Gilt, gold and the sights of London town

James Cusick joins the bus-top tourists on a capital experience
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The Independent Online
"It's like a time machine: the architecture, it's all so wonderful!" Patti Wollmen, like droves of her countrymen and women, was not disappointed yesterday. Patti and her husband,Warren, both middle-aged teachers from New York, loved everything they saw on an open-topped bus tour of London.

Historians might have blushed at the information being fed to Patti and her fellow tourists. But nobody seemed to mind. An English major from City University in New York, she said: "I've read about all this all my life - and you know even for a jaded New Yorker I'm not disappointed."

The bus tour sped along to the Olde English rousing tune of "Superman the Movie". Nobody minded or noticed. For a fiver the Pride Tour takes in Piccadilly, Pall Mall, Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament, St Paul's Cathedral and the Tower of London.

Patti and Warren said they intended to miss nothing: Bath, Stratford- upon-Avon and Jane Austen landmarks - all would be visited. And English manners? Was Patti impressed or what? "You know we got on a bus for one stop with our luggage yesterday and the ticket guy says 'hey, I'm not charging for one stop'. You just never get that in New York," she said. The couple noticed the tour was "not political at all". How was this? "Well, at Parliament," Patti said, "they didn't mention Oliver Cromwell."

And did they mention Charles? "Why yes, they told us where he held his bachelor party". Charles the First? A bachelor party? "No, Prince Charles - that was at White's Club in St James's before he married Lady Di".

And apparently no mention of Churchill, or Thatcher at Downing Street. So who was mentioned? "Well, Andrew Lloyd Webber was mentioned in the Haymarket."

What seemed to impress the New Yorkers most was the gilt and gold "which you just never see in the postcards. And you know Admiral Nelson in Trafalgar Square just looks nothing like Laurence Olivier ... Oh my God, you won't print that will you?" pleaded Patti.

The bus sped passed numerous McDonald's. "There seems more here than we have at home," said Warren.

Romy Saibil, a medical student and Annette Mozes a dentistry student, both from Toronto, joined the tour at Piccadilly. Romy was once the babysitter for Conrad Black, the Daily Telegraph proprietor, back in Canada. So, had she come to see Canary Wharf Tower in Docklands and Mr Black's offices? The London Pride talking tape interrupted before she answered. There was information on a Tex-Mex restaurant, once the ticket office of the Titanic, and as we passed down Pall Mall, Romy said: "Hey, this is just like in Monopoly isn't it."

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