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Sometimes, Be A Tourist…

November 23, 2011

It’s too easy to see your own city as simply a place to work in. Every so often, it’s nice to have a sharp reminder of its beauty and just why so many people from around the world want to be a part of it.

I got just such a wake up call last week, when I was invited to see “Chicago” in its new home at the Garrick Theatre. One unusual feature of this show is that it begins at 8pm. A common occurrence when I was younger, but now costs and contracts deem 7.30pm a cheaper curtain time – and for those emigrating back outside the M25 area by public transport, it’s a welcome alteration.

Anyway, even for those of us blessed (well, sometimes) with access to the London Underground network, it pays to allow a wide margin for error. So, I chose to leave only a little after my usual time that I’d go if the curtain were 7.30pm. As a result, I arrived in Zone 1 (tube passenger speak for the central area of London, including the West End) with time to spare. It was then I decided to become a tourist.

For those who don’t know, London is one of the most walkable places on earth. Nothing is very far from anything else within Zone 1, and it is often quicker to walk somewhere (if you know the streets) than take any other form of transport. Thus a decision to alight (another tube passenger term, for “leave the train”) at Oxford Circus rather than Charing Cross (nearest station to the theatre) was taken.

And it was a good one…

Forget the advertising that has to exist in order that the rest of the display might… the Oxford Street and Regent Street Christmas – and anybody PC can feel free to substitute their own word if they like, to me they are the Christmas – Lights this year remain a seasonal joy.

Oxford Street’s are symbols against the dark sky, while Regent Street has gone for beautiful cobwebs, fading in and out in dazzling blue white along the length of the street.

Put simply, very, very beautiful.

Among my fellow pavement users, some stopped and shared the experience, others hurried by oblivious, but for me it was a little moment ‘out’ from the rush to enjoy something I’ve grown up with and rediscover it once more.

Later that night, rather than take the tube a couple of stops, I walked along from the theatre, via Leicester Square, to Green Park Station for a homeward connection. No Christmas lights this time, just lighted windows both at street level and above. This time, it was the glorious parade of architecture from the 1700s onwards that were caught in the perfection of a clear night. Again a reminder of those who built this city for us, and what we can still achieve.

As the writer Bill Bryson observed, in England, its always worth looking above the plastic signs, for there is treasure to be found – even for those who think they see things every day. As for London, Dr J’s wise words also still hold true. Tire of London? Never.

  1. Sarah Louise permalink
    November 23, 2011 8:23 pm

    I totally agree with you Steve – for my last 4 theatre visits to London we have walked from Waterloo instead of catching the tube. We have seen parts of London that you just dont see (obviously) while underground ! The wonderful architecture…with such ornate carvings I am sure we would never be able to recreate such wonders today ..even with our modern building technology! We have found that it is indeed quicker, healthier and just makes so much more of the day..not to mention the cost ! We have found with each trip that we are finding our way round with ease and London is like our second home, and is very satisfying finding your way from A – B by foot ! I feel totally liberated from the constraints of a travelcard ! And your point is a valid one – we live in Southampton with its wonderful medieval Bargate and the remainder of the walled city.. we hardly notice it – note to self, must try harder!

    • Steve Rich permalink*
      November 24, 2011 8:38 am

      Ah, Waterloo – best view in London, from the Bridge in either direction over the Thames. Can only agree with you about walking beating a travelcard any day.

      As for Southampton’s Bargate, noted next time I’m there!

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