I love London. I was born there (well, in Ealing, which counts as Greater London), and I lived there as a student and postdoctoral researcher for 9 years. Since moving to North Staffordshire I have visited London regularly, both for leisure and work. In recent years I have noticed some changes which have particularly impacted on visits involving the West End, like theatre trips. For example, this weekend Angela and I have been in London, mainly to see ‘The Audience’, starring Helen Mirren, which we saw last night and really enjoyed. Staying in our usual hotel, hear Euston station, I made the mistake of assuming that we would be able to find somewhere to get a coffee, or any type of drink, near the theatre before the show. Of course there are lots of pubs, cafes, restaurants etc, but they were all packed! My recollections of earlier visits didn’t have this problem, and there was always space in these places. It does seem as if the number of people visiting central London now far outweighs the available catering facilities, particularly at the weekend. This was reinforced by my last visit, in November, when I tried to find a pub in Central London where I could get a seat on a Saturday night (I failed)!
Sadly, the only obvious solution is to travel to the West End immediately before one’s event starts, and to get food, drink etc outside the centre, in less busy areas. Those of us who can only get to London on the weekend have become victims of its popularity as a tourist destination (although I suppose we are adding to it!). But London, at least at the weekend, is a far more manic place than it was when I lived there, and whether that is a good thing or not is open to debate!
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