Sunday, February 11, 2007

London chaos

London is really big and really crowded.

It's filled with young people - including a surprisingly large number of twentysomething women with American accents (why is that?). There are plenty of aging yuppies too, but I haven't seen many elderly folk. Seniors here might just stay close to home in order to avoid the crush of the streets, sidewalks and public transit.

And like in Manhattan, there are very few beggars or homeless people on the streets of central London. I wonder if, like in New York, city officials have forced most of the poor to flee to the suburbs.

We've had no problem navigating the city on buses, the Tube and commuter trains, but it's not unusual to be packed shoulder-to-shoulder.

Simply put, London is chaotic.

Streets twist and turn. Names of roads change constantly. (Americans, of course, must remember to look the opposite way when crossing streets.) Even the architecture is random and confusing. It's typical to find new glass-and-steel towers mixed in with centuries-old buildings, the direct product of bombing in World War II that left gaping holes in building rows that were later filled with new structures.

The pic above shows the British Telecom Communications Tower rising from behind early 20th Century buildings along Tottenham Court Road just north of the Soho neighborhood.

At times, I've felt like a scampering ant. But like inside an ant hill, there is remarkable order underlying London's apparent chaos. Things work. People get where they need to go. They're relatively polite to each other and to tourists. There's virtually no outward sign of crime or blight in the central city.

Still, as functional as things are here, getting through the day can be downright exhausting.

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