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Ignorminious on The Joys of London (Or Why It is a Better Place to Live than Bristol)

Posted on Thursday 26th October 2006 at 00:00
I love London. Despite having never lived nor worked there and despite it being a large, noisy and fairly smelly city I think it is probably one of the greatest places to live in the country. Certainly better than Bristol anyway, even if it is rather more expensive. I'm not suggesting that other cities around the UK aren't good places to live or even that the countryside isn't far more desirable in many ways than a city, but London really does have a lot going for it.

Firstly there is the transport. Being the capital, it is possible to get there fairly quickly and easily from more or less anywhere in the country (if not the world). From Bristol I can get a train into London Paddington every 30 minutes all day every day. Tickets can be quite cheap if you book in advance. I got to London for just '10 on Tuesday which is less than it would have cost me in petrol to drive there and it takes less time as well. The university claims it is a 90 minute journey in their advertising material. Personally I think this is a tad optimistic, but not by more than 5 or 10 minutes.

When you arrive at a central London railway terminal you join a massive transport network that will take you anywhere in the city quickly and easily. I know some Londoners fighting their way through the rush hour might dispute this point, but only if they haven't lived in Bristol. There are over ground services that trawl between some of the smaller London stations, and if you get the tube to the right station you can catch a train to anywhere in the country pretty much.

The tube itself is an incredible structure if you stop and think about it. Networks of all over the city beneath your feet with trains running just a few minutes apart. It is crowded at rush hour, yes, but only because it is such a good way to get around for very little money at all. In recent years it has received very bad press because of the various closures for repairs on different lines. Obviously this is annoying for those who have to change their travel plans accordingly but I don't see that this is really any different to closing a road for repairs, which in many cases can cause greater delays than you ever find on the tube. Provided you leave enough time for your journey and check for closures on the internet beforehand, the network is a fast, efficient and cheap way to get around. Those who complain every time they use would soon take back their harsh words if made to rely on taxis and buses all the time instead. I really wish Bristol had an underground, it'd solve so many problems in the city.

That said, the London buses are pretty reasonable as well. Thanks to the Oyster cards it is now as quick and easy to travel by bus as on the tube. I read today that London is the only place in the country where passenger numbers on the buses are actually going up rather than down. Some people might not be keen on public transport in London, but live for a while here in Bristol and you'll soon realise just how lucky you are.

Next up is entertainment. It would probably be fair to say that London is the cultural capital of Britain with more theatres, cinemas and attractions than anywhere else. Bristol has two well known theatres, The Old Vic and the Hippodrome. Nothing wrong with either of these of course, but they don't exactly afford a wide range of shows. London on the other hand has so many theatres that I've never actually been to the same one twice (except for the Globe and The National) and there are many more I've yet to visit.

Art galleries and Museums are also plentiful all over the City in quantities that probably don't exist anywhere else in the UK. I know all this is probably stating the obvious since it is the capital, but I think anyone who lives in the other cities around the country will know what I mean. It seems very much to me that as a country, all our efforts have been put into that one place, with little left for anywhere else. By comparison it always amazes me that Bristol is in fact the 8th largest city in the country and that there are another 50 or so that are even more deprived than here.

Restaurants are also a huge feature of central London. They say you can never be more than half a mile from the nearest tube station in the city but you can't be more than 100 yards from the nearest place to eat I'd say. They have restaurants selling every type of food under the sun, literally. Wander around Leicester Square, Tottenham Court Road, Piccadilly, Covent Garden or anywhere else round there and almost every other building is selling a good meal. Ok so it isn't the cheapest place to eat in Britain, but if you can afford it, the quality and variety is more than you could ever wish for in one place. From a social point of view this seems to me to be very important, as a lot of socialising is conducted over a good meal. Perhaps one of the draw backs about Bristol, especially outside the city centre is that there are very few cafes and restaurants anywhere to be seen. Britain's climate being what it is, it is essential that there are many places where people can meet that are close at hand and also warm and sheltered, and if all your local area can manage in addition to McDonalds, KFC and Burger King is a few kebab vans and the odd chippy then it isn't surprising that a lot of people won't go out anywhere. In short, we need more coffee shops!

There are of course many other great things about London that can't be found as easily elsewhere in the UK, but discussing those in detail is best left to bloggers who know the city a little better than I do at the moment. For now I shall finish by saying that although I mentioned a desire to live in New York City a few weeks ago, I suspect central London, if I can ever afford it, would do just as nicely.

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