I am a little surprised at how striking the differences are between New York City and London. I lumped them together as top cosmopolitan, international cities, but they have a more distinct feel than I originally thought. Now, admittedly, I have spent more time in London than I have in New York City. And, I think I’ve stayed in and/or near some of the hottest, hippest parts of both cities. In New York, we were in midtown Manhattan at The Doubletree on Lexington and East 51st. On my most recent visit to London, we stayed at the Hilton at Paddington Station. Here are some of the differences and similarities I noticed.
Both cities are extremely walkable, which is great for me because if I am traveling my fitness routine is automatically disrupted. So substituting extra walking for my normal workouts is good. Also, both cities seemed to offer other fitness options, such as biking in London and ice skating in New York City, that complemented the tourist experience.
I saw a stark contrast in wealth (extreme wealth, actually) and poverty in London, which I found a bit unnerving. Where I live, signs of wealth and poverty are less obvious in day to day life. Obviously, we know that we live among millionaires and folks struggling to the point of being considered “food insecure,” but because of the relatively integrated nature of our planned community, it isn’t glaring like it was in London. We were amazed at how many very expensive cars we saw in London (too many to count, my son Alex tried). And we saw poverty in the number of homeless we noticed on the streets and in the Underground. The obvious signs of extreme wealth were less obvious in New York. We saw just a little of it. And, we did see a number of homeless also.In the area of what I’ll call international flavor, London and New York both had a lot of non-natives, either tourists, international students, visiting businessmen and such, but London seemed to have a lot more of each of those categories. I heard more English spoken by people who seemed to be from New York in New York. I heard relatively little English in London.
Each city has a big name park that was full of activity. We loved Hyde Park in London and walked around it extensively. We would have biked it, too. However, weren’t able to rent the bikes offered in a number of areas in and around the park basically because our American credit card wasn’t compatible with their system. Central Park in New York didn’t allow bikes where we were, but there was an open ice rink. We definitely would have tried it had we more time.
The other striking contrast was the level of hustle and bustle of each city. In London, there was an energy and excitement that was palpable. The Londoners walked with brisk determination, and I couldn’t keep up with them. I walk at a pretty quick clip, and they made me look like I was meandering. They all clearly had some place to be. It could have been that they were mostly dressed fashionably and therefore not for the cold weather (and it was cold), but it seemed that fast walking was ingrained in their systems. In contrast, the New Yorkers were out for a stroll. I can’t assess how the New Yorkers dress on the whole because clearly the nearness of Halloween played a role in people’s clothing choices when we were in town. I did feel some energy and excitement, but for the most part I was winning any imaginary speed walking races with the New Yorkers.
Unfortunately, we did not have a single celebrity (or royal) sighting in either city, but I felt like I should keep my eyes open the entire visit just in case. Each city offers fabulous things to do and see, and I was happy to experience the many aspects each had to offer. I am already looking forward to my next trip to each city.
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