Geeko Tourism

6 Feb

London is enormous. HUGE. GIGANTIC. Whether you classify London in terms of its physical continuity or administrative boundaries, it is still one of the largest cities in the world by area. Even if you were to strip away the outer bouroughs bolted onto the metropolis in 1965, it would still be two and a half times the size of Paris, and would take over five hours to cross on foot. I know; I’ve walked it.

The sheer enormity of the city may make the daily commute little short of a nightmare, but for those lucky enough to live here, it also presents endless opportunities for budget holidays. It feels odd to suggest that one can be a tourist in what is nominally one’s hometown, but given the near-continental differences between locales, there’s no other word for it. You could turn London into a theme park for wankers like me without changing a thing; what does Disneyland have that we don’t? Overpriced drinks? People in cartoonish outfits? Unreliable looped railway tracks? We’ve got it all here. All we need to do now is to set up the ticket booths on the M25.

Intra-London tourism has never been accepted as a phenomenon. Why would you go sightseeing somewhere you already know? The simple answer is precisely because you do know it. Or at least, you think you do. The way that any landmark can be subverted by the way people use it can be striking; in the car with my Mother the other day, I was genuinely shocked to see a pedestrian using the Abbey Road zebra as a means to cross the road rather than as a photo opportunity. Call me a twat (I won’t argue), but I’m fascinated by picture-postcard monuments and what goes on around them.

There is also the small matter of what we don’t know. I have spent more of my life in London than anywhere else, yet I’m probably familiar with less than an eighth of it; when I spent four months attempting to walk to every tube station on the network, I used only the main roads, and even then managed to snap less than half of them. My house is littered with maps of the city; they read like indexes of my own ignorance, bar the tiny islands around friends’ houses and local haunts.

I’m trying to go on holiday once a week; so far I’ve discovered the fantastic bric à brac market around Lisson Grove and some very bizarre but almost completely hidden public sculpture in Mayfair. This weekend I took a trip to Greenwich, and then by accident ended up at the terrifying new Westfield in Stratford. The food was good, people were nice enough, and the sightseeing weren’t bad either. Crap shopping, but at least there was a direct train home. Best holiday I’ve had in years, actually.

Happy trails.

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One Response to “Geeko Tourism”

  1. I Made You A Mixtape February 7, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

    I’m indeed in need of a budget holiday- and will check out that market near Lisson Grove… the distances you have to travel in this city to get anywhere (whilst navigating the worst that the Transport of London can and will throw at you)…are minblowing…lol. I can recommed Pinkberry at Selfridges (foodhall) as a mini-break…it’s frozen yoghurt, but not like any frozen yoghurt- it’s basically California frozen. :o)

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