Dispatches, thoughts, and miscellanea from writer Jon Konrath

London 2016

I’m back from a week-long trip to London. Had a decent time, but caught a cold and flew back with it, which has rendered me deaf, voiceless, and stupid. Spent the weekend on NyQuil, trying to sleep it off, but I’m still not there yet.

The weather wasn’t entirely cooperative, but that meant more time in museums. A brief rundown:

  • Science Museum – I actually went here twice. The Apollo 10 command module is the big draw, but there’s a lot of other technology, ranging from steam engines to space travel.
  • Victoria and Albert Museum – Mostly sculpture, which doesn’t interest me, but it’s a huge museum, and about to get bigger.
  • Tate Modern – Picked the exact wrong time to go. They have a brand new tower addition which will greatly expand their space; of course it opens two weeks after I’m there.
  • Royal London Hospital Museum – A very small space in the basement of an old chapel, which is nestled away from the growing sprawl of the giant, modern hospital. I had to go for the John Merrick exhibit, though. There’s also some Jack the Ripper stuff there, too.
  • Imperial War Museum – Went here in 2012, but they’ve since expanded, with a large WW1 space, which was interesting, as well as a bunch of “war on terror” bits and pieces.
  • Handel & Hendrix Museum – Geo Handel’s pad was restored to 18th-century trim levels and made into a museum; turns out Jimi lived next door when he was in London, so they got his place done up in 60s regalia, too. It’s just a restored room and another room of pictures and other bits and bobs, but it was awesome to be standing in the room where he wrote all that great music.
  • Bletchley Park/National Computing Museum – The big highlight. It’s an hour north of town on a high-speed train, but it’s one part Imitation Game, two parts computer hoarding. I’ve never seen so many Enigma machines in one place.

Other vague observations:

  • The AT&T Passport service is highway robbery. $60 for 50-cents-a-minute roaming, 300MB of data, and use of WiFi hotspots. They make it sound like there were tons of great hotspots, and there were none near my hotel. (And my hotel WiFi was out, and $10/day if it had been running.) There’s a bizarre little program you have to run to get hotspots to work, and it will kill your battery. BT is now putting WiFi in their remaining phone booths, which is neat, but it only really works if you are ten feet away.
  • The amount of supercars that are daily driven in London is astounding. The $440,000 Porsche Carrera GT is like a Toyota Camry there. You regularly see people parallel parking their Lamborghinis on the street. I saw some asshole who was driving a $1.7 million dollar Bugatti Veyron in the rain, and parked it on a cobblestone street, in a spot I would not have left my Prius. (And for the record, my Prius costs less than the price of a Veyron’s oil change.)
  • South Kensington wasn’t a great place to stay. It’s right on transit, and there’s a Boots drug store and a Tesco market, but the food was either ultra low end or ultra high end, with no real in between. I copped out and ordered room service more than a few times because I was too frustrated with wandering around in the rain to find some place to eat.
  • London’s a good place for introverts to vacation. Nobody will talk to you at all on a subway or in public. I had one cabbie that did talk to me, and the conversation was like Arsenal -> Nick Hornby -> The American movie version was stupid/fuck the Red Sox -> Uber is the death of mankind. But otherwise, people kept to themselves.
  • There are some really tall people in London. Apropos of nothing here, just something I noticed.
  • I had connecting flights in Dublin, and forgot that they are on the Euro, but England’s on the GBP, so there were three kinds of money in play. Also I never pay attention to coins, and by about day three, I had like a hundred dollars of change and scoliosis from all that weight on one side.
  • Everything is ridiculously expensive, and even worse with the exchange rate. The only thing that was not: Tylenol with codeine. 24 tablets was £2.59, cheaper than regular Tylenol.
  • English Breakfast is great, but I could not deal with eating it every day, and eventually just switched to Pop Tarts from Tesco.
  • US Customs has gotten completely ridiculous at this point. Getting back into the US was basically more involved than visiting NORAD’s Cheyenne Mountain facility in 1968 while dressed in a Ho Chi Minh costume with a fake bomb strapped to your stomach.
  • Coke Zero is now available pretty much anywhere.

Pictures posted here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskxKfCMa – I didn’t have time to edit/caption everything, so if you see something you’re curious about, feel free to comment.


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