Notes from London: I’m a Snob

by Rachel on September 18, 2009

Changing of the Guard, London

I’m generally far too much of a snob to sit in a tour bus of any kind. I made an exception for the double-decker red tour buses of London. There are two competing tour bus companies “The Original Bus Company,” and “The Big Bus Company,” and when I say competing, I mean it. Two salesmen, one from each company, nearly came to fist-o-cuffs over which company was better, just as we were boarding. I was ready to pack the whole thing in and continue on in my snobbish anti-tour bus mentality, but they managed to calm down and let us get on without serious injury to either party. Both companies circumnavigate London allowing you to hop on and off at will and include a short, but quite entertaining river cruise down the Thames (and the early morning bantam weight boxing round aside, I’m certain that not much really differentiates the two companies). If you time it right (because you are travelling with the absolute Queen of logistics, yes, you know who that is – ME) you can hop off at Trafalgar Square at 9:30 a.m. (having boarded the bus at 9 a.m. sharp at Victoria Station) and you can take the also-included “Walking Tour of the Changing of the Guard.” Our tour guide, Gordon, a fabulous chap with a vast knowledge of British history and a terrific wit, led us on more of a “Sprinting” rather than “Walking” tour, not for the weak or weary.

Running alongside the new guards, London

We ran alongside the fresh regiment that was marching down the Mall (accompanied by a visiting band in bear hats from Ireland) and sprinted again up to Buckingham Palace.

Gordon, the fabulous Big Bus Guide, London

The best story of the day was his quip about the 4th of July (which he repeatedly referred to as “Loser’s Day”). Gordon noted that Starbucks is the best possible, former colonist response to the taxes on tea that led to the Boston Tea Party – not only do we not want your tea but we’re going to sell you our coffee on every one of your street corners. He suggested that Brits on the 4th of July should all go buy a Starbucks and dump it into the Thames. This got quite a laugh until my eldest son (budding micro-economist and future diversified portfolio manager) pointed out that if all those Brits bought coffee on the 4th of July it would only serve to increase Starbucks’ profits. Gordon asked if he was from Seattle.

Walking home after the Big Bus tour, London

After a long day of British history we paused briefly in the flat, changed clothes and took my husband out to dinner for Father’s Day. My children have not lost their taste for the unusual nor their propensity to order the most costly things on the menu. At Papillon, a divine French restaurant in Chelsea, the eldest went straight for a starter of escargot and a main of red mullet (you cannot make things like this up) and the youngest had a starter of seared ahi tuna and a main of rack of lamb. It’s a hard, hard life as a young Stern. Truly. My mother and I both had the cheese soufflé, which was sheer bliss.

We spent a morning at the National Gallery, a rather stuffy art museum made more palatable for children and adults by the well done audio guide and a visit to the lovely top floor restaurant where the children once again spurned the bargain priced Kid’s Menu offering of “Chicken Fillet and Mash” and headed straight for the “Smoked Haddock & Smoked Salmon Fish Cakes with Poached Eggs and Hollandaise” at twice the price. Shocker…

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