thoughts on london

I have been in London for three weeks.  I have come and gone over the years for a few days here and there but not for an extended period of time.  The last extended period of time was in college when I spent a semester abroad living in South Kensington while taking classes in the City near Shoreditch.   A lot has changed.

Vast amounts of wealth from the Middle East and India is something that I noticed more than anything.  Walking through Mayfair on any given night you can easily see 5-6 Rolls Royces on the streets.  Lots of women with burkas carrying Gucci bags and wrists adorned with diamond gold watches.  Money seems to flow like water.  Glitz and cash galore.  You don't see that in NYC.  London appears to be a portal for the rest of Europe and the Middle East.  On one hand, I look at how much time, energy and money our country is giving to the Middle East as well as India and take pause.  The people I see on the streets certainly come from these areas of the world and I wonder if they care about their fellow countrymen who have not had the success or education that the foreigners (themselves) in London have had.  Are they giving back to their country?  On the other hand, perhaps these foreigners have fled their country and have found success in London as many people have in the US.  So it is not for me to judge but I can't help but wonder.  The full on burka, seeing only the eyes of the women underneath and just getting a peek of the wealth under their robe makes me uncomfortable and I am not sure why.  This topic has definitely been one we have discussed many times since being here.

I love all the parks in London.  There seems to be a park at every turn, down streets, in squares.  Almost a found refuge from the bustling of the city.

I love how they call the bathroom "the loo".

I love the tube and the unsaid rules.  Stay to the right if you just want the escalator pull you up and the people who want to run upstairs should stay to the left.  Very civilized.

I love the locals pubs and how people hang outside at lunch and drinks pints of ale. 

I find it frustrating that everything is only sold in stores that are made for each individual item.  You can't buy a notebook at a pharmacy or grocery store.  Drugs and shampoos are for the pharmacy.  Food only is for the grocery store.  Advil is only for the pharmacy.  Very old school.  

I love the easy access to Europe.

Walking down the streets is frustrating.  Nobody seems to have any feeling for their space.  Maybe it is because they drive on the other side of the street than we do. 

London is huge.  Food here was god awful 30 years ago and a lot has changed since then. 

The museums are fantastic.  Cultural is everywhere.  Theater is huge.  Restaurants are abundant.  Neighborhoods are defined.  In many ways, it feels like NYC.  English is spoken which is a huge plus for Americans. The access to transportation and cultural activities is similar to NYC.  But at the end of the day, as much as London has changed dramatically since I spent an extended amount of time here which was during the Thatcher years, culturally we are very different.  I can't give specific examples or point to one particular thing but the Brits are a very different animal.  All sentences end in questions.  Words and explanations are different.  It is a very good thing.  You might see a Gap here or an American Apparel and anything you can buy here you can basically buy in the states but it is different.  Thank god.

I am very ready to go home.  It has been an interesting three weeks.  I feel I am on vacation but not on vacation.  Sort of in limbo.  The place I had to rent because the place I rented six months ago was flooded, leaving me with very few options, is "ghetto" as Jessica called it.  That probably made a difference.  Great location, weird place.  Was supposed to be a time for me to be myself while Emily went to school which didn't happen so that changed everything.  I do love that we all got to know London and where everything is.  Can't beat that.  I like London but not sure I love London.  

It was an amazing opportunity to be in London for three weeks and parts of Europe for two more.  I miss my bed, my pillow, my kitchen and my dog.  My clothes are so gross that I might consider burning them.  I miss having some structure.  I miss my friends particularly one friend who is hard to live without.  Lots to think about now that we are leaving.  I liked how Emily put it.  She said that the opportunity to go to school for three weeks in London among peers from all over the world was eye-opening.  Different walks of life from a variety of educational backgrounds.  It put her in a position to glimpse at the world at large.  After all, as the world gets flatter, these are the kids she will be competing against around the world.  To see the kids mental drive, energy and competition level from different countries gave her a lot to think about.  That is really what these trips are about.

Seeing all our kids take a step back and see the world at a very different angle is a privilege.  These experiences are life changing.  Re-visiting this trip around our kitchen table six months from now is really what is of interest.  Taking a step back and realizing what we saw, what we learned and of course what we ate, is what the adventure is all about. 

Comments (Archived):

  1. scottythebody

    You noticed the walking thing, too. I don’t get it.You’d think with how orderly and polite everything is in London, that everybody would walk on the same side as they drive. But they don’t. I attribute it to the international nature of that town. Probably half the people are visiting and they don’t have the sense to walk on the left, the Londoners adjust by walking on the right, but then dumbasses like me who think that I should walk on the side that everybody drives on screw up that part, too. Or maybe I have it all exactly backwards. At any rate, walking down the sidewalk (err.. pavement) in London is like a game of Spy Hunter.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I thought it was us. Its a hellacious navigation out on the streets of London

      1. RichardF

        There is no walking etiquette over here I’d say. It would def have been made worse by tourists meandering at a crawl.

        1. Gotham Gal

          Walking in the streets of nyc, it makes me crazy when people meander through the streets.

    2. Weefz

      Nah, nothing do to with driving – we just walk anywhere we can. Too many gawping tourists and slow people so the only way to get where you’re going on time is to weave in and out!

  2. Adrian Bye

    great shot

  3. Helene

    come home already…

  4. Satish Mummareddy

    Couple of notes:1) Wealth in India is mostly transferred from one generation to the next in the family, so there is a lot more room for philanthropy in India. Bill Gates & Warren Buffet are trying to change that by trying to persuade the more rich people to donate most of their wealth during their lieftime.…2) I moved to the US 10 years ago when I was 20. My thought process is that there are so many problems in the US: education, medicine, obesity, coming unemployment boom with China & a bunch of cheaper labor countries pushing on all cylinders etc, energy & water shortage. If I ever make money, I would rather focus on the problems here because I have spent my adult life trying to assimilate to this country and I understand the problems here better than the ones in India. 3) Either way, how do i differentiate between helping a foster system kid getting bounced around struggling to get an education in the US and a kin in India who helps his parents sell street food & make a living. 🙂

    1. Gotham Gal

      Philanthrophy is a big part of the mindset of Americans. Not easy moving under wealthy people from other countries to give back to their own. I do believe that is changing.My only hope is that anyone with means or desires gives back in so form. In the end, we all benefit.

  5. kirklove

    What a nice recap. I’ve enjoyed reading about your travels as always. It’s almost like I got to go on vacation as well so thank you for that.So much to touch on this post (class structures, culture differences, gentrification. home sickness) it’s almost impossible to do in a reply. I guess the best way to summarize is what I consider the greatest lesson my father ever taught me: It’s good to ask questions. Just make sure you listen and respect all the answers you get.PS: Welcome back to the greatest city on earth.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Thanks Kirk.Maybe we have a warped view but I totally agree. NYC is the best city in the world.

  6. TanyaMonteiro

    I consider travel, especially extended stays, like a degree, sounds like you got a masters.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Ha. I love that.

  7. Jim B

    I’m English and with work and family commitments I have not had time to escape back to England for an extended stay in a long time. Thanks for all the great write ups and insights, its been fun hanging out in London vicariously through your blog. Cheers and welcome back!

    1. Gotham Gal

      Thanks. Glad you enjoyed your “vicarious” vacation!

  8. William Mougayar

    Great perspective. I can tell it was both exhilirating and rewarding. There’s a French saying which translation is ‘travel broadens the mind’ (les voyages forment la jeunesse). It is so true. A trip to Europe is like charging up the batteries.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Then I am totally charged

      1. Tereza


  9. CCjudy

    and they are fighting to build mosques in very sensitive places Judy

  10. Christine Tsai

    Wholeheartedly agree about kids being able to see the world. IMO, that is one of the best learning experiences you can get (way above sitting in a classroom and merely reading about the world). It opens up their eyes, minds, and hearts.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Traveling truly changes ones perception of the world. It is amazing to hear the kids discuss and delight in what they have experience.

  11. Sam Thorp

    The casual racism of your second paragraph about Indian and Middle Eastern wealth and is pitch perfect, vile and drowning in assumptions.Your country’s gifts to the Middle East are well documented. And your government’s support for the, for example, Saudi government is a major cause of inequality across the world. And the reason for your country’s ‘gift’ to Saudi Arabia…OIL.This is my favorite sentence: ‘So it is not for me to judge but I can’t help but wonder.’ It’s lovely. It reads like satire. It isn’t.

  12. Tereza

    Re: burning your clothes….I’m packing for Europe now…how persnickety were the Continental restaurants about men wearing a jacket?

    1. Gotham Gal

      no need for a jacket to the places we went

  13. Mike Hart

    I really enjoyed living vicariously on your trip to Europe seeing the food presentations. I also appreciate your candid viewpoint on London (relax readers – it was just a few casual observations).London has always been a fascinating city for the traveler because it is such a melting pot. As for the real London you only need to go to the corner pub for a pint or two to understand what makes her tick.The opportunity for children to study abroad in any direction – east/west, west/east – can only help prepare them to solve more complex problems in the future.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Thanks so much. Believe me, very casual observations

  14. johndodds

    Thanks for this. It was exactly what I was hoping for when I posted a probably unseen comment a couple of weeks back at a time when I was trying to understand your expressed desire to leave. For example, I had interpreted one observation about people drinking outside pubs at lunchtime as an arguably justifiable criticism of the role of alcohol in UK society and now know better.Some of the questions you raise re perambulation, the transient influx of wealth during the summer have been answered here or on Fred’s blog, so I’ll just add that you can find general purpose stores in central London but perhaps not in the area you were staying – much like there not being big supermarkets on Fifth Avenue or downtown (until the arrival of Whole Foods). Local knowledge as ever takes time and local connections to acquire, as my early time In NY proved all to well to me – but the views of a visitor have been great to read. Thank you for taking time out of your vacation to offer them.p.s. Has or will Emily be doing anything similar re St Martins?

    1. Gotham Gal

      Emily thought St. Martin’s was an interesting experience particularly beingin a class with a mix of foreigners ( British yes but lots of otherEuropeans ). Their views on career, education etc. She stands firm whenshe says that kids at her age, 17, at least the ones that she met in thisprogram, are not as focused on their future as her and her friends are. Shefeels that her friends, although are young and having fun, are thinkingabout their careers, trying to obtain areas of work or take classes thatinterest them and will help them in the long run based on what they believethey want to do to. She didn’t find the same focus in her European peers.She said that is what made the experience at St. Martin’s really worthwhile.