Posted by: viewfromtheriva | October 28, 2013

Despite the glitz, London is still cool and only $100RT from Split!


London's enduring landmark, Big Ben

London’s enduring landmark, Big Ben

I went to London for the first time in my life last year with Natasha, who has been there a zillion times from way back when she led student groups from Russia to attending the wedding of her Russian friends to local Londoners.  We had a blast, so I was very happy to get a chance to go back this year as part of my responsibilities as Zzzzapp’s Director of Marketing (www.zzzzapp.com) for a week long tech tour with Croatian start ups to visit the London tech scene.

Among the highlights were visits to White Bear Yard, Warner Yard and The Bakery, three of the brightest tech hotspots for start-ups wanting to make a splash in one of the world’s greatest cities.

Unlike the cool digs in Shoreditch that Natasha and I had, this time round Zzzzapp’s CEO and myself found ourselves the Stratford area, a good 60 minutes from the center.  Armed with our Oyster card, we spent a loooooooooong time underground and over on the much loved London tube getting around,

hard to get lost in the London underground!

hard to get lost in the London underground!

In the process, we discovered whole areas of the city Natasha and I didn’t have the chance to visit like St. Pauls, Charing Cross, Covent Garden and more.

The building frenzy that was evident last year has continued.  Having lived in Boston for many years, the scale of some of London’s more memorable neighborhoods still feels like the Back Bay.  But what I didn’t like was how so many glassy new buildings reared up and over so many classic structures, as if both the architects and London city planners simply didn’t give a hoot about what the result was.

Despite my growing love affair with London, I have never seen a city with such tortured architecture–buildings with no top, a steep spiral going nowhere, the absurd “deodorant” building shaped like a giant roll on dispenser and the London Eye!  Like what the hell is a giant amusement park ride doing in the middle of London?.

Some may like the bold new architecture of London but to me it looks like an accident.

Some may like the bold new architecture of London but to me it looks like an accident with glassy, curvy newbies practically elbowing staid 19thC and earlier buildings out of the way. 

There’s no doubt that some of these new buildings are arresting, but to me they are simply way to showy for a city known for such iconic landmarks like Parliament, London Bridge, St Pauls, Big Ben and so many others.

air-lifted in and dropped in place

air-lifted in and dropped in place

Here’s another example…..how did they get this building here anyway? OK, enough of my rant on the architecture…..there’s so much of the city that’s marvelous, it’s hard to know where to start.

Let’s begin with food.  With so many immigrants from former English colonies in Africa, from India and the Middle East, the city is alive with some of the best world food to be found anywhere.  A good place to start is Borough Market, right next to the London Bridge underground….acres of food courts, cheese and bakery shops, specialty chocolate and coffee and more.

A week here sampling global food wouldn't be enough

A week here sampling global food wouldn’t be enough

The sheer array of goodies here is amazing.  All of it is outdoors or semi-outdoors under the bridge and supporting structures or in former stockyards and warehouses.   I had a free range hog sandwich with home made applesauce for 5L, about $7, that was out of this world–and the 200lb hog slowly turning on the coals was really something to see.

who could resist?

who could resist?

By the end of the day, there's nothing left!

By the end of the day, there’s nothing left!

Although we managed some pretty terrific cooking on the apartment hot plate stir fry (Indian curry chicken in an orange sauce with Basmati rice and fresh broccoli), the English pies, street food and pastry that awaited at every corner was too much to resist.

And of course, the Brits themselves….the language, the clothes, the alarming friendliness of everyone from mounted police to neighborhood grannies.  Help here is a way of life so even if you are completely lost and your cell phone and GPS is dead, some chap is always nearby ready to tell you EXACTLY how to get to where you are going and yes, you can use the loo because wee surely would not want to have a burst bladder….. would we now?

Ir wasn't until after I took this photo that I realized the busker with no head was dressed in practically the same outfit as the woman taking his picture!

Ir wasn’t until after I took this photo that I realized the busker with no head was dressed in practically the same outfit as the woman taking his picture!

Suffice to say, it was a great week with other start-ups meeting investors, seeing London, visiting tech spaces, even getting invited to pitch our software to a select audience at the Croatian Embassy with his Excellency the Croatian Ambassadoracting as master of ceremonies…..here he is!

a great master of ceremonies at the Embassy

a great master of ceremonies at the Embassy

For about $100 RT, nonstop in two hours on Easy Jet, getting to London off or even on season, is a bargain…….despite all that crazy architecture!

 

London at its funky best

London at its funky best

 

 

 

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