After Hong Kong I flew to London where a number of my Kiwi expat friends live, and spent a week hanging out with them and seeing the sights.
I'm not going to say much about London because it's really just like you hear – big, grey, fully of unhappy-looking people, but yet also full of history, parks, markets, and with numerous interesting events going on.
Here's some photo highlights…
Varies from terrible to rather good, but this being Britain, noticeably more at the terrible end. Like anywhere though, there's plenty of good food if you bother to go get it, and as always you get what you pay for.
Foodie highlights from my trip would have to be the Burough Market on Saturday morning, the Food Court at Harrods, the nice dinner we had at Incognico (reasonably priced thanks to an internet-booking deal).
Hard to pick lowlights but the winner would have to be the cornish pasty I had, which looks fine but tastes like what you'd get if you described a pie to someone from a foreign country where no-one knew how to cook properly (coincidentally…).
Almost completely grey, ranging from matte grey (older buildings) to shiny grey (newer buildings), which can be a bit depressing but does have the effect of making what colour and highlights there are stand out much more – Big Ben positively glistened in the sun breaking through the clouds.
Best of the old I saw (outside only, sadly – 10 quid to enter) was Wren's excellent St Paul's Cathedral cupola, with a notable mention for places like Leadenhall Market (used for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter movies).
Best of the new is the iconic London Gherkin, from which there's also a fantastic view over central London (employee/guests only – thanks Mary!); notable mention for the Lloyds building with it's brutal exposed infrastructure – you wouldn't want a whole city of this, but great on its own, well-described by Mary as like something from Terry Gilliam's Brazil.
The Tower of London is worth a visit; lots to see, from the famous Traitor's Gate (which dealt with the problem of getting people into and out of the Tower without interference from local supporters) to the Crown Jewels and the ravens (really big, glossy black, pity their wings are clipped).
Important note, that iconic bridge next to the Tower of London is the Tower Bridge – not the London Bridge. London Bridge is actually the next bridge along and while it has a rich history isn't much to look at. This is a common mistake and you'll see mislabelled photos all over the place, but try not to add to the confusion…
The British Museum is chocka-block full of goodies, starting with the Rosetta Stone and a number of the Parthenon Marbles obtained by Elgin, but with a shedload of other sights from cultures of every description – Buddhist statues, Islamic ceramics and Korans, asian woodblocks, ancient sarcopogaii, turquoise South American mosaics, ancient stone axes…
They even have pick-up-and-feel stations. I held a knapped stone hand-axe hundreds of thousand years old. Hard to beat.
Numerous green parks stud the city, a few minutes' walk from whatever else you're seeing; joined the other Kiwis enraptured by squirrels, and learned a bit about English birds by the lakes. Visited some of London's countless other museums and art galleries; rode the underground endlessly; took a pleasant canal boat from “Little Venice” to Camden Town (nothing to write home about, but nice; make sure the kids watch out for pirates). Counted the number of suburbs that sound like sexually-transmitted diseases. Most importantly, saw my peeps :). Had many 2-for-1 cocktails.
After spending a week or so in London I had a day in Oxford before heading out of the UK.