London…Meh

We tried. We really did.

But I’ve said it already – London is just too familiar.

It’s also too big. It’s pretty noisy, and stuffed with people who are really possessive of their spot on the sidewalk and don’t give an inch for anyone.

Not to mention very expensive. ₤33 for Windsor Castle? At least as much for the London Eye? And don’t get us started on our issues with having to pay to enter a church.

exploring LondonWe gave it our best shot, but it’s just not for us. We traipsed around the south shore, walked through Trafalgar Square, Picadilly and Hampstead Heath. We waited our turn to get pictures in front of the red phone booths. We endured alternating fits of laughter and rage at the changing of the guards. The Globe didn’t wow us. The Tate had one really enjoyable display, the rest was just okay. London has some cool markets, but so do most cities. Saw some stunning architecture, but nothing that really caused us to stop short.

Nothing felt new. Nothing felt different. Nothing inspired.

As a travel destination,

London gets a rating of “Meh” from us.

 

Thankfully, we did find some joy in our three weeks there because of the fact that London is a large central hub. We made new friends and met up with old ones as an incredible number of people that we knew were passing through:

The awesome home owners that trusted us with their beautiful house for three weeks

Relatives from Calgary in town on vacation who we went cruising to Stonehenge with

Fran and Ross in Peru

From Peru to London – with our friends Fran and Ross

Two Londoners we met in Bolivia

Another two Londoners we traveled with for a week Peru

Another Londoner who moved to Hamburg but was back in London for a couple of days

One more Londoner Pete met while volunteering in Ecuador

Two work colleagues passing thru on their European vacation.

A Northern Ireland-er  we met in Honduras and who now lives in Bristol

Two friends from Cork, Ireland who previously saved me from a drunken disturbance at a music festival

We met new friends in Brighton who just happen to run one of our favorite websites that helps dictate our lifestyle!

We fortunately got to meet and spend time with onetwothreefour very admirable travel bloggers.

Thanks to all of those folks who made time for us and saved London from being a total bust.

 

62 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own

  • November 16 2011

    Aww… well, I suppose you do have a point there. London really might not be that great for traveling, it’s better suited for living there (well, it’s been a year since I’ve been there, so I might have unconsciously forgotten some parts about the whole experience). For traveling it is pretty expensive. But, like you said, you can meet a lot of people there!
    Jarmo @ArcticNomad recently posted..Getting my Hands Dirty with Thai Cooking

    • November 17 2011

      It served as a really great hub for us to meet people. But really, that was about it. Oh well, now we know! :)

  • November 16 2011

    I know exactly what you mean. Felt more like a rat in a maze than a person in a city when we were there for WTM.
    Katrina recently posted..Race to the Blue Grotto!

    • November 17 2011

      That’s a good way to put it…so many people! Busiest city I’ve ever been in, I think.

  • November 16 2011

    Our two trips to London coincided with nearly two decades living in and around New York City. Coming from New York, the “big cityness” of London always felt very familiar to us too; not much like a vacation to someplace different. We recently returned to NY from a year’s absence and rediscovered that city’s virtues. i wonder if a return trip to London would be similarly exciting?

    One thing we really did enjoy in London was the Cabinet War Room (I think they may be called something different now) where Churchill commanded during the Blitz. We found that to be a very worthwhile part of history to explore.

    Brian
    Brian recently posted..Photo of the Day: Sylvan Lake

    • November 17 2011

      I am a little worried as we just signed up for a 6 week housesit in NYC – although so many people assure me that NYC is TOTALLY different. We have never been before and have been wanting to visit for awhile! Ah well, if we don’t like it, maybe we can just finally get some work done for once. :)

      • November 17 2011

        New York is big, diverse and has many world-class attractions. If you like museums and dining you’ll have no trouble finding things to do. But for a long time I didn’t really get NYC as a prime tourist destination city in the same way that Paris and Rome are. When I returned recently I finally understood. There is something about NY that is felt rather than seen. Here’s what we wrote about our NYC epiphany:

        http://everywhereonce.com/2011/08/17/you-can-go-home-again/

        I’ll be interested to hear your take when you get back.

        Happy travels,
        Brian

        • November 17 2011

          Thanks for posting that Brian, I really enjoyed the read and your perspective on getting back to New York. I’ll be interested to see what my take on it will be too! Haha…

          • November 19 2011

            Nothing is better than NYC to us. It’s not for everyone, but because of it’s size you have to take the time to find your niche. There’s something for everyone, everywhere and at any time of day. It’s not immune to pitfalls, but over all the good outwieghs the bad. If you get the chance, we would definitely recommend exploring Brooklyn as there’s more to NYC than just manhattan and times square :)
            PostcardFromBK recently posted..Reporting In From Creamfields Buenos Aires

            • Pete
              November 20 2011

              We will get to NYC in Jan of 2012 and spend 6 weeks with a house-sit in Harlem. I don’t know what to expect. Everyone says it’s totally different than London, and we expect that. But big cities are just not doing it for us. We have to give it a try though, not living my life not going to NYC.

              Definitely going to explore Brooklyn while we are there…

  • November 16 2011

    That’s disappointing to hear. London is a place I’ve yet to visit but always looked forward to seeing. I am still intrigued by it but also the English countryside. I do know it is very expensive but also hope that it’s not as bad as you say. Good to hear your perspective on this – it’s honest. So that will help me with my expectations for visiting in the future.
    Jeremy Branham recently posted..Budget Travel deals of the week – last minute Thanksgiving flights

    • November 17 2011

      Well, I didn’t lie about the entry fees so it is as bad as I say about that! :) We did take two trips out of the city (to Bath and Brighton) and loved it. Wish we would have done more of that…

  • November 17 2011

    Thats highly disappointing to hear. I did not London could be such a downer…
    And fees for entering churches, thats downright ridiculous…
    Thank God for the souls who saved your trip from being a total disaster.
    Arti recently posted..Photographical Memories from the Himalayas: Faith…

    • November 17 2011

      Yes, thank goodness for all our great friends who made it enjoyable!

  • This is so funny!
    I visited London many years ago, an innocent girl from a very small town in Australia. I was blown away — big city, bright lights, wowee!
    Now, after living in several big cities in different parts of the world I’d probably have a completely different perspective. Probably a bit closer to yours. The perils of travel, hey?
    Barbara – The Dropout Diaries recently posted..O-Pints And Other Excitement At Chiang Mai Zoo

    • November 17 2011

      It is funny you should say that – because Pete and I both said that if we had come to London as a vacation from our corporate lives (and hadn’t traveled as much), then maybe we would have loved it more. Now we just have too much to compare it to… :)

  • Abi
    November 17 2011

    Bah. Reading posts like this always make me feel a little sad…After living there and travelling all over the world, I still think that London’s one of the most interesting places on this planet of ours, albeit it’s certainly not one of the most beautiful. One day, I’ll get around to showing you all ;)
    Abi recently posted..An Eastern Odyssey…

    • November 17 2011

      I hope you do show us all! I really hate coming away with a bad review on a place, what fun is that? :)

  • Aafke
    November 17 2011

    I think you put London in a very difficult position by visiting Amsterdam before going there…

    • November 17 2011

      VERY insightful. I think you are probably right. And we had no one serving us dessert for breakfast either.

  • November 17 2011

    Did not know that London could be such a downer!! Fees for entering a church is downright ridiculous… Thank God for the noble souls who saved your trip from being a complete disaster.
    Arti recently posted..Photographical Memories from the Himalayas: Faith…

  • November 17 2011

    I am SO glad you didn’t like London! Oh…wait…that didn’t sound right. It’s just that that is EXACTLY how I felt about Australia (but I didn’t have the cajones to state it publicly).

    I think as long-term travelers, the perception is that we’re supposed to find something fascinating about absolutely every place that we go to. But sometimes, it’s just not there for one reason or another. My feeling about the two months I spent in Australia is “been there, done that–don’t need to go back” (although had we been able to spend more than two days in Sydney, my perception might be different).

    I think it’s inevitable that as a location independent gypsy, one will end up on a place that doesn’t exactly float one’s boat. The trick is to make the best of it (as you clearly did) and not let the less-than-perfect experience deter you from loving this amazing lifestyle.
    Maureen at Vaco-Vitae recently posted..Reality Us verses Fantasy Us

    • November 17 2011

      Haha!!! Your comment made me laugh.

      I think you’re right though – there is a perception out there that we lead such incredible lives and should love every minute of every place. But, damnitall, we come across some duds in our travels. And maybe we would have liked London better if we hadn’t been to such other cool big cities that we liked better! Granted, neither of us are “big city people” to begin with, so London did have an uphill battle, but other big cities have one us over (hello, Buenos Aires!!)

      (And I’m glad you said that about Australia – publicly! – even though we haven’t been there either, I kinda suspect that is how we would feel. But we will give it a shot someday…)

      • November 27 2011

        Ease up on Australia you two!! :) Full of bloody great people.

        I loved London but I lived there as an expat for two years when I was 21, totally different perspective.

        I did feel like I overstayed my time there though.

        Every one has different tastes and experiences and we can’t like everywhere. It’s totally fine not to
        Caz Makepeace recently posted..Travel Podcast Episode 10: How to Travel the World

        • November 27 2011

          It’s never about the people! We have so many great friends in London too. I think in large part it is just because it is so similar to home…when we are craving something very different culturally. I fear that Oz would feel similar!…

  • November 17 2011

    I’M SO GLAD SOMEONE ELSE AGREES WITH ME OMGGG. People always look at me like I have 2 heads when I say I don’t like Montreal.
    Candice Walsh recently posted..A New Direction for CDTW: Back to the Purest Form of Travel Writing

  • November 17 2011

    Ah, this makes me sad- London is my favorite. I personally think the best things in London are free… the museums, the pubs that have jazz singers, the parks, walking around the markets…. sorry you didn’t like it. Wish I could have been with you to show you the london I know so well and love so much!
    Jade recently posted..Street Art in Aspen?

    • November 18 2011

      We saw plenty, I assure you. It’s just not for us. We’re not big city lovers to begin with, and London just wasn’t able to change our minds about that (unlike, say, Buenos Aires! We didn’t expect to love it but we did, big time!)

  • November 17 2011

    You can’t like everywhere, and I’m glad you were honest enough to say it- so many people spend their time glossing over cities that rubbed them the wrong way. I think some people are afraid that if you criticize something as well-known as London, you might not look like a real traveler, and that’s just silly.
    The expense of London alone puts it low on my list of cities to return to.
    Erik Smith recently posted..Photo of the Day- Grinder’s Inn, Natchez Trace, Tennessee

    • November 18 2011

      Well, some people didn’t appreciate our honesty – lost 2 facebook fans within 10 minutes of posting this article there! Oh well, can’t please everyone. :)

  • November 17 2011

    I think it’s nicer if you get out of the centre and touristy areas a bit…the area around Westminster Abbey and Big Ben makes me crazy! But hey, not every city is for everyone – I’m not loving Prague yet, for example, and people always rave about it.
    Andrea recently posted..How Could This Have Happened?

    • November 18 2011

      We lived outside the center (near Camden), so spent plenty of time wandering there, explored Portobello market, Pete went for a curry in Brick Lane. We gave it our best shot, really. It’s just not for us! And you’re not the first person I’ve heard say that about Prague…I hope it gets better for you guys!

  • November 17 2011

    I have to say I love London, it’s my favourite city in the world. Walking along South Bank at night after visiting the Tate is one of my favourite things in the world to do. Curries on Brick Lane, the markets in Camden and Shoreditch, the history…

    But I’m from there, so take that as you will. To each their own.

    Anyway, I wrote an article comparing London to Bogotá, I think they’re similar in many ways, like they’re not the most beautiful cities in the world, but the energy you find in both cities… And much more besides. If you’re interested, check it out:

    http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2kJ3AF/seecolombia.travel/blog/2011/10/bogota-the-london-of-south-america
    Paul recently posted..VIDEO: Wild adventures in San Gil, Colombia

    • November 18 2011

      Haha Paul, that article is awesome – I love this: “Leave the hotel and start speculating about the day’s weather”. Haha!

      We spent a month in Colombia and were sad to say we didn’t make it to Bogota…although now maybe I didn’t miss anything? Just kidding!

      Some places just aren’t for everyone I guess.

  • November 18 2011

    I loved London, but definitely understand where your coming from. At least your honest!!! It’s a big world-you don’t have to like it all.
    Bobbi Lee Hitchon recently posted..Wellington Harbor by night

  • November 18 2011

    I LOVED London! But maybe that is because I was only there for a week, was fully aware of the ridiculous costs and was taking a vacation from a job that paid me very well :-)
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..My Biggest Fear: Dental Work in the Third World

    • November 18 2011

      Perhaps if I were in a different situation (could enjoy the markets because I could actually shop and not worry about it fitting in my backpack! Or, actually have money, etc. etc.) then I would like it. Oh, except that I would probably still have the urge to punch someone. Too busy for me!

  • November 18 2011

    We chose Edinburgh over London to live and so glad that we did. Spent a few days here and there down in London and we don’t rave about it either. But some people love it so each to their own!

    • Pete
      November 20 2011

      Absolutely Cole. It is totally a matter of perspective. It just didn’t do it for us. Edinburgh on the other hand, now we loved that place. Cheers!

  • November 18 2011

    To tell you the truth, I wasn’t a huge London fan either. I was there for 3 weeks and then again for 6 weeks in the spring while visiting a good friend.

    I didn’t mind the prices or food (although, I don’t think either is too great), but what got to me was the climate. The air felt too dry, plus it was windy and I used to feel dehydrated just walking a few blocks to the grocery store.

    I had a great stay both times, really loved exploring the side streets, historical buildings, shopping and loved the area I was staying which was downtown by Tait Modern/Millenium Bridge, but London wouldn’t be my first choice for cities to stay long term in.

    – Lily

    • Pete
      November 20 2011

      Hey Lily, thanks for the note. Regarding food in London, the curry I thought was the best part of the city. Spectacular. But yes, the air was REALLY dry.

      I agree it would not be a place we would want to spend a long term stay in again (unless of course we magically had ’12 Olympic tickets, then maybe we might make an exception).

  • November 19 2011

    Good on your for speaking your mind! I don’t mind London but I find I can not spend too much time there – too busy and congested and crazy. I love it for the art galleries though, so I will keep going back… I like your honesty though – it’s so easy to hold back with criticisms of places that so many others love. I found it really difficult writing about Yellowstone NP recently as I was fairly underwhelmed by it initially. We can’t all love the same places though, right? How boring would that be! ;)
    Cherina recently posted..Rain, Hail or Shine: Olympic National Park

    • Pete
      November 20 2011

      We tried, we really did. But it just didn’t impress us. I highly doubt anybody or anything will change our mind.

      You are absolutely right in that we can’t all love the same places. It’s all perspective and experiences…

  • November 20 2011

    We all have cities that don’t wow us. I haven’t been to London yet but honestly it’s never been much on my radar. Not much intrigues me about it. The crazy expense would make it much worse!
    Laura recently posted..On Life and Happiness

    • Pete
      November 20 2011

      Agreed. The cost was a another thing. Thankfully we had a house-sit and saved some jake that way.

  • November 20 2011

    Awh!!!! Thanks for the shout out!!!! It was SO good to meet you two in person and I can’t wait to help you get to know NYC. I hope it impresses you more than London. And also, it’s ok. I felt “meh” about Buenos Aires. I don’t think we have to love everywhere we go.
    Kirsten recently posted..Leaving London for the Country

    • Pete
      November 20 2011

      Yes, it was wonderful to finally meet up :) Agreed, it’s impossible to love everywhere we go.

      Looking forward to NYC

  • November 20 2011

    Oh, so surprised (and sad!) to read you didn’t like London. We lived there for 3 years before we began our nomadic lifestyle and I still miss it! We spent 3 years discovering all the neighborhoods (so diverse!), the countless pubs, the beautiful parks, walking along the canal, exploring the cemeteries, the flea markets, and all the entertainment – every artist in the world gives concerts in London, the plays are fantastic, and you’re around the corner from so many places in the UK – Brighton, Bath, the Cotswolds, Oxford & Cambridge, Canterbury, even Edinburgh is just over 3 hours on the train! Maybe you should’ve focused less on the touristy stuff which makes only a tiny little piece of London? And as for the prices – we always had people visiting us and were usually able to find great deals on vouchercode or other deal websites, 50 % etc. Well I hope you guys enjoy NYC more than you enjoyed London – another favorite city of mine! (Make sure to get out of Manhattan ;))
    Dani | Globetrottergirls recently posted..Five travel websites we couldn’t live without

    • Pete
      November 20 2011

      Thanks Dani. Our post may have given off the wrong perception. We certainly did way more than the touristy stuff London had to offer. We took up offers from numerous locals on all the “non-touristy” stuff to do while in London, and still walked away unimpressed. We hit market after market, went to a couple concerts (one was great), explored a cemetary, were living next to Hampstead Heath, but we just didn’t feel the vibe. Oh well, I’m glad at least that we gave it a shot.

      Brighton, Bath and Edinburgh we seemed to enjoy a lot more. I think we are just not big city folk, which makes me a little hesitant to spend so much time in NYC. But you have to give NYC a shot sometime in your life, and we figure this is a pretty good opportunity to dive in and see what it has to offer. Cheers for the comment ;)

  • Robyn
    November 21 2011

    What I love about London maybe explains why travellers sometimes don’t like it. There’s a Greek cafe in Southwark that I visited once that was amazing but then I haven’t actually been to Greece so maybe by Greek standards it’s just average. This may go some way towards explaining why you were so underwhelmed. When you’ve been to so many different places, the multiculturalism and diversity of London (that sets it apart from other cities) doesn’t seem so interesting. And then of course you’re just left with the touristy things, which you kind of have to do, but they seem to fall flat. What I would say is if you’re in Britain again, try another city like Liverpool or Leeds (where I live!) as they are very different. They’re still cities, but with a bit more of an individual style (and much much less overpriced and touristy!). It will give you a bit more of an overall picture of Britain :)

  • london is AMAZING but I will admit…I hated it for the first two months I was there. For me though… Paris tops my list for “meh”
    Jade Johnston – OurOyster.com recently posted..Kayaking in Melbourne

  • November 30 2011

    Glad I could make your time in London slightly more enjoyable ;)
    Did you ever find a purse?!
    Cailin recently posted..Wales was a pleasant surprise

    • December 2 2011

      I did! Finally! Back to that lady that we checked bags out with the first time.

  • January 4 2012

    As a Londoner, I’d say London’s like Shanghai. It feels very confusing to get around, because you’re always popping up in different places. It feels inchoate. It’s expensive, there’s too much choice, and there are also too many tourists. Once you delve a bit deeper — and, as a Londoner, I’ve never visited Windsor Castle — it becomes an amazing world city. But it does take time to grow on you. Amazed you didn’t mention the litter.
    Theodora recently posted..9 Life Lessons Children Learn From Travel

    • January 5 2012

      I didn’t find the litter too bad? Maybe it’s because we’ve spent too much time in Latin America. :) I’m not sure I could ever come to love London even if I spent oodles of time there. It’s just too big, and reminded me too much of my corporate life in Canada.

  • Kimberley
    January 21 2012

    I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy London; I can imagine it’s quite difficult to find the best things straight off without some one showing you around. So whilst there are a lot of very expensive tourist things in London, you can always get multiple entry tickets (like 2 for 1) online – or pick up the London Tourist Ticket, which slices a bit cost off the top of these, but you’ll be in for an exhausting day! Aside from that the number of free attractions are massive but – I imagine – won’t be too different from NY. Nearly all the museums and art galleries are free, Tate Britian, Tate Modern, Whitechapel, Saatchi, Serpentine, British Portrait Gallery, Victoria and Albert, British Museum, Science Museum, Natural History. These places are massive and take all day. The Camden (good for lunch at the food stalls) and Brick Lane markets are pretty awesome – but shop around. I’ve don’t know of many churches that charge you to enter? Services in St Pauls great to attend (even if you aren’t a Catholic). The problem with London is you can’t walk it – far too big. Tube is the best way to get around, you can get tourist travel cards, day cards, or just an oyster card. All help keep down the costs.

    For a more laid back part of England, I recommend renting a cottage in Cornwall, or even on the Scottish islands. Although you’d have to rent some sort of transport as well, as public transport out of the capital is pretty bad – and near impossible to use if you’re not local!

    • January 22 2012

      Thanks for all the tips Kimberley! One thing that I really wish we could have done was spend more time in the countryside – like getting out to Cornwall or more time in Scotland. We did manage to make it out to Brighton, Bath and Stonehenge, and those were lovely days. We’re not typically big city people and sometimes a city can change our mind on that, but London unfortunately didn’t. :(

  • October 1 2012

    This post continues to be a big source of traffic to my site which just made me want to visit and say I love the two of you. I’m so glad we met in London, had the time in NYC and Turkey — and I hope we have another adventure soon. Sending you hugs from Barcelona.
    Kirsten Alana recently posted..Win a Trip to Morocco!

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