door, mid bus. I like to see all the packages people are carrying. The riders are talking on their mobiles, reading the newspaper, having the other half of their Pret-a-Manger “egg and cress” sandwich which they didn’t have time for at lunch. I like to look at the clothes Londoners wear. It seems that 95% of the wear black and dark blue. Those are the colors of a city–just like New York or Boston. Several passengers have some sort of audio stuck in their ears and bounce their heads to the jitter of the music they listen to. I get a kick out of the young folks who are all hooked up with a pod in their pocket with wires to their ears. Orwell’s “1984″ is ancient history to these kids. They live in their own little worlds forgetting they are riding through the most glorious city on earth. Why do they want to miss it all. I know exactly what they are listening to because their heads flip around, their fingers conduct the band, and their feet are reeling all over the place–on the occasion, even lurching. I like the caps, the gloves, the colognes, the eye make-up, the vintage clothes, and the hip kid who has pink hair and piercings. I have seen the most amazing tattoos on necks/arms/hands/bellies/fingers/toes. Some snippy young gal with her prominent in-plants bounces by making me wonder what she is going to do with all “that” when she is 80. It is all on the bus, and I wouldn’t miss it for the world. I like to be with my LONDON CONNECTION professional team who travel from one flat to another, jumping on and off the bus in the most amazing routine; they carry on this way because they are working Londoners who are part of this complex society that has come to terms with city life. Goodness, it is exciting. Just sit back and enjoy it. Who knows, you might see a hurdy-gurdy lady or a great actor on his way to the theater. Ralph Fiennes was on the bus I was traveling on a couple of years ago–everyone knew, but it was pretty routine to them. I thought to myself that anything can happen on a bus. Be BRAVE–just do it!
As I grow older, I prefer the London TAXI because it is physically easier. I also take the taxi because the cab takes me to a specific spot where I don’t have to walk from the Tube Station or bus stop. If I am carrying packages with me, I always take the taxi. I have noticed that the older the client, the more often the taxi is the preferred transportation. I really enjoy talking to the cab drivers. I love their accents, and they engage in conversation on the drop of a hat. Ask a taxi driver about something you have been wondering, and you will get a lot of answers. Ask a driver about what they thought of Margaret Thatcher. Ask them what they think of the Duchess of Cambridge–believe me, you will suddenly begin to think she is some sort of James Bond beauty. When I step into a London cab, there is a atmosphere which I really enjoy. I talk about politics, the Queen, the Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics, British football, the best pub in the area, the most exciting club, the antique markets, and street markets all over London. I tell them that I write a BLOG; they will scratch their head for a moment and then will ask what I write about. I tell them I am going to take their picture and write about their taxi service the next morning on my blog. They begin to glow like a shiny penny, and if they are techy will ask me for the blog address. The cab is a taxi driver’s world with pictures of his kids and grandchildren, his wife, and sometimes a St Christopher (fewer and fewer all the time). I ask him what he knows about Mitt Romney, and they recognize the name and then suddenly blurt out that he is man running against Obama for US President. A few moments later he will add a comment which never fails: AH, HE’S THAT MORMON MAN–WEREN’T THE OSMONDS MORMONS?! By now the conversation is really rich as we turn to Cameron and the Euro and the French. Oh dear! THE FRENCH – that is one way to get an English taxi driver all wound up. What is beautiful is all this is flying around the inside of the cab in A GORGEOUS COCKNEY ACCENT, and I am licking it up like a kitten to milk. I ask what they think of Prince Charles. They always respond something like this: AH, HE’S OK, I GUESS. HIS FACE IS ALWAYS LIKE A YARD OF CREPE–AND THAT CAMILLA BIRD, I DON’T UNDERSTAND THAT ONE BOB! Then I start off on my praise for the Prince and what an excellent king he will be. The driver responds: DO YOU THINK THEY WILL PASS OVER HIM FOR WILLIAM AND KATE? I respond by saying NO because it is the Prince’s constitutional right. After that, he just shrugs his shoulder and tells me how slow the taxi business is this year–not like it was ten years ago. Why would I travel by TUBE when I can have all this chatter. No thanks. I always tip a pound on top, and I have made a friend. What do I do then? I write about him on my blog. You know, I am glad I am older, riding around the city in a real London BLACK CAB with a driver with a very broad cockney accent.
So, there are your options. The let-in people who show you into your flat and orient you to London will tell you all about the Tube, where the Tube Stations near your accommodation are. NOW, LIKE BIRDS, YOU ARE OUT OF YOUR CAGE, FREE TO FLY AROUND THE MOST EXCITING CITY ON EARTH. Honestly, that is true. You go find out and see if I am telling the truth. Then, come home and tell me all about your experiences. I will read you emails with the greatest pleasure; and in some cases, I will put it all up on the Blog.
Much affection to you who choose to make London your FRIEND. It’s a friendship that will last for the rest of your life.
Thomas Moore email: TMooreSr@me.com Telephone: 801.791.9918