A Visit to London, 2008


By Wes Clark



It's wonderful to visit a place I've only read about since I was fourteen or so; I like this city a lot. And the history! So many things to see, so many things to know... We only spent a week there (March 10th-15th, 2008) - I could have easily stayed longer.


1.)    Geez, is it EXPENSIVE! (London is well-known as being an expensive place in which to live.) How are people able to live here?!?

2.)    This exchange rate is a killer...A Krispy Kreme doughnut is $2.20. At a small cafe, a burger and fries will set you back more than $20. A fridge magnet is about $6.

3.)    We haven't yet seen a gas (petrol) station anywhere in the streets of London, but we've been told that gas is 1.05 pounds per liter. That's about $2.10 at the current exchange rate. Multiplying this by 3.78 gives a price of $7.94/gallon.

4.)    In general, we haven't seen people walking pets on the street; we're told that this takes place in the parks.

3.)    We stopped at a pharmacy (Boots) and were amazed at how few pain relievers and cough and cold remedies were available. Tylenol (acetaminophen) isn't available here; but Paracetamol, which I learned is the same thing, is.

4.)    We say that Washington, D.C. is a monumental city, but it just can't compare to London - not by a long sight. Neither can New York City. This is far and away the most beautiful city I have ever seen in terms of architecture. (With some glaring exceptions!) There's something interesting to look at everywhere you look.

5.)    Harrod's is the most amazing department store I have ever seen. Even the flagship Macy's can't compare. Unbelievable selection - but, due to the exchange rates, the costs are sky-high. Once again, we passed on souvenirs ($16 for a small tin of biscuits? I don't think so.)

6.)    As in America, English is disappearing fast here. We constantly bump into foreigners. At least three times I asked someone a question only to find that he or she couldn't speak English.

7.)    The public transportation system is wonderful; at least as good as the D.C. Metro.

8.)    Beautiful dishy young blue-eyed blonde women everywhere. I wouldn't have thought I'd find the stereotypical "California Girls" (minus the tans) here, but it's so.

9.)    We've been eating at budget places: Burger King and a sandwich place called Pret a Manger (which is surprisingly good) and bringing food back from the local Tesco (a supermarket). Food at restaurants and cafes just seems to be way out of line price wise. I am really unimpressed with the Tesco; it seems to have a very limited selection of goods compared to the usual U.S. market.

10.)  Candy (chocolate bars) seem to be cheaper than in the U.S.

11.)  Wireless Internet/Free Internet availability here really sucks, comparatively speaking. No comparison to the U.S. However, I did find a free Internet access feature at a local McDonald's!

12.)  I see very few obese people compared to the U.S.

13.) The U.S. has far more escalators than in London, which has a lot of stairs. Maybe this has an influence on peoples' weight...

13.) I suspect many Londoners are partially dehydrated. I saw very few water fountains around.


What we've seen and done:


Westminster Abbey (Martin Luther King.)

Covent Garden

Greenwich Royal Observatory (site of the Prime Meridian)

Greenwich Queens House

Greenwich pedestrian tunnel (crosses under the River Thames)

National Portrait Gallery (I wasn't allowed to take photos indoors...)

Buckingham Palace. The changing of the guard, which is perhaps more of a show in the summer, was a disappointment. It's essentially a crowd scene set to band music. Photos (in no order): One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten.

The Tower of London (WOW - amazing.)

Liberty of London (a glorious old department store)

Bond St.

Carnaby Street.

Savile Row

Piccadilly Circus at night ("Eros," sign.)

Oxford Circus at night

Victoria and Albert Museum: Cromwell, Richard I effigy, Jesus Christ.

British Museum: Rosetta Stone, Ram in the Thicket, Gilgamesh tablet, The Lewis Chesspieces, Sutton Hoo helmet, Identity of Sutton Hoo king, Cool Greek battle helmets, Bronze dagger.

National Gallery (I wasn't allowed to take photos indoors...)

The Beatles Abbey Road Lp cover site (EMI studios) (Cover, scrawl.)

Trafalgar Square

Big Ben and Parliament at Night (Big Ben, Thames nightscape, Richard Lion-heart.)


Rode double-decker busses and the Underground

Had fish and chips at a pub in Greenwich

Saw a Smart Car

I was planning to ride the London Eye (an enormous high-tech Ferris wheel with spectacular views of London), but, frankly, at 15 pounds per person ($60 equivalent for two), it was hard to justify the half-hour ride - so we didn't.