The 3 things that I love most about London

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01. Introduction: Business class battle royale – British Airways vs. Virgin Atlantic
02. British Airways 747-400 Club World (business class) San Diego to London (LHR)
03. Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, London
04. Hilton London Heathrow Airport, Terminal 4
05. The 3 things that I love most about London
06. Virgin Atlantic Club House, LHR
07. Virgin Atlantic A340-600 Upper Class (business class) London (LHR) to New York (JFK)
08. InterContinental New York Barclay
09. jetBlue A321 Mint (business class) New York (JFK) to Los Angeles
10. Delta Connection CRJ-900 economy class Los Angeles to San Diego

I’ve been traveling all over the world for 20 years now, and every now and then I visit a place that instantly makes me feel like I belong there. It’s an interesting feeling to say the least and it’s special enough that it doesn’t happen all that often. San Diego was the first place in my life that rocked me to the core when I first visited way back in 1997, and I remember the feeling vividly. I was fresh out of school at that point, still quite native and not well traveled, and the world still seemed like a huge and mysterious place. The laid back beach culture of San Diego was so different from my overly-sheltered life back in the midwest, and I wasn’t out of the airport for 5 minutes before I knew that I had to find a way to move there. 9 months later I packed up my things, headed west, and made San Diego my home. 19 years have passed, and my only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

Hawaii, Hong Kong, and London are three other places that keep pulling me back. I could be very happy living in any of these places – the serenity of Hawaii would calm my nerves, the energy of Hong Kong would satisfy my need for hustle and bustle, and London…well…it’s got everything I need for a happy and successful life (culture and business opportunities galore). Yeah, the weather kind of sucks, but LHR is a big airport with plenty of flights to places where the sun shines every day. It wouldn’t be all that hard to make a quick escape back to San Diego or Hawaii whenever I need my sunshine fix.

There are a ton of things that I like about this city, and I could probably go on forever about the things that make me want to keep coming back. But to keep things short and (somewhat) interesting, I’ll stick with just three. These are the three things that I love most about London:

The London Underground: so easy that a midwestern farm boy can use it

There are a lot of things in life that I can’t quite wrap my head around, and I’m a bit ashamed to admit that public transportation is one of them. Hey – I grew up in the midwestern United States about as far as one could get from the big city and the conveniences of buses and trains. We didn’t have any of that stuff out there! If you wanted go somewhere, you had three options: walk, drive, or bum a ride off someone else. And we liked it.

I’ve always had trouble understanding the intricacies of intercity bus and train routes, but the London Underground is a system I got from the very beginning. Well, staring at the route map for the first time on the wall of the LHR terminal 3 station way back in 1997 did make me gulp hard enough to nearly swallow my head, but it only took a minute for me to get my bearings and I was soon off and on my way exploring the city of London without a worry in the world.

London Underground westminster station

The London Underground is by far my favorite thing about this city.

london underground

Clean, fast, and easy to understand. The Tube is a perfect example of what public transportation should be.

london underground

Every station is clean, bright, and very safe.

The same was true for this trip. I didn’t even prepare or do any research before arriving. I simply arrived at LHR, looked at the map, and easily found my way to my hotel without a single hiccup. It was my main mode of transportation for the entire duration of my trip, and I didn’t have a single problem. Not bad for a midwestern farm boy!

Hanslow West Tube station

That’s me, looking like a satisfied traveler at the Hounslow West Tube station.

London is one of the most photogenic cities I’ve ever been to

There’s something about the city of London that makes me want to take a picture and capture the moment every time I turn the corner. Part of the reason, I’m sure, is the old-world architecture that we don’t have here in the United States. The way the old classic buildings intermingle with modern steel and glass is something that I’ve always been fascinated with (most recently in Mexico City) and there’s just something special about the way it’s done in London. It’s classy. Royal. And quite hip if I might add.

London at night

London at night. The perfect combination of the old word mixed with the hustle and bustle of modern life!

london at night

Everything about this city is so iconic and unique.

london eye at night

The London Eye looking good bathed in soft red light.

Putting these feelings into words isn’t easy, but there’s just something about the combination of gloomy skies, big red double-decker busses, black cabs, and the perfectly-preserved architecture from generations ago mixing together that makes London one of the most unique and iconic cities in the world. There’s just so much to appreciate soak in, and capturing it all in photographs is something I could spend a lifetime doing. And I really mean that – I shot nearly 50GB of photos and video on this two-day trip and I still didn’t feel that I captured enough.

london bridge

From certain angles, the feeling of having stepped back in time by a century can be quite strong.

london at night

There’s just something about the way the colors and textures mix together that makes London feel so alive.

The food

Once you’ve wiped the tears out of your eyes from laughing so hard, please read on to understand why I declare the food of London to be one of my favorite things about this magnificent city!

First of all, I think it’s safe to assume that most foodies would agree that there’s nothing special about the culinary situation in the UK. The food is dull and bland compared to what you would find in other nations around the world, and I dare say that it can be some of the heaviest and most difficult to digest stuff on the planet. Blood sausage, pot pies, fish and chips…not quite what anyone would consider to be exotic or high-end cuisine. It’s probably also the reason why you don’t see many traveling foodies on TV flocking to England the first chance they get.

london food

The food in London is generally pretty far from exotic and high-end, but I’m OK with that.

But here’s the thing: I LIKE the fact that the food is so uninteresting. One of my biggest weaknesses in life is food, and even though I eat clean and healthy while at home, I tend to “let go” a bit when I travel. All of that first and business class airline food is just as tempting as what I find once I land at my destination and it’s so hard for me to eat in moderation – despite how much I promise to myself that I’m not going to overindulge. My trip to Mexico City earlier this year was a perfect example of how I succumbed to the temptation of exotic and delicious food everywhere I turned, and I ended up feeling miserable by the time it came to go home.

But here in London, I don’t feel that sense of temptation. The food just doesn’t do anything for me, so it’s much easier to manage my intake and keep myself feeling great for the entire trip.

Final thoughts

There’s a lot to like about the city of London, and picking just three things that I love the most about it was a lot more difficult than it sounds. Heck, I could have easily wrote 2000 words on why I like those cliche red double-decker busses so much! Then there are funny crosswalk markings, the feeling I get when listening to someone speak proper English, and the way that the steady stream of A380’s, 777’s, and other large airliners from all over the world fly low and slow over the city on their approach into LHR. There’s just so much to like about this place, and I’m already thinking about my next excuse to return. But is an excuse really necessary? The more time I spend here, the more I understand that there’s nothing wrong with visiting this place for the sake of strolling the streets and just blending in like a local.