London London London

Aug 12th, 2002, 08:17 AM
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London London London

What is this obsession that Americans have with London as if it is the whole country?

In a recent Observer survey it didn't even feature in the top 10 cities for UK residents, coming well below Bournemouth..

"that great foul city of London, rattling, growling, smoking, and stinking - a ghastly
heap of fermenting brickwork, pouring out poison at every pore!" John Ruskin
Aug 12th, 2002, 08:47 AM
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A man who has grown tired of London has grown tired or life, for London holds all the pleasures that life can afford. S. Johnson
Aug 12th, 2002, 09:00 AM
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Americans are stupid, crude and uneducated primitives who would have done much better if they'd never broken from England. It's very good of you to bring this to light, Jim.

Aug 12th, 2002, 09:06 AM
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I can assure you that very few Americans are obsessed with ANYTHING British (except maybe Monty Python and the Beatles).

While we're at it, what is this obsession that Brits have with Orlando as if it is the whole country? In a recent self-survey, it didn't even feature in the top 10 cities for residents of my desk, coming well below Flagstaff..

"Orlando is a Godsend, because it keeps all those Disney fanatics away from the places I want to see." Myself
Aug 12th, 2002, 09:38 AM
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Dave, I don't think Jim was trying to be nasty.... I'm not quite sure what he's trying to say really but London is, quite justifiably a big draw for tourists, and not just American ones. If I had the choice between a day in Bournemouth or a day in London, I'd be heading towards Westminster Abbey in no time. Incidentally, I've been to the USA five times and never really left NYC.
Aug 12th, 2002, 09:53 AM
Ben Haines
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I look forward to American replies. As I read this forum and that of Lonely Planet, elements in their choice are these.

More buildings with royal connections than any other British city. Sailing down the Thames in my Royal Barge I pass by or near to Windsor, Hampton Court, Kensington Palace, Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, St James Palace, the Savoy Chapel, the Tower, and Greenwich. I think that as good republicans Americans get a frisson from all this lavish display.

To my regret, few Americans ask me about London monuments to the movements of the people towards democracy. They do go to see Parliament and Runnymede, but seldom to Wat Tyler's Blackheath, the monuments to him and Wallace at Smithfield, Karl Marx's tomb in Highbury, Cable Street (for the demos against Mosley), the Peckham and the Finsbury health centres, the pavements beside South Africa House and the Chinese Embassy where people sat in protest at Apartheid and sit in protest at Tibet.

Great treasure houses of interesting and beautiful things from across the world. Examples are the British Museum, British Library, and National Gallery. Again, no other British city has such a group of collections.

Minor collections that any other city would star -- those at Somerset House, for example.

A good number of specialist museums, no better than those elsewhere, but all easily reached from one London base. You will be glad to hear that I shall not list them, but just mention the pumping engines at Putney Bridge and the Operating Theatre and Herb Garret at London Bridge as examples.

Three cathedrals and the cathedral-like Westminster Abbey.

More evening places for music, theatre, and dining, than any other British city, except Edinburgh in August.

I doubt that Americans treat London as if it were the whole country. Rather, when they have paid a large sum to fly here, and are paying through the nose to stay here, they want to spend the least possible time on travel.

Ruskin had his own agenda. Rattling relates to cobblestones, still found in Edinburgh, but rare here. Growling I am not sure. The growlers were the horse-drawn cabs, now, alas, gone. We Londoners do not growl much: we live too near each other for that to be a possible way of life. Smoking, yes. Ruskin meant coal fires, now happily gone. Tobacco, too, is down from his time. But motor cars, busses and vans do put out far too many particulates. I am afraid this is true of every British city. Stinking relates to uncollected rubbish on street corners, no longer with us, and to the foul state of the Thames before the great drainage works. I should say London smells a bit, but does not stink (... unless you have come to think that men should smell of perfume, called de-odorant, not of men. Many Americans do now think this, so find us to stink). London buildings do not ferment, nor pour out poison, and I wonder whether they did in Ruskin s day. I cannot catch the meaning of Ruskin's word foul: I think it may be a hyperbolic summary of his feelings. I doubt that many Americans here share them: those that do probably stay away from Britain.

Ben Haines, London
Aug 12th, 2002, 10:11 AM
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Well stated Ben.
Aug 12th, 2002, 11:06 AM
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Planes go to London from New York and Pittsburgh and Phoenix and Los Angeles, etc. Planes to Glasgow or Liverpool aren't quite so plentiful, and there are very few, if any, non-stops.

The British Tourist Authority runs ads in U.S. magazines. The pictures are of beefeaters, Big Ben Tower, and a row of London black cabs. Duh, that's like a hint where we should go, right?

Most Americans have 2 weeks of vacation, sometimes only one week. See "planes" paragraph for why going to London makes sense.

In London, everything is near an underground station or a bus stop. You can spend all ten days of your vacation without having to deal with car rental, coach schedules, etc. Day trips are no-brainers; trains run to Oxford, Bath, Salisbury, etc. all day long. To do that in Edinburgh or Swansea is a lot harder.

There are libraries full of guidebooks to London. Try to find one for Aberdeen.

We get lots of English history in school, vs oh say Scottish history "they got conquered by the British a long time ago and then they fight about it every so often". We are a lot more familiar with Anne Boleyn than Robert the Bruce. And Welsh history appears even less.

We've all been forced to read Charles Dickens and have seen several versions of The Christmas Carol; we haven't a clue what Robert Burns is saying.

Liverpool's tourism site advertises the Beatles! as its big draw. If you aren't a Beatles fan (which makes you a godless communist heathen), nothing much else is advertised to make you want to visit.

Finally, it's statistics (and other damned lies): 10 people go to England for a week, and they all visit London. 7 of those people go on to Glasgow for the next week. If those 7 had never gone to London first, the stats would be completely different...more people went to Glasgow than London, but Glasgow didn't actually increase the number of visitors. And since most flights connect in London for other parts of the U.K., many people opt for a day or two in London "as long as we're here", increasing the number of visitors.

For any of us who grew up in older U.S. cities (Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, etc.), London looks familiar - row houses, brick-faced buildings, Georgian and Victorian architecture, rotaries...
Aug 12th, 2002, 12:18 PM
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I completely agree with Jim. He isnt knocking you, but rather asking that you do your homework. With all due respect, get out those guide books, dont just go with the ads you see, and get out of that concrete jungle and see our green and pleasant land! after all, thats why it rains so much, to keep it pleasant (and to keep you complaining about our weather!!)
Aug 12th, 2002, 12:21 PM
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I think Elvira said it all (as usual!). My fascination with England and Scotland began in school. I have spent time in both countries but still enjoy London because there is so much history concentrated in a small area and I do love London's parks!
Aug 12th, 2002, 01:47 PM
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Elvira just about covered it. I LOVE other parts of the UK but most trips are not complete without at least some time in London. If it were only for the theatre that would still be so.

But I easily spend 5 or 10 days elsewhere for every day spent in London. So I add to the "lies, damned lies and statistics" - going to London often but to Cornwall or Devon only every 3 or 4 years, same for Yorkshire, Wales, Kent, etc.

Scotland is a different tale tho' - try to get there every 18 months or so.
Aug 13th, 2002, 01:40 AM
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I always use that Ruskin quote in anticipation of the Johnson one.

To clarify, Johnson wrote "A man who has grown tired of London has grown tired or life" about the City of London, which at the time was no larger than......well Bournemouth. The City has very little to offer other than the Tower, St Pauls (I like my Cathedrals Norman)and a bunch of overpriced eateries and champagne bars that all close at the weekend because no one lives there.

To quote a contemporay (an ancestor of mine) "Tired of the hustle and bustle of London, I moved to Westminster" He used to walk between Chelsea and Fulham, taking his musket to shoot any pheasant he might find, and describes Southwark as "a village in Surrey"

"The past is a different country"

Aug 13th, 2002, 02:04 AM
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I'm all for tourists seeing other parts of the UK as well as London but Jim do you really think that if a tourist was given the choice of going to one of the world's greatest cities for pageantry, museums, shopping, theatre and architecture or going to a pleasant retirement home on the Dorset coast which would you choose?
Aug 13th, 2002, 02:27 AM
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Ok, so Bournemouth was a bad example...

I think the point I am trying to make is that there is Royalty/Palaces/Castles all over. For the museums, you may as well go to New York, Paris or Barcelona. Shopping....hmmm not really my thing. Theatre, granted. Architecture I would dispute. Centrepoint, Barbican and various other carbuncles? What about Inigo Jones and Capability Brown?
Aug 13th, 2002, 02:39 AM
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The reason why people are taking offence to what jim said is that he's lumping all americans together. haven't we learned anything about stereotyping?! let's face it. i live in london. london is HUGE. it is like its own country. ask any resident of london.
Aug 13th, 2002, 02:45 AM
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The reason why people are taking offence to what jim said is that he's lumping all americans together. haven't we learned anything about stereotyping?! let's face it. i live in london. london is HUGE. it is like its own country. ask any resident of london.
Aug 13th, 2002, 03:00 AM
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I sincerely hope I haven't offended anyone. I work for an incoming wholesale tour operator, dealing specifically with Americans on a daily basis, who I get on great with, and I don't believe I have any real preconceptions or stereotypes.

From experience it is a rock solid fact that the vast majority of US visitors concentrate on London, which is fair enough for the first couple of visits, however I think it is a shame that the rest of the country that has so much to offer is virtually unknown.

In fact, I am working on a business plan to bring provincial areas to the US this space.....
Aug 13th, 2002, 03:29 AM
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I think another interesting angle on this conversation is why London didn't feature in the top 10 cities for UK residents. I think this has very little to do with tourism and everything to do with the kind of place you would like to live.

It is frighteningly large, ridiculously expensive, competitive, overcrowded, cars drive slower than horse drawn carriages did 100 years ago, tiring, dusty, more crime, harder to find good schools, lack of countryside, etc etc, basically the problems inherent in such a large city.

So unless you're young an ambitious, London is not necessarily the ideal place to grow up and grow old gracefully.

Bear in mind that its population is getting on for 10 million, whereas the next largest city, Birmingham, has a population of just over 1 million.

Compared with other cities in the UK, London is like a foreign country. I've heard Americans say the same thing about New York. There is often resentment and even hatred towards London and Londoners in other parts of the country, where it is felt that Londoners look down on everyone else.

So whilst London is an endlessly fascinating and exciting city to visitors, it's not always so popular in the UK.
Aug 13th, 2002, 03:51 AM
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Some of us just prefer cities, "concrete jungles, if you will. I grew up in a "green and pleasant land," but now, in my own country and elsewhere, I go to cities for all the reasons listed above.
Aug 13th, 2002, 08:00 AM
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This seems like a funny question to me. There are many reasons that American tourists focus on London:

1. It's the largest city in England and the seat of the government.
2. Almost all American flights land in London.
3. Many of the country's greatest museums are located in London - the National Gallery, British Museum, etc.
4. London has the best theatre in the world.
5. Many of England's "once in a lifetime" sites, such as Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and the Tower of London are located there.
6. It's familiar to Americans from literature and film, so people have a built-in curiosity about the city.
7. One can spend an action-packed trip there without worrying about train connections, renting a car, or changing hotels.

I think it is much like foreign visitors to the U.S. wanting to go to New York City, even though many Americans would never want to live there for many of the same reasons British people don't want to live in London - expensive, crowded, crime, etc.

I do agree with you, though, Jim, that visitors who don't venture outside of London are missing much of the best that England has to offer. I could spend a lifetime exploring both London and the rest of England!

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