diamond geezer

 Monday, August 15, 2016

9 Places in London that Londoners never go
(even though visitors think we do)

We might have been there once, maybe when we were small, or had friends from out of town in tow. But these are places we try very hard to avoid, firstly because they're rammed with tourists and secondly because there are far, far better places to enjoy. Still, don't let us disillusion you. Do please continue to throng to these tourist honeytraps, not just because your money keeps our capital going but mostly because it keeps you well out of our way.

The M&Ms store
No Londoner ever walked into the M&Ms abomination in Leicester Square and felt at ease. Instead they grimaced at the bare-faced commercial bravado of the enterprise, a feeling which only intensified as they descended into further levels of hellish confectionery. Who are these grinning candy shell figures, why are all the staff hyperactive, and how come everything costs at least five times what it's worth? Had Joseph Rowntree ventured down from York to London and opened Smarties World, a celebration of cardboard tubes and alphabetised lids, then we might have been interested. As it is, we see you carrying your bright yellow carrier bags on the tube and we judge you to be fools.

Madame Tussauds
Marie's waxwork emporium rose from humble beginnings, but now has ideas way above its station. That station is Baker Street, out of which thousands of keen visitors stream daily to wait for hours, unless they've stumped up extra to beat the queue. Inside they find hordes of celebrities they can take selfies with, because that's now the entire point of visiting, from catwalk stars to bedsit vloggers and from future queens to Bollywood royalty. Alas the London Planetarium was terminated ten years ago and now houses a dubious 4D superhero experience, while even the famous Chamber of Horrors closed indefinitely this spring and will no doubt be reborn as something even more horrible. Keep your £29 and stay away.

The London Eye
We all came here years ago, and the Westminster skyline hasn't changed so much that we've ever felt the need to rush back. Sure we loved looking down on the little buses and Big Ben, and the broadening vistas across the Royal Parks, but been there done that, so we're happy to leave the place to tourists now. It's bad enough walking through the queues when we're on the South Bank, let alone joining them, and those 'hilarious' silver-painted gravity-defying beggars only ever make the congestion worse. Plus we didn't really enjoy being herded into the Eye's pods with random strangers who might include screaming children, and the souvenir photo opportunity on the way down left us cold.

The Cable Car
Yes, this too. Those of us who were ever going to Fly Across The Thames have already done it, and none of us genuinely come this way as part of our commute. There is no latent passenger demand between an entertainment hub and an exhibition centre, although anyone who had Olympic tickets at both sites four years ago may have found it genuinely useful. Instead the Dangleway is the exclusive preserve of families from out of town, inspired by the opportunity of a genuinely cheap thrill, and part of the must-see trail for foreign visitors too. How politely they pay over the odds, not realising that their contactless card allows immediate entrance and a lower fare. May the sight of the Silvertown scrapyards live long in their memory.

Tower Bridge/Tower of London
Nothing quite says London like a Gothic bridge which occasionally lifts up, its stirring profile famous around the world. So the world always comes to take a look, damn them, completely overfilling Tower Hill station before clogging up the middle of the bridge to grab the perfect Snapchat frame. Then there's the Tower itself, an amazing medieval fortress and raven sanctuary, which foreign visitors dash round in double quick time for fear of missing out. Laugh at the beefy men telling jokes in a language you almost comprehend, stand on the conveyor belt to glide past the Queen's pretty jewels, and ravage the gift shops for a heritage-shaped souvenir.

Buckingham Palace
Because of the special way the heart of our capital is laid out, no Londoner ever has any need to go anywhere near the front of Buckingham Palace. So we've turned over the ceremonial centre to our foreign guests, and at eleven o'clock they swarm like bees to a honeypot to watch The Soldier Thing. Some music starts up over the heads of the people in front, before some men in furry hats approach from somewhere out of sight, then some shouting takes place, and eventually everyone marches off again. Nobody's quite sure what they've seen, but it was absolutely world-beating, and that's your morning sorted.

The Shard
Regular chaos at London Bridge station means Londoners throng around the base of the Shard all day. What they don't do is walk in off the street and decide to pop up to the viewing gallery at the top, mainly because they have better things to do with £31, for example using it to pay a few hours rent. Instead the upper echelons are half-full with anniversary couples from Essex, who pre-booked ages ago before they knew the view would be grey, and foreign travellers for whom the entrance fee is peanuts ever since the referendum dragged our currency down. "But where is Twickenham?" they cry, distressed, and drown their sorrows with another prosecco.

The River Thames
It's madness, but Londoners rarely give their river the time it deserves. A fleet of small boats plies its silver thread, following an ideal uncongested commuter route. But the city's residents cram onto trains and buses in preference, leaving the catamarans and clippers to carry tourists past the landmarks of their dreams. Here is Tate Modern, here is St Paul's, here is Hays Galleria shopping centre, and soon we arrive in Greenwich. It beats the view from the top of the open-topped £20 sightseeing bus, another form of tourist transport shunned by Londoners because they know the the streets look much the same from the upper deck of the 11 or 23.

Planet Hollywood
When dining out, no Londoner would ever consider stepping through the doors of this particular restaurant. We know there are better places for burgers, cheaper places for cocktails, and less exuberant places to be wowed by memorabilia. Similarly we snub the Hard Rock Cafe, we avoid anywhere offering 'genuine British fish and chips', and we never take over-priced afternoon tea in a hotel. But it's the Angus and Aberdeen Steak Houses which we know to avoid at all costs, their home-grown reputation at rock bottom, whereas visitors continue to file inside wide-eyed, before having their plastic emptied and their opinions of UK cuisine reinforced.

(article includes several gross generalisations, but sssh, that's modern journalism for you)

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