Monday, February 24, 2014

Shiny New Travel

Part of the thrill of travel is seeing everything with new eyes.  The sights, the smells, the words - everything is unfamiliar.  This is a sensation that those of us who enjoy travel crave.  It's as if our senses are on fire: bombarded in every way and enjoying simply standing in that warm downpour of input.

But this wears off - and it's well that it does - for it is surely only the wrapping paper of any new place you visit.

Last Christmas (seems ages ago now) I visited London.  This was my 4th visit and I never would have told you on my first visit in 2009 that I would come to so thoroughly enjoy this city.  But Big Ben and Tower Bridge weren't shiny anymore.  This actually freed me to do things I couldn't on previous visits.

1 Buckingham Place
This inauspicious address in Central London, roughly a mile from the Palace of the same name, was where The Prisoner, as portrayed by Patrick McGoohan, was originally abducted from.  For those of us who know and love the 17-episode series from the 1970s, this address is must-visit in London.  But there's nothing glamorous about it.    It was Boxing Day when I stopped by but I suspect it's always quiet.

The Gielgud
Surely those involved in the theatre always make a visit to the West End to take in a play as a mandatory part of their stay here.  I've always enjoyed plays but my previous visits never really allowed for them, and with the holidays, it wasn't easy to catch a show.  But - it can be done with a minimum of effort and a maximum of savings (LSBO).

The Emirates 
My obsession with soccer has followed a meteoric rise that probably got its impetus from the unbelievable rise of Sporting Kansas City.  I went back to playing recreational soccer, started following other leagues, and began picking teams to follow.  One of those leagues I started to follow was the Barclays Premier League and the team I chose was Arsenal (for a number of reasons I'll talk about some other time).  On previous visits to London I had not been as obsessed and more importantly, had not been a member.  Being a "member" of Arsenal for the annual fee of 30 pounds allowed me to purchase tickets internally at face value or via TicketExchange for a higher rate (you also get some swag and a members' only scarf).  The upshot of this is to tell you I got to see Arsenal play Chelsea without emptying my bank account.

The weather was horrid, Chelsea bunkered, and it ended in a nil-nil draw, but I had an unbelievable time.  I chanted along with the crowds, hearing in person the chants I had only ever previously heard through the television.  Later in the week I came back for a tour of the stadium - an absolutely magnificent facility - and got an even larger appreciation for just what it has taken for Arsenal to survive and thrive since 1886.

I'll be back soon - for a Champions League fixture perhaps - or maybe - if our run keeps up - the FA Cup Final at Wembley.

Shiny new travel is always a great time.  But so is the comfort of old leathery travel.  The kind that lets you really get into the soul of a city that a three-day trip can only skim.

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