Kate Simon: London is a great city, just don't try getting around it
Sunday 08 May 2011
London got a right royal advert for tourism last weekend.
Okay, so we only really got to see The Mall, Whitehall, and Parliament Square (amazing how all those TV cameras missed the anti-war camp). Then, in a double whammy, TripAdvisor named it as the top choice of global travellers.
Now, as anyone will tell you, Londoners are the worst for celebrating the delights of the capital. So, our family decided it was high time we beat the boundaries of Hackney for a little fun further afield and pandered to our son's latest fad, basketball, by snapping up tickets to see the Harlem Globetrotters, who were in town last Sunday at Wembley Arena.
How to get to Wembley? A quick hop on the London Overground to connect with the Tube at the Jubilee Line and we could be there in under an hour. Or so we thought. Then, on checking Transport for London's website, we discovered that the interminable shutdown of our local rail line for engineering works was continuing (how many years has this been going on?). What's more, the Jubilee Line was due to be closed around Wembley. After all, transport links are about getting people to work, not about getting them around to enjoy their free time, there's no money in that.
To arrive for the first slam dunk, we would have to take a bus, board a train, take not one but two Tube trains, and, finally, one more bus. TFL estimated a travel time of one hour 33 minutes. Pull the other one.
So, we had no choice but to drive there (and cough up £20 to book a random space on the Tarmac in front of Wembley Stadium – free car-wash if it rains?). This proved to be plain sailing (or, rather, driving) around the North Circular, at least for a few miles, until we hit the top of Tottenham, where there are some seriously mind-blowing road works going on – trenches like you haven't seen since the First World War. Knowing London, as we do, we had allowed twice the amount of time to get to our destination, so no need to bite our nails to the quick while we stop-started our way for a few miles across the top of north London as the road lanes contracted from three to two to one.
In fact, we got to Wembley Arena in good time thanks to our foresightedness, and had "the best evening ever", according to my 11-year-old basketball-mad son. Big Easy, Cheese, Dizzy and the rest of the awesomely skilful (and tall!) Globetrotters didn't fail to please. Now, as to the price of a cone of 10 chips for £2.50 – don't get me started.
But my point is, if we Londoners find it hard to enjoy our own city, what hope is there for visitors, from home or, especially, abroad, who want to discover what the capital has to offer – particularly if they dare to travel around it at the weekend?
Peter Moss, the British travel writer who was one of the victims of the bombing of the Marrakech café, was once a contributor to these pages. Peter wrote inspiring and enlightening articles for our readers' enjoyment. We were very sorry to hear about his death and offer our sincere condolences to his family and friends.
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