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Gia-Gina Across the Pond

So I've decided to follow my husband to his native Italy. Follow our adventures as we eat, drink, travel, adapt to and explore this remarkable country. Part food blog, part photo blog but mostly my rants and raves. After our two years in Italy, we relocated across the Atlantic "pond" and are back in the States.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Things I Noticed About London

Our long weekend trip to London was an absolute success. Demetrio first moved to London in 1985, he started working as a waiter and stayed for 3 years before heading back to Rome to finish his degree. Although he’s been back a few times and says he knows the ropes, I was reluctant to believe him. You’d think a wife would have more faith in her husband than that but let me be the first to say I was 100% wrong. He still knows London like the back of his hand. We were out of the hotel each day by 10 am and did not come back for bed until midnight. A truly exhausting but exhilarating trip, here’s what I noticed about London:

1. The news in London consisted to the various headlines:

a. Londoners are three times fatter than they used to be, upwards of 30 % of the population is obese.

b. The police chief of the Metropolitan police is asked to explain why he secretly tape recorded phone conversations with the Attorney General.

c. The 10 year anniversary of the Dunblane was marked this week. The massacre occurred in Scotland when a lone gunman entered a primary school, killed 16 children, the teacher and himself.

d. England is looking at a bill to require its citizens get mandatory ID cards along with their passports.

e. Horse racing is really, really big in England. So is cricket and football/soccer.

2. If you think the U.S. is “go, go, go”, try visiting London. I was shoved, pushed and bumped into more times than I can remember. I did not find it rude at all since I also bumped into quite a few people. People in London walk fast, get off the train fast, get on the train fast, get on the bus fast, get off the bus fast, basically it seems like everyone is in a mad rush all the time.

3. Have you ever heard of a mini-cab? Well it’s a cab that you cannot hail from the street; you have to call a dispatcher. They are regular looking cars owned by regular guys but the rate is up to 50 % cheaper than a cab you hail off the street. The regular black cabs of London are allowed to pick up customers off the street, at the train station, at shopping centers but they don’t have a call center. I saw several ads on TV and at the movies that warn you not to take unlicensed mini-cabs as rapes have been reported.

4. An all day travel pass costs about 5 GBP (British Pound) or 7 Euros or 8.50 USD. (U.S. Dollar). This is preferable to paying the 5 pounds it costs just to drive your car into the center of town. If you plan a trip to London, bring your walking shoes and a few blister Band-Aids, you might need them.

5. A movie ticket will run you 11.50 GBP or 16.10 Euros or 19.55 USD- (I am not kidding you.)

6. There are many, many wonderful ethnic restaurants all over London. I tore out a few pages from and old Gourmet magazine and followed my nose. The old reputation of London having only terrible food has been dispelled in my eyes.

7. London is chalk full of tourists all year around, I heard German, Spanish, Italian, Russian and American English most often.

8. Fleece (called pile); jeans and tennis shoes were worn by about 50 percent of the population of the Underground train goers. Folks tended not to talk on their telephones on the train, this was good.

9. Smoking is still allowed indoors in London, Deme felt a built guilty lighting up but it did not stop him.

10. Rent is outrageously high, for a one bedroom apartment in an okay area; you might end up paying 350 GBP a week, that 1,960 Euros a month or 2,380 USD a month. The rents are 2-3 times that of Torino and up to 3-4 times that of Seattle.

11. Some English words I heard:

Queue=a line, to line up
Pram=baby stroller
Cresh=day care center
Child minder=baby sitter
Chap=dude, guy, man
The tube=the underground, the train system

12. Like the U.S. English folks are swimming in credit card debt. There is ad after ad on TV about consolidating your debt with one payment or loan.

13. Although things are very expensive in London, there were a few very nice free things too. The museums downtown were free. The beautiful parks that dot the city were clean, free of dog poop and well groomed. Even public restrooms were clean. (Although at the train station you have to pay 20 pence to use the facility, that’s 34 cents.).

14. London is very, very large about 620 square miles with over 7 million people, compared to Rome with 498 square miles with 3.8 million people and New York City with 321 sq. miles and 8.1 million people.

15. My favorite thing about visiting London was seeing all the different cultural and ethnic groups represented in the city as well as hearing different languages and seeing inter-racial couples. We plan to head back very soon.

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At 12:45 PM, Anonymous deviousdiva said...

Apart from the high cost of living, I MISS LONDON. Have fun! From a lapsed Londoner.

At 2:48 PM, Blogger Yael said...

Gina, the only reason 'we' don't talk on our phones on the underground is because there's no signal... before I left there was talk about putting transmitters down there as well - can you imagine the racket?

At 2:57 PM, Blogger H. (aka. NC_State_Gal) said...

Fun, fun, fun. I can't believe that in 2 months, I'll be on sabbatical there with my boyfriend (for only 4 months). I'll need some restaurant suggestions from you :).

At 11:19 AM, Blogger S* said...

Looks like you had fun Gina!

On your next trip back to London, suggest the John Soames museum - It's one of my favourite small and cute museums:

Oh and you might wanna check out this place to satisfy your taco thing: EL PANZON, 95 Effra Rd., Brixton, London SW2

At 12:55 AM, Blogger Cynthia Rae said...

What a wonderful trip Gina! I am soooo jealous. Danilo and I were talking about going to either London OR Paris this spring, but it looks like we won't do either now. At least I can see London through the "eyes" of your cam!

Wishing you and Deme a Happy St. Patrick's Day!

At 3:45 PM, Anonymous trench said...

Just wanted to say, HELLO GIA!

At 3:16 AM, Anonymous Sam said...

I was looking for some first hand guest views about london. This is helpful enough! Thanks a lot. I've book marked you.


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