Saturday, March 13, 2010

I've Seen Parliament, Now Where's Funkadelic?

After two and a half days here in London I've concluded that you can say what you want about Londoners, but they are very civilized.

Soldiers on their way back to their barracks following the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace

For one thing, I've only seen one person yakking on a cell phone while driving here. That's pretty amazing considering the volume of traffic in this city of 7.5 million people, which makes it the largest in Europe. And another thing, drivers without fail stop for pedestrians who are at crosswalks. That's something you almost never see back home in California, even though it's the law.

Of course as a foreign pedestrian in London the hardest thing to do is to get used to the fact that they drive on the "wrong side" of the road. That habit of looking to your left before you step off the curb to cross the street is a hard one to break. Fortunately, "look right" and "look left" are painted on the pavement at crossing points to help you remember.

Another thing that strikes me is how friendly the police officers here are. We're staying near Parliament Square and pass by there everyday. The ones who are stationed out front guarding the entrances to Parliament are always willing to give tourists directions and pose for pictures.

My son and I have either walked or taken the tube everywhere. We've visited two museums so far, The National Portrait Gallery and the smaller Wallace Collection. Admission to both is free.

The Portrait Gallery is by far my favorite. To be sure there are plenty of old paintings of "The Duke of This" or "The Earl of That," but there are also a lot of compelling contemporary portraits, mostly photographs, of well-known people who are still living. It's the best "people" watching you can do here outside of Piccadilly Square.

My son also met up with a friend of his from high school who is studying here and they visited the Imperial War Museum. While they were there, I went over to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guard which is only staged every other day during the tourist off-season.

This morning (Saturday) we took the train for the hour or so ride north to Oxford. They say your really haven't seen England if you've only been to London.

Photos from our trip are posted here.

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