Friday, July 14, 2006

The (Quarter-Baked) London Plan matter how long you stay in London, London will wear you down and wear you out. London is intractable, insuperable, inexhaustible; the tourist is hapless, cowed, puny, and ultimately penniless. -- Joe Queenan, Queenan Country

I'm starting to plan my fall trip to London. It will be the third time I've been there. The first was a one-day lightning-round on a double-decker tour bus. I got off a couple of times to see a few sights and some less-popular (i.e. no queues) museums -- The Museum of London and the Design Museum. I discovered Postman's Park all on my own, WAY before anyone had seen Closer or heard of Alice Ayres. On my second trip, I was there for a week and saw a combination of tourist traps (Windsor Castle, the Cabinet War Rooms, the National Portrait Gallery) and low-cost, no-cost oddities like the Museum of Tea and Coffee, John Soanes Museum, the Geffrye Museum (housed in an old alms house), and took a trip to the end of the Victoria Line to see the William Morris Gallery and an old workhouse museum in Walthamstow.

The Queenan book is the first thing I'm reading as I begin my research for the upcoming trip. It's rather funny, but the thick overlay of crankiness that he's trowelled over everything is a bit much. He recounts his day trip to Liverpool, where a cabbie drives him around to see various houses and clubs associated with the Beatles, while avoiding anything to do with Sir Paul who both Queenan and the cabbie agree is overrated, treacly and full of himself. The cabbie tells Queenan of his friendship with John Lennon who was his best man at his wedding. Queenan has a fabulous time, but his bubble is burst when he returns to London and learns from a friend that the cabbie's stories couldn't possibly hold water. Quickly recovering from the disappointment, Queenan realizes that, truth or no, it was still a great day with marvelous company. The lesson here is this: England is a land of a thousand tales, many of them contradictory, apocryphal, or downright lies. This doesn't matter, however. Tourists need only find the stories they love, then immerse themselves and savor the experience. Who cares if it's shite!

Here's what I'm thinking of including in my itinerary:

For further research, I'm planning to order a couple of books of walking tours, and I've joined the London-alt Flickr group (lots of interesting pix there). I'm open to all suggestions, tips, advice, etc. Leave them in the comments, okay?


  1. Anonymous5:03 PM

    There's a weird haunted house / wax museum of prisons and torture that is totally hokey but also awesome, I have to see if I can find the name of it.

    This I think:


  2. I suppose you should go to St. Martin's in the Fields and see the statue of the Pearly Society founder.

  3. Thanks for the suggestions! I've added the statue of Henry Croft at St. Martins in the Fields to my spreadsheet (did we go in that church? I seem to remember a gift shop in a crypt somewhere near Trafalgar Sq.) and I'll check out the Dungeon, which I think we saw near Southwark Cathedral.