Don’t fear the cheese
Tom’s right: London doesn’t have a dead centre preserved in amber and only useful for tourists. I think this is a good thing: that London’s ‘attractions’ are spread out and exist inside and alongside the regular working / living parts of town. That our ‘old town’ is dominated by security-guarded doors and blank windows pushes visitors and time-wasters alike out into a broader London.
There’s no doubt that some of the things laid on to attract the attention of tourists (and Londoners) are dreadful. You’d have to pay me a lot to endure being herded through the London Dungeon, designed to appeal only to a pre-adolescent taste for the gruesome.
But then, reading Ned’s post below, I am reminded of my regular advice to Londoner and non-Londoner alike: don’t be afraid to do the cheesy, touristy things. There’s a lot of good stuff hiding right there in plain view. Very often, the reason lots of people want to do something is because it’s interesting or fun…
One of the highlights of the FT Wedding of the Year, in NYC, was the open-top bus tour of Manhattan. My companion for the day, himself a qualified NYC Tour Guide, turned from cynical seen-it-all-before to joyful wow-this-looks-so-great within minutes.
Like everyone else (it seems) I’m an admirer of Luka Heronbone’s takes on London’s ripped backsides, all abandoned poetics and over-the-barbed-wire prose. The London of museums, monuments and edifices, like the London of plastic policeman’s helmets and Downing Street signs, is as real and true a London as the London of some grimy local or greasy spoon, and it can all be infinitely interesting if you bother to look.