London - When to Go... That is the Question...
Posted by Brian Stacey
Posted in: Tauck’s Travelogue
Tags: London, Olympics, Shard
I have been spending a lot of time in London this spring and I was so impressed when I learned all of the Olympic venues were ready months in advance – including the amazing new skyscraper “the Shard,” opening July 5. What is the Shard, you say. Well, it is going to be the tallest building in Western Europe and it is simply beautiful and fascinating, although I am sure many think it is blight on the landscape – but whenever there is something new and dramatic – there are always the naysayers. It is called the Shard because it is said to resemble a shard of glass – one REALLY LARGE shard of glass. At 1,026’ it dominates the landscape on the Thames south bank in the Financial District. I venture to guess it will become a new London icon, just as the London Eye and the Gherkin have in recent years, and oh yes, like that tall clock tower a few years previously. “The Gherkin?”- yes, surely you have seen pictures of the squat pickle shaped glass tower. Personally I always call it the “dill pickle.” I know it looks like a pickle – but I can never remember the name “gherkin.” And it’s hard to spell too.
Talking with the locals, I find them a tad concerned about the upcoming Olympics. But, they were concerned about the Jubilee as well – they mumbled about the traffic and the construction and all of the primping and cleaning that was going on everywhere in the city – to make everything shiny for the Queen, and of course the billion or so people watching. I think if they said the work was being done for Kate – nobody would have batted an eyelash – in fact, everyone would have probably picked up a shovel and paintbrush and got the work done even more quickly. That woman is a goddess in London; people talk about her night and day and they adore her. I think the majority of the population would prefer Kate be made Queen and skip over Charles and William. That may be blasphemy I know, but really – that is the way they talk. And as for that grumbling about the construction, behind it all I see an immense welling of pride. Now I think I am an able judge of British character – as I grew up with two of them as my parents. Both my mother and father emigrated from the UK to the US. And yes, I grew up eating meat and potatoes three meals a day, until my father’s heart condition put him on a diet and we only had meat and potatoes two meals a day. I never had turkey for Thanksgiving until I left home – we always had prime rib and Yorkshire pudding. In fact we had roast beef and Yorkshire pudding every Sunday, and lamb whenever possible – with fresh mint from the garden, none of that mint jelly in our house, thank you very much… And don’t forget those cute little sandwiches we would take on picnics, filled with cream cheese and salmon or cucumbers. And tea, and more tea, and never, never did my parents drink that American abomination we call “iced tea.” That was a sin indeed.
Underneath all that rumbling and posturing is a distinct sense of delight and enthusiasm. Londoners recognize the entire world is watching them. Londoners will be damned if they don’t show the world they can pull this off, “better than China,” and it will be a jolly good show… rain and all! And I for one believe they will pull it off. The city has never looked better! Of course we also have to thank the Queen for planning her Jubilee just prior to the Olympics. Well done!
Some travelers are avoiding London during the Olympics. I think that’s wise if you are not interested in seeing the games. However, I do know from experience, visiting AFTER the Olympics - and I am not talking about a week or two after – I am talking about for the next year - is a sure bet. That is why I have been there so much in recent months – I have been developing a Tauck gala event in London, scheduled for September 2013. It will be five nights in length and will be an “insider’s view” of the hidden London that most visitors never see. We’ll have all of the iconic sights included, but with five days – we can include a lot more. We are planning unique sightseeing and special speakers, as well as some grand evening galas in royal venues that will be sure to thrill our guests. You should join us, you won’t be disappointed.
This year has also seen a record number of new hotels opening their doors in London, and seemingly every existing hotel has renovated and updated their facilities. The streets and sidewalks are all in top shape, and the gardens… did I tell you about the gardens in London? They are amazing! As a result of all the new construction and sprucing up – there will be no better time to visit London. I know I will be there!