London: First Impressions

The first blog post from abroad. Hello from the lovely city of London. When I told my co-workers that I was looking forward to our almost-Summer European trip, and spoke about how I was going to get a tan, and then mentioned that we were starting in London, all of my former UK colleagues burst out with laughter. True to form, it rained on us not long after we landed in London, but that’s been the only patch of bad weather we’ve had so far. Today, day #2, was nice and sunny – so much so that I had to break out the sunglasses.

The first thing I noticed was just how narrow everything is here. From the walkways, to the shops, even the roads. I remember someone telling me how fortunate we are in Australia to have the big houses that we do, with the giant backyards, but I didn’t understand what they meant until I came here. Well, to be fair, Tokyo was also pretty narrow, but I never felt like I was in danger of being hit by a car if I stood too close to the road.

Which brings me to the next part – jaywalking is a way of life here. If you don’t jaywalk, expect to spend at least an extra minute or two at each intersection. I don’t know if it’s just central London (we are staying at a hotel near Hyde Park), but it seems like the best way to spot a tourist from a local is to see whether they cross the road as soon as there’s a gap in the traffic. We saw one guy run between two moving cars, barely dodging them. He must be born-and-bred London. But that was the only dangerous case of jaywalking we’ve seen so far, everyone else has been really safe about it, so I’m starting to think maybe it’s just a rule here that you can cross whenever it’s safe, regardless of the colour of the traffic lights – which this BBC news article confirms:

But there is no such offence in the UK, where it is considered a personal responsibility to cross the road safely (although London mayor Ken Livingstone last summer proposed making jaywalking illegal). The Highway Code recommends that all pedestrians abide by the Green Cross Code: “Where there is a crossing nearby, use it. Otherwise choose a place where you can see clearly in all directions.”

At first, it seems everything is so cheap here, but then you factor in the poor AUD x GBP rate right now (0.52), and it seems everything is crazily expensive. Luckily, the conversion is pretty easy, since the Aussie dollar is roughly half the value of the pound at the moment, so all we need to do is double the price of everything. And by expensive, I mean eating out, the supermarkets seem to be selling things at roughly the same price as supermarkets back home, so I guess maybe it’s a bit of an unfair comparison, as it’s not like we’d be eating out all the time at home.

We took the Heathrow Express train, from Heathrow airport to Paddington station. Luckily, our hotel was only a 10 minute walk away. Well, 10 minutes according to Google maps. In reality, I think it took is about half an hour to get there, if you factor in the fact that we were carrying out luggage, and the fact that we got quite lost. But we made it to our hotel eventually. It’s pretty nice that there seems to be a lot of street maps around London, so even though we were lost, it was easy to get back on track.

Not too much of interest to report. I’ve been slowly accumulating photos of our food adventures. I know I was worried that the food here would be too foreign, but I have tried things that I wouldn’t normally eat at home. This morning, I had a classic English breakfast: a hash brown, sausages, bacon, tomato, baked beans, toast and a fried egg (which I gave to MrFodder). I did eat most of it with tomato sauce (because why would you turn down tomato sauce when it’s on offer?), but other than the egg, I tried it all. I’m not game for black pudding though.

At Geoff’s suggestion, I’ve been keeping an activity diary. He said that it often bothers him that he only has vague memories of what his honeymoon was like, and he wished he had spent more time recording things. I guess I have this blog as well, but I don’t want it to turn into a what-I-ate-for-breakfast kind of blog – even though breakfast happens to be in a foreign location. I’ve been taking photos of all of our meals, but I don’t think I’m qualified to be keeping a food blog, and I don’t think other people find food as fascinating as I do. I guess I’ll keep the more mundane stuff in my notebook, and try to post some interesting things here. I am pretty sad that I lost my streak, but I guess I was too busy with the movie and with packing to really process it until now. Oh well, I guess my next goal is to try and beat my old record for the most blog posts in a year (2007 (237 posts) – which also happens to be the last time I tried to write a post every day). I’m not actively trying to beat that number, but I’ll see how I go.

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