The Month Old Tourist
We've been here a month, and last weekend was the first time we were off jetsetting or trainspotting or sleeping off a many-pint-induced hangover (It's not embarrassingly declasse; it's London. Drinking one too many pints is a cultural experience. And those glasses are so heavy. You have got to drink them fast). So Michal and I went out to Trafalgar Square to pick up our open topped double decker bus passes. And since it's the off season, that 24 hour deal become a sweet 48 hour one with a free rive cruise on the Thames. And god deal too, because there's so much to do, it would be a right miracle if you could cram it all into one day. Though I supposed most people investing that kind of green on an experience would be awake before 10AM. (It's science. I'm almost still a teenager and I need my sleep. Face it, I might as well still be a teenager until I turn 21 as far as America is concerned).
But it was such great fun to see London from above, in a comfy seat with the wind blowing your hair back from your eyes. We had snappy British commentators and the yellow bus route that went everywhere--past the narrowest pub in London to the one that Dickens used to frequent as if that would impress me. If I drink there, will I start writing as terribly as him? One could make an argument reading this blog that I'm a little wordy. But give me this, at least I'm interesting, or you wouldn't be here. This isn't an eleventh grade required assignment. This is fun.
I learned the origin of the term hangover, and had a good laugh at some cheesy, super super cheesy jokes at the expense of those who get married atop the London Eye. Jokes with punchlines like 'It's all downhill from there.' And we cruised under the Waterloo bridge, the Ladies' Bridge, built by the women left home during World War Two, and predictably, it is the only bridge spanning the Thames that was finished both on time and under budget. We stopped at the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London and we were told stories about the electric shaver, and the walkie schorchie and the gherkin (all new buildings and their nicknames), aren't the English so delightfully clever? They also use the word clever an inordinate number of times, especially in my design classes. It's their buzzword for innovative.
But if you really want to get the overall experience of London's tourist attractions, you've got to get yourself a London pass. My parents picked them up for their trip in November, and I was browsing through the guidebook. Seriously. That thing gets you in everywhere, and you get a week long pass on all six London transport zones. It's insane. I wonder what New York's would get you into. And you can bet everything you own that I'm going to do one of those stupid bus tours of New York as soon as I get back stateside. It was so amusing. I want to know all the silly secrets of New York's history and tourist attractions.
And after the tour, we met Claire and Jiwon outside of the London Eye. and shared a couple of bottles of wine on the lawn as we waited for the line to die down, listening to a singer butcher some of the classics and KT Tunstall. And when the line did die down, and we walked arm in arm in merryment up to the Eye, we were told they'd closed. It was 9PM. This is the number one tourist attraction in London. It costs £20 per person and when full, holds 640 people. And it closes at 9PM? The Empire State Building doesn't close until 2AM.
"Well, what do we do?" We passed over our tickets and in a clipped British accent, the kind I can never understand even when fully coherent, told us we'd have to come back tomorrow and pay a £10 fee to extend our tickets to the next day. And we walked away, too buzzed to feel the sting, which only gradually hurt as we walked it off, back over the Thames to sit in Parliament Square, under the Eye of Big Ben, discussing nonsense, our stupidity, and plan of attack.
On Sunday, Michal and I set out to cruise the Thames with our complimentary ticket included with the bus tour. You get a unique perspective of the city, but honestly most of the guided tour is the same, except for some fun warnings about pigeons roosting under the bridges and how you really, really shouldn't look up with your mouth open should one of them well, you get the idea. And we saw the three Blackfriar's bridges, one of which, only the eight red pillars of the foundation remain. And you get a nice image of the cornerstone of London Bridge. Photo opportunity!
And exhausted, bank accounts depleted, we headed home for dinner after the giantest red velvet cupcake as we walked over Tower Bridge and waited for dark, and the opportunity to try the Eye again.
We have grand plans of bitching and complicated math to prove that they don't need our 10 quid each to get us on for the night. We get up to the line, and Claire is swiped through (VICTORY) and I hand over my ticket, and it beeps and then: "Hang on a second, these are for yesterday."
"Yeah, we bought day tickets. They said it would last 24 hours."
"Well, they shouldn't have told you that, there aren't 24 hour tickets, they only last until the end of the day."
"So," Claire pushes back, "What are we supposed to do?"
"Well, normally, you'd need to get back to the ticket counter and pay a fee to extend your tickets."
I can feel Claire puffing up beside me to argue back.
"But since it's so confusing, I'll just let you through."
Sigh, thank you. Points again for the cute, clueless American accent.
And oh god, I know it's expensive. And it's so expensive they call it the Wheel of Fortune, because, as that complicated math let us know, at £20 a head for 640 people, every time it's full that's £12,800. And to put it in terms you actually understand, $20.5K. Yeah.
But the views from the top are heartstopping. So put aside your petty, I'm not a tourist and a I refuse to do this, and save your pennies before you come to London. 'Cause you're never gonna get a view like that, not anywhere else.