Thoughts on London
Superficial thoughts on London from a first-time visitor
I was in London a few weeks ago and thought it would be interesting to make a few comparisons between Ontario/Ottawa/Canada vs London. I had a perception that I knew what London would be like. I know Brits, I’ve read about London, etc but there are many little differences that I never would have suspected. The sort of things that wouldn’t be mentioned.
I spent almost all of my time between Kensington and St. James, so my perceptions are probably coloured by staying in an affluent area.
Pedestrian walkways are different from Canada. Besides the obvious of cars driving on the other side of the road, I think the way it works is that pedestrians never have right of way over cars/bikes, but can walk whenever there is nothing coming. The impact of this difference is that cars are not all that careful of pedestrians, but that pedestrians have a much easier time of traversing the city.
Main arteries through London are only four lanes wide, maybe five with turning lanes. This is compared to major arteries in Ontario (for example) which might be six or eight lanes wide. They also are pretty fast moving in comparison.
Way more people smoke there than in Ontario, especially in the 20-40 year old demographic
People were drinking outside of pubs, on the street! What a weird sight for someone from Ontario, where drinking is heavily regulated. Stores just had alcohol for sale too, they didn’t seem weird about it like we are.
There are also way more kids out and about in the city, especially during the week. There are also always little alleys and sidewalks that you can pull over your stroller. It’s very pedestrian friendly.
Masking is not political there like it is in Canada. I rarely saw anyone wearing a mask, across all demographics. Even young, lefty looking people don’t wear them which is a big change from Canada.
Prices are way different from Ontario. Food is cheap and much better than I’m used to. I had a smashing sandwich from Pret-a-Manger that was only GBP 4 (~ CAD 6.50). That being said, my Coke was GBP 2 (CAD $3.20). Here in Canada, that would have been probably CAD 10 and CAD 2 respectively. I visited a little grocery store that was a bit like a grown up dep and their 2L bottles of Coke were GBP 4. That’s astronomical and a good reason to avoid pop.
The Underground is great. You get access in/out by tapping your credit card and it tallies how much you owe at the end of the day. I took four rides in one day and it only cost GBP 5. It’s fast and always came when it said it was going to.
I stayed in Kensington near Gloucester Road station and did some exploring around the area. I can’t believe how many things, including groceries, are available within a few minute walk. There was a little walkable neighbourhood around many of the Tube stations I saw, seems like a very nice place to live. Again, this is probably coloured by where I stayed.
There were parks everywhere in London. Besides the obvious ones like Hyde Park and Green Park, there were green spaces everywhere. The strangest thing to me was that some of them, like St. James Square, are semi-private: they are open to the public during the day and are locked at night. I’ve never seen anything like that in Canada, where spaces like that will either be completely private or city maintained and open to anyone.
The trees in the parks (again, I stayed in an old, affluent area) are massive. Much bigger than anything we have in Canada. That seems ironic since Canada is known for its trees, but I’m guessing its because we spent hundreds of years shipping our biggest trees over to the UK, so most trees here are young.
I expected the flora and fauna to be different, but London plane trees are weird looking. I also saw a Canada goose, which I did not expect to see. I knew geese meant something different in Europe, and I saw a few, but the Canada goose threw me.
It’s almost cliche to say, but there is such a weight of history on everything. I knew it was old, but it was older than I expected. I was able to get much better context for places I’d heard about but never seen before.
This was a bunch of stream of consciousness thoughts, but I had a lovely time in the city and I am very excited to go back, hopefully within the next few months.
I said the same thing when I went to Saskatoon. I knew it was going to be flat, but it was flatter than I expected