Friday, 8 February 2013

Tourism; Deadly Sin or Guilty Pleasure?

Can you imagine moving to Paris and not visiting the Eiffel Tower, or moving to Dublin and not visiting the Guinness Factory? No, of course you can’t! (Well, okay, maybe you can, but just go along with it.) So, why is it so difficult for us London dwellers to get out to see the sites of the City?

I am not here to judge of course; it took me over a year before I decided it was time to don the bum bag and the camera and set off on a day of touristy activities with a Farmer and a Londoner in tow.

London makes a lot of money out of tourism, and no, I am not going to provide a nerdy fact of how much, but it is safe to say that these activities are not cheap. To start with, I would avoid the London Eye (with tickets between £17-£40), there isn’t anything up there that a good Google Images search of ‘London Skyline’ can’t provide. In my opinion the best action is at ground level, or underground to be precise…

With a National Rail train ticket you can get 2 for 1 on lots of attractions around London, and my tourist day started with the London Bridge Experience and the London Tombs, which unsurprisingly takes place under London Bridge.

[Can I just point out that, yes, this deal is convenient for people who have travelled into London on a National Rail train, but for the regular Underground users the best way around this is to take a quick trip from Waterloo East to London Bridge, or something similar, for £2.60 so you have your National Rail ticket ready to go!]

The London Tombs are what I could only describe as the dirty love child of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre villain and that creepy puppet from Saw. Horror films have never overly scared me, well, with the understandable exception of when someone decided to call the house phone after I had just watched The Ring, but I can quite honestly say, in the Tombs, I was scared shitless.

I would like to point out now that if you are one of those grumpy sods who tuts at people who love a bit of audience participation, then I would say this one isn’t for you, as interaction is required/forced upon you.

So, we were initially briefed on the usual Health and Safety stuff, told that no photography was allowed and most importantly, not to worry because the actors would NOT touch you. This, my friends, was a LIE. Not only do the actors chase, scream and swipe at you, they basically go Hannibal Lecter on you.

I can advise now that if you have any friends who adopt the same ‘Stop, Drop and Roll’ style tactics when faced with danger as my friend did, I would suggest not opting to walk behind them when going through the Tombs, as it makes running from the villains exceptionally difficult! Although, I do have to admit there was something oddly satisfying about hearing the 6ft3 man behind me screaming in terror as he was chased with a man wielding a chainsaw.

Now, I am aware that I may not be selling this particularly well to everyone, but honestly it was a very fun, if slightly terrifying, experience with a bit of London history thrown in there too. For the thespians among you, it makes for a great role-play exercise, and if the Movie Star dream dies a painful death after Drama School, could be a great job opportunity!

However, if you would prefer something a little bit more relaxing for your touristy day National Rail 2 for 1 covers lots of well known, and not so well known events, from the London Aquarium to Locations of James Bond Films to a Jack the Ripper tour.

And for a completely free experience just take a walk along the Southbank where you will get to see the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, The Globe Theatre, the London Eye and a variety of other London attractions and some incredibly talented street performers along the way.

So, leave your commuter rage at home and embrace your inner tourist! As for me, next stop ... Confessions of a Chocoholic Afternoon Tea.

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