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London

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Mar. 30th, 2003 | 04:22 pm



One thing that dampened my enjoyment of the city was a couple of days after arriving I got sick. Though I only had a fever for a 6-8 hours, the sinus infection lingered on through the rest of my trip. (And made the landing on the return flight quite painful).

One thing that rather immediately struck me was how many more bicycles there were, and the improved facilities compared to the US. There were usually bike lanes, with places for bicycles to get head starts when the lights changed. It seemed most riders were much more comfortable riding in the midst of traffic than here. A good number of cyclists had pollution masks. Not to mention, a significant number of bicycles were folders.

At one point my friends an I were waiting for a bus, and to pass the time I tried counting cars and bicycles. Where a car were four wheeled privately operated motor vehicles, I excluded buses, taxis, and motorcycles. In something on the order of 20 minutes I counted 42 cars and 15 bicycles. (Though since the street had two way traffic I might've missed vehicles on the other side of a bus currently passing in front of me. Also some of the bicycles may have been bike messengers instead of private transportation).

Another difference was how much denser the city was, with correspondingly smaller streets. The typical side street was the width of a large SUV (a SUV could drive down the street by putting both its tires on the sidewalk).

Major arterial streets were a little smaller than the typical arterial street near my apartment. (For those familiar with Pasadena, think Del Mar). The guide books claimed how horrible traffic in London was, but to me it seemed a bit lighter than here in LA.

The London underground (AKA the tube), the London metro system worked well, train service was frequent, and allowed one to relatively easily travel between all of central London. When we were looking for the sherlock homes museum I even discovered that the Baker Street station was a restored 1861 underground station.

As an aside, I learned why some people targeting the Gap were using the slogan "Mind the gap"--it's a common warning to watch your step when exiting a tube carriage.

Since Europe is relatively dense with a host of different languages and cultures, while traveling on the tube I heard a number of different languages. Also for a commuter who has memorized their trip traveling by tube doesn't require much mental effort, so I saw many people reading.

Although I think I do like LA's decision to use the honor system for its metro system, having to funnel everyone through turn-stiles is kind of annoying.

Another thing that struck me, the 10 GBP note has a picture of Charles Darwin on it, nor does it have the word "God" anywhere on it. (Unless it's micro-printed on it somewhere.) Here in the US we have enough trouble keeping Darwin in the schools.

On Sunday we went to Hyde park, which I think is about a square mile. One corner I found quite entertaining, it was called the "speakers corner", and was a space where people could setup the soap boxes (or step ladders) and try their hand at public speaking.

Being Sunday there were a number of religious types, but there was one guy happily critiquing Bush, Blair, the Iraq war, and America's haughtiness at its assumption that it's culture is the superior one. (Though I did think he didn't understand the problem with obesity in the US is class based).

Another interesting thing was staying in hostels, it provided much more opportunity to interact with people from other places. (Most continental Europeans thought London wasn't the best city to start with when exploring Europe, also one Italian was rather disapproving of English food).

As for touristy things, we went to the British museum and saw the Rosetta stone, as well as a large number of other Egyptian treasures shipped back in the late 1800s to early 1900s. We saw two churches, St. Paul's cathedral and Westminster Abbey (and I even managed to avoid bursting into flames, or at least sarcasm for the churches). Westminster abbey also served as a memorial for people considered important, so there was a section of memorials for famous poets, writers, and engineers in addition to royalty.

I managed to go see the tower of London while my companions went shopping. On an earlier day we all stopped by, but they'd already closed, but we did then see on of the Roman walls that were built around Nondoninium. A 2000 year old wall, around here 200 years is considered ancient.

Also one day I went and visited soulsong, I really enjoyed meeting her and hope she still wants to be friends . As I was mildly sick through the whole trip it seems likely that I may have given her whatever germ that was afflicting me by visiting

Also on the ride out to see her, I was also able to see some bits of the green English countryside. At her flat I was interested to see a combination washer dryer and her refrigerator is the size of units we consider "office" sized here. (Half the size of the typical household refrigerator.)

The last thing about London, I heard how London was supposed to be dreary and cloudy. While there it was sunny the entire time. I feel cheated, here I was trying to escape LA weather, and it followed me.

Considering I spent the past week doing quite a bit of walking, not eating as much, and being sick I expected that I might loose weight. When I left I my last measurement was 108 kg, when I returned it was 104.2 kg though it has bounced up to 104.8 for today. I am hoping though that it starts fluctuating in the 104s.

I'm getting tired of being a fat American.

I think one of the things that helped me drop 3 kg, was restaurants in Britain serve much smaller portions. For instance an omelette seems to be about half the size of one in the US, also cheese on omelettes is optional, not so here. Although it's not all nutritional happiness in Britain, they really like white bread there.

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Comments {8}

T e s s

(no subject)

from: soulsong
date: Mar. 30th, 2003 04:31 pm (UTC)
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ya need to fix your links at the end there :)

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Diane Trout

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from: alienghic
date: Mar. 30th, 2003 05:13 pm (UTC)
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Thank you... all those hrefs, I forgot to use the lj user tag.

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Melody

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from: melodymuse
date: Mar. 30th, 2003 06:06 pm (UTC)
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I am glad you are back safe and sound (minus the cold)

Did you get to 'Victoria Station'? It is the bustling station where the Trains and The Tube meet as a sort of hub. There was only one time that the crowds on The Tube really got to me and I suffered a pretty bad claustrophobic anxiety attack. It was during rush hour on a week day. One other time, a local was really rude to me for taking too long at the token machine, murmuring "Stupid Tourist". I felt pretty lame but I understood his impatience.

It sounds like you met some interesting people. You are much braver than I. I found myself reverting to my shy nature when it came to chit chat.

Did you get a chance to pick up a 'Time Out' magazine?

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T e s s

(no subject)

from: soulsong
date: Mar. 31st, 2003 12:54 am (UTC)
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There are actually many stations where the tube and mainline trains meet. Victoria is only one of them. There's also Kings Cross, Euston, Paddington, Waterloo, Liverpool Street and so on.

Rush hour is not a good time for tourists on the tube. 99% of people at that time are on a time-critical journey which they have done hundreds of times before. They like to go on auto-pilot from point A to point B without being obstructed and forced to think about whether they'll be late or not. A tourist in those conditions is like someone driving at 30mph in the middle of a busy freeway.

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Melody

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from: melodymuse
date: Mar. 31st, 2003 08:48 am (UTC)
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I also hate driving in Los Angeles rush hour traffic. I have been called many more rude things by my own city memebers! :)

While in Paris I took the Metro everywhere, even at peak hours but I tried to be quicker about things.

Surprisingly, I found that the peole were the most helpful at Grand Central station in New York.

I just found Victoria Station to be very pretty and easy to navigate. Riding the Eurorail was the favorite part of my travels.

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Diane Trout

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from: alienghic
date: Mar. 31st, 2003 09:18 am (UTC)
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I did get to Paddington which is one of those hubs soulsong was talking about.

No, I didn't get a time out, we were pretty busy with just what we found in the tour book.

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Happy Fun Nuala

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from: hfnuala
date: Mar. 31st, 2003 02:26 am (UTC)
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I remember in 1994, I never used to manage to finish food in America - the portions were just so huge I couldn't face eating so much.

At some stage I seem to have lost that ability to listen to my appetite, but I'm working on getting it back.

Oh and don't be too hung up on the fat American thing - people in the UK are fat too and the obsession with the weight of Americans is prejudice pure and simple.

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Diane Trout

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from: alienghic
date: Mar. 31st, 2003 10:24 am (UTC)
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Well, I struggle between thinking that my feeling overweight is just the product of a sadistic culture that wants women to feel bad about themselves and that being overweight does pose a number of health risks and that our efforts to say that it's alright to be overweight are merely rationalizations to avoid having to do the hard work of loosing weight.

One of the reasons my comment made it into that post was I was reading a review of Fat Land.

I do think one of the things that helped me lose weight while in england was the smaller portions, I'd heard a suggestion that one ask for a take home box when eating at an american restaurant, and to place half of the meal in it before starting. The remaining half is much closer to a sensible portion.

(I was ecstatic when I came home that I actually felt full and could stop eating before I cleaned my plate on several occasions.)

As for picking on American weight being prejudice, I saw that at the speakers corner. The speaker was picking on some Americans for not being able justify the invasion of Iraq, he pointed out that they were a bit weighty.

However most of what I've seen does show that the poorer someone is in the US the more likely they are to be overweight. (Our cheap food is exceedingly bad for you).

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