Londoners effortlessly cool

WU'S WANDERINGS: If cities have opposites, London is Parksville’s antithesis.

If cities have opposites, London is Parksville’s antithesis.

When you get off B.C. Ferries en route to Vancouver Island, the pace of life seems to slow down and everyone spreads out. In London, it’s the reverse.

The big city is the capital of both England and the United Kingdom — and perhaps the attitude capital of the world too. It has a population of eight million to Parksville’s 12,000.

Londoners — all eight million of them — are seemingly on the go all the time. They don’t have much time for anyone, let alone tourists. They don’t look you in the eye, they don’t smile much.

One night while stuffed on the tube with a few hundred others I picked up one of London’s many tabloid-style newspapers and read an article about Rita Ora, a London singer, who was feeling a little homesick and described the city quite poignantly.

According to the London Evening Standard story she said: “I miss Londoners — we are effortlessly cool. Londoners have a certain walk, a certain attitude. You can just tell when someone is born and bred in the city.”

Most things in London are cool, intimidating, edgy and come with an exorbitant price tag. It seems like a city that’s so far ahead of, say Canada, that I didn’t even know what or who I should be trying to mimic.

There’s so much going on at any given time on any given street its exhausting just getting from point A to point B.

The tube station is bursting with bodies and there must be 50 different transit lines crossing and converging just to transport people from one chic neighbourhood to the next. Smoothies cost 7 pounds, the equivalent of $14.

But I’ve never been to a city with so much to see.

It has world class theatre, many must-see museums, interesting monuments on every corner, massive city parks, incredible history and a nightlife designed for the who’s who of Hollywood.

I had less than a week to take it all in, along with a million or so other tourists who came to London to see all the same things.

For me, London was a lot of long queues and being jammed into small spaces with lots of people.

I spent a day in Bath and Stonehenge; looked at mummies in the British Museum; found dinosaur displays in the Museum of Natural History; checked out the Victoria and Albert Museum; watched a few fabulous theatrical productions in the famous West End; ate fish and chips and mushy peas in an English-style pub; took a day-trip to Birmingham to meet some long lost cousins; ventured into Hyde Park and I still didn’t feel like I even made a dent in the metropolis.

I must have walked the length of Vancouver Island just making my way around the enormous city.

The buzz of London coupled with figuring out the transit system and trying to avoid getting mowed over by people made for a tiring week. On my last day, while I still  had a lot to cross off my to-see list including Westminster Abby, Tate Modern and the Tower of London I opted to head back to the West End and got a last minute ticket to The Book of Mormon.

It turned out to be my favourite day in the city because I was doing exactly what I wanted instead of following a travel guidebook’s list of top attractions.

I felt a bit of residual fatigue from the week and found myself walking with a tinge of that London aloofness. Maybe Londoners aren’t so full of attitude, maybe they’re all just a little exhausted from the push and pull of city life. Maybe they just need a little vacation to somewhere like Parksville Qualicum Beach.

— Candace Wu is on leave from her position as a reporter with The NEWS. E-mail: candacemariewu@gmail.com.

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