I will be in London for a few days this week, so you will hear a lot about my experience, opinions, and thoughts.
I have a love‐hate relationship with this city. It has much to offer, but can be extremely irritating. Aggravation is guaranteed, if one uses Heathrow as a gateway: I have never had a pleasant experience. Arriving via the tunnel is more pleasant.
I passed through Heathrow for the first time in 1966, on my way to Germany. I did not leave the airport. I believe those same buildings comprise the current Terminal 2, which was the one Lufthansa used for many years. My first visit to London was in 1973: I have three memories. I stayed at a small hotel in Bayswater available only to US military officers; I bought a sheepskin coat (a brand I had seen advertised in The New Yorker for years), and saw a stunning beautiful girl on an underground platform. The things one remembers...
In my last job, I traveled to London frequently—at times, once a week. The agency I visited, although never spoken, wished that I would arrive the previous evening for a meeting. If I came direct from the airport, they could expect me to be in a foul mood. The flight from Frankfurt was often shorter than the time needed to get through the airport. Being American, I was treated to the 3rd World welcome (the Australians have it worst: they belong to the Commonwealth and bow down to the queen, but get the same unwelcome treatment). The "special relationship" that politicians keep harping about is no where is sight. And, how won the war for the bloody Brits (Germans get to use the express EU line). Once one manages to escape the joy of Heathrow, on is faced with the choice of ground transportation. Taxi is closest to the door and most "comfortable" (relative term, if one comes from a land of Mercedes taxis), but is expensive and can take the longest (there is one road with many traffic lights). The train is the longest walk, is mid‐priced and can be fastest...if there is not an endless line for taxis at Paddington. The Underground is the cheapest and most consistent time‐wise, but uncomfortable. One does get to do market research on fellow humanity.
Warning to potential visitors: it takes money to enjoy London.
I have sampled many hotels over the years. The very expensive can be good; the expensive can be mediocre to poor; and the inexpensive...my mother told to not say anything, if I good not say something good. In Europe, one can find cute, clean small hotels for a decent price: I have yet to have such luck in London. I will not relate horror stories, like rooms where you must go into the corridor to change your mind or showers that compare to precipitation in the Atacama Desert. If one lives in Germany, one notices things like bathroom fixtures and windows.
Restaurants have improved over the years, perhaps helped by an influx of Australian chefs, an increase of non‐doms with money to spend, and the advent of cooking programs on television. People on a budget would starve without US fast food chains, Indian cuisine, and the English sandwich culture.
I have never been bored in London (irritated, but never bored), because there is so much to do and see. Of course, one must be interested in a lot of things to enjoy the variety. Much is tied to the history of plundering the world, but you get that everywhere.
Upon leaving, one must pass through the shopping mall that graciously permits airlines to pick up passengers. If they cou
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.