London thoughts

  • The streets in London are smooth. I didn’t see a single pothole or patch.
  • The Underground is more than 100 years older than DC’s Metro. And it seems infinitely more reliable.
  • Underground trains come every two minutes. There is no crowding on the platforms because there’s no time for a crowd to accumulate.
  • With that level of train frequency, why would you ever want to drive?
  • I wonder how many billions of dollars we could save if DC’s Metro trains ran every two minutes.
  • Horn honking in London is not much of a thing, mostly because drivers seem to obey the rules. (Truer still in Stockholm.)
  • I didn’t hear anyone cuss out a cyclist in my seven days. They often use bus lanes and the bus drivers just go with the flow.
  • Bromptons are very popular in London.
  • Bike theft is apparently a problem; people lock their bikes with serious hardware.
  • People in London walk fast. They seem to be underdressed for the temperature.
  • I have yet to figure out if walkers should stay to the left or the right. When on an escalator, you stand on the right.
  • Footbridges across the Thames are the best. They seem to be about the length of the Key Bridge between Rosslyn and Georgetown.
  • I don’t quite understand why the platforms and the train floors are not at the same level. “Mind the gap.”
  • You can actually understand the announcements in the tube stations and on the trains. I wonder if they could send someone to DC to teach Metro personnel how to pronounce “L’Enfant Plaza”.
  • Curbstones are not nearly as high as in the US. And the buses come right to the very edge of the curb.
  • I’ve now been to five left hand drive countries. It still confuses the hell out of me.
  • I was hit by a wrong-way cyclist on a one-way street in Boston when I was in college. I now look both ways all the time, regardless of traffic flow. Without this I would have been roadkill in London.
  • The entire time we were in London, the temperature varied only about 10 degrees F. And it was warmed than DC despite being at the same latitude as Labrador.


For the first time in a year, I took a week off my bike. My wife, daughter, and I went to London to attend my daughter’s graduation from King’s College masters program in International Conflict Studies.

Last Thursday we took a red eye from Dulles to London. The plane was a 787 Dreamliner and it was a dream for British Airways profit margin. Economy class had nearly no leg room which is not a good thing if you are tall and have a history of pulmonary embolisms as I do.

Also, the air circulation was lousy. Within an hour I was sick as a dog. This really ticked me off because I had just recovered from a cold a few days before our departure.

When we got to London, my left knee, hip, and lower back ached. My daughter is the travel expert and knows how to get around London better than she does DC. So we proceeded to walk nearly 8 miles before succumbing to the time change. By the time we ended the day walking to and climbing Primrose Hill I could no longer stand up straight. Ugh. We finished the day walking 6.9 miles. (By the end of the trip we had walked 44 miles. Ironically, switching from my hiking boots to my black Clark dress shoes made a huge difference in my comfort. Go figure.)

In addition to her graduation at the Royal Festival Hall, we hit beaucoup sites including:

  • The British Museum
  • The Millennium Bridge, a new-ish footbridge across the Thames. Here we talked with Ben Wilson, known as Chewinggumman. He makes intriguing mini-paintings on the remnants of chewing gum along the bridge.
  • The Tate Modern Art Museum where we saw all manner of exhibits purporting to be art. (Including a urinal that was less artistic than those in the men’s room)
  • St. Dunstans in the East, the ruins of a church (designed by Sir Christopher Wren) bombed by the Luftwaffe during the Blitz. It’s now a garden with walls.
  • The Monument to the Great Fire of London, 1666. The fire was started at a baker’s home on Pudding Lane.
  • The Royal Observatory and the Queen’s House in Greenwich. This included a fun boat ride on the Thames. It was fun to stand on the Prime Meridian.
  • The Book of Mormon at the Prince of Wales Theatre in Piccadilly Circus. (Sadly, after we were back in the hotel room, I learned that Neil Finn had played about 2 miles due north of our hotel.)
  • The Churchill War Rooms, a warren of underground offices and living quarters where Churchill ran the war effort during the Battle of Britain.
  • The Seven Dials
  • Covent Garden
  • The Natural History Museum
  • Westminster Abbey
  • Regents Park
  • Primrose Hill

We skipped the Tower of London, St Paul’s Cathedral, and the Tower Bridge because we had done them before.

We saw a taxi protest during the evening rush hour. How they managed to get taxis side by side lined up for three blocks in the core of downtown is a mystery.

For food we ate at:

  • Dishoom (twice) for the ladies’ favorite breakfast with bottomless chai. The vegan granola is to die for.
  • Pizza Sophia, a cozy pizza place near our hotel that dispelled my hatred for London pizza from a previous trip
  • The Marquis Cornwallis, a pub two blocks from our hotel, for fish and chips and lager. Twice.
  • Nicholson’s Pub in The City (the old part of London). More beer and food. Walking fuel.
  • Nandos, because I’d never eaten there before. Underwhelming.

I didn’t ride a bike, but there is bikeshare everywhere including dockless MoBike. Feel free to ride them but good luck with the left hand drive thing.

We stopped at the Brooks Store. It’s heaven. (Unfortunately, they confirmed for me that they do not make a longer adjusting bolt for their leather saddles, leaving me with two saddles about to run out of adjusting room.)

The temperature barely changed the entire time we were in London. It was in the low 40s F every day. We were rained on once or twice but it was a light, misty sort of thing.

The flight home was another BA 787. This one had some leg room, thank god, but the air quality sucked so I got sick again.

After a day of rest, I’m heading back to the basement for some recovery bike riding on Big Nellie.

Lots of pix on my Flickr page.


fish and chips