A tourist in my own town

“Italy has great food, Barcelona has great energy” (Stefon Harris)

Actually, it turns out Barcelona has great food too, but I do feel re-energised after my weekend away: My heart may belong to London, but there’s always room for an occasional holiday romance. It was such a pleasure to feel the sun on my face (yep, it’s still raining in England), stroll along La Rambla and gaze wide-eyed at La Sagrada Familia. I was unashamedly a tourist doing all the things I couldn’t and wouldn’t do back home.

I came across a list of London’s top visitor attractions the other day. The London Eye – nope, not done that. St. Paul’s – no, that neither. Buckingham Palace – errm…. You get the general idea. Even those I had been to, I’d only visited for some specific exhibition or event, never just to enjoy them for themselves. Paris and the Eiffel Tower? Essential viewing. London and Tower Bridge? Not a chance.

tourismBut why not? London’s landmarks, the museums and galleries are amongst the finest in the world. I’d served time beyond the M25. I’d learnt not to take such luxuries for granted. Even so, there’s definitely an element of complacency. The trouble with landmarks is they don’t have a deadline, no tightening noose, no pressure of a closing date. The Tower of London has been around for a very long time and let’s face it, will probably still be around for a very long time: There’s always tomorrow.

I do wonder, though, whether part of me isn’t just dismissing it on principle – All those attractions? Stuff for the tourists! You’ve as much chance of discovering London there as me having tea with the Queen. Hidden gardens, obscure museums, little known restaurants – that’s the real London. So in other words, it’s all about visiting places without visitors? Riiight. . .! Nice logic there Lindz. Some secret London which most Londoners haven’t even heard of it isn’t a more ‘real’ London than the famous bits, it’s just less crowded. Admittedly, it’s hard to feel a sense of adventure when you’re on a time-share with the world and his wife, but maybe the reason they’re so popular is that they’re actually worth seeing. Maybe the tourists had it right all along.

Which raises the question – can you can really be a tourist in your own city? Tourists are often criticised for judging by their own standards, for importing their own ideas; and to be fair, it can sometimes lead to gross cultural insensitivities: standing on the wrong side of the escalator, say, or (god forbid) talking on the tube. But it’s precisely this alternative frame of reference which allows visitors to see with a fresh pair of eyes. As a local, the hardest part is recapturing the shock of the new. Your senses are dulled by constant exposure. Just staying focussed can be a challenge – On holiday, you’re removed from all the distractions of daily life but at home, there’s no escaping the mountain of work commitments and messy house: Even palaces don’t look that great when mentally covered in dirty laundry.

The flip side, of course, is that experience offers its own rewards. The London Eye can’t show me the city skyline for the first time, but there’s still a thrill in recognising familiar landmarks or seeing how the landscape has changed. Where ever you go in London, you’re surrounded by world famous attractions. By assuming I couldn’t and shouldn’t play the tourist, ironically I’ve become the worst kind of tourist of all: I’ve seen only what I want, not what’s all around me.

I saved that list of London visitor attractions. What better place to start tapping into my inner tourist? That said, I’m still not sure I’m quite ready to start talking to strangers on the tube!

12 thoughts on “A tourist in my own town

  1. Go for it. It won’t surprise you to learn that I believe it is possible to be a tourist in your home town, and with warm sunny weather in london right now, it is the perfect time to visit the Tower. It is heaving in the summer months. Now you’ll not queue for the jewels, you can tag on the Yeoman warder tours, spend a day gawping at the details as well as the big picture, fall silent at the beauty of the St John’s Chapel. Paln to spend the better part of the day there. Take sandwiches, a thermos flask. Entry isn’t cheap and neither are the refreshments. But you won’t regret it. Remember to look up, look through windows. The tower is home to a number of people including the Yeoman warders and it’s fun, I think, to spot the signs of domesticity!

  2. We are all the same, Lindz (sorry for spelling it wrong before); when visitors arrived here and asked us what they should see, we looked at each other and had the shrug our shoulders. I mean, we knew what The Sights were; but we had no idea how to get there! – which means we were worse than you, seeing as how you have tons of things, and we have only a few. 😀

    • Lol. No worries about the name- I accept any variation on a theme 🙂

      Fascinating isn’t it. Sadly I don’t know your part of Oz so well but whenever Aussie Husband has taken me home to WA, I’ve always thought your country had loads to see and do. It’s just all quite spread out!

      That said my inlaws know far more about popular London than i do. Given our nations rivalry this obviously won’t do:) off for a tour of Big Ben next week. Very excited as not one normally open access

      Cheers
      L

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