I sometimes practice ‘metatourism’ for fun, wander around a city and watch the tourists, try to pick out the locals. In London it’s more of a challenge to spot the natives due to how inherently diverse the city is. As soon as you set foot in Zone 1 however, the ratio of cameras to people becomes virtually 1:1 and it’s practically child’s play to identify them. I split my time over the weekend into half-native/half-tourist activities, and relearned how to have fun as a gawking, pointing, photo-snapping tourist.
Days 1 & 2: Couchsurfed at an Englishman’s house 25 minutes from Victoria by tube. Learned the rules of cricket, what Brits mean when they call something a “sticky wicket“, how to give a Hawaiian massage, and contented myself with the fact that my version of porridge is authentic relative to that of the masters of porridge-making. Also: Oyster Card = ♥. I understand the momentary feeling of panic when you reach for it, can’t find it, then realize suddenly it’s just in your other pocket.
Days 3 & 4: Played ‘tourist’ with a friend from uni and her mom, neither of whom had ever been to England (it was even her mom’s first time in Europe)…
Portobello Market: chock-full of tourists. I’m fairly sure the only natives there were the shopkeepers, and half of them aren’t even English-English. My normal reaction would have been to avoid it entirely on a busy shopping day, but Emily and I decided to take the sillier route and dance on street corners, poke fun at somber-looking steel drum players, comment on artsy purses in our best British accents, etc. etc.
Covent Garden: My favorite area from my first trip to London, the theatre district! Also overrun with the average fool ready to part with any amount of money for a cute tea cup or Punch & Judy doll, but home to wonderful pubs & restaurants, cupcakeries, bookshops and plenty of stimulation for a creative mind. Em, her mom, and I shelled out £24 at the Fortune Theatre for a chilling production of The Woman in Black, a ghost story performed as a classic film noir/thriller.
Harrods: Where else could one find a tea which costs five thousand quid per kilo? We spent more time oohing over the pricey oolong than over the designer jewelry and handbags. After darting quickly through the “beauty apothecary” (sorry, all I could think of a magical, Harry Potter-inspired beauty shop) and its consultants standing with perfume bottles in hand, ready to pounce on you as techno music pumped in the background, we made it to the realm of chocolate creations and got slightly high on the heady smells of deliciousness.
King’s Cross: Platform 9 3/4. Finally, after years of waiting, my HP pilgrimage was complete. I reveled in the cliché, the pure tourism of it all when I finally had my moment at the trolley and realized that when it comes to fulfilling childhood dreams, being touristy is the best way to do so!