May 9: First Day in London

I managed to sleep on both flights, which was absolutely a blessing with five hours of sightseeing first thing. Our tour guide, Ed, is incredible. London is so old, and having him tell us the historical context for buildings and their namesake and original purpose is so gives the city so much depth. I particularly enjoyed learning about how convoluted the English language and aristocracy is.

On the way in I was documenting all the advertising I saw for my article, and London has very few billboards and an abundance of transit ads. The majority of billboards are digital, which is very interesting to me. I’m really looking forward to the media visits on Wednesday to ask how London agencies manage limited space and leverage digital OOH. Ed also told us about a butcher shop that managed to work around the rule that you’re not allowed to advertise on the Thames because it’s a royal highway. I might use that story in the article if I decide to focus on how agencies work with and around restrictions.

One of my favorite things about Pittsburgh is the mix in styles of architecture, and London has the same thing: gorgeous Gothic churches next to aggressively bland modern buildings. Here’s a slideshow with some of my favorite buildings and statues I saw today.

Something I was not expecting was how aggressive drivers are. Maybe it was just because the coach was so high, but I was constantly expecting us to hit or be hit by another car. Walking around later in the day I also learned that pedestrians do not always have the right of way, and it’s very easy to walk into traffic because of how their traffic lights operate. I’m sure people become accustom to it, but I don’t think I’d ever feel safe in the streets.

My favorite thing about London so far is all the green spaces. There are flower shops all over the place, dozens of parks, trees everywhere and almost every building has some sort of window box or hedge decorating it. It really helps a city with such close housing open up.

The song selection for today is Ultralight Beam from Kayne’s new album The Life of Pablo. I chose this because of a conversation it spurred today. I had listened to the album on the flight here, and throughout the day I found myself singing it. This somehow turned into a conversation about the Kardashians and how people obsess over them, and Ed brought up the point that all the monuments around Greater London are like a historical version of celebrity worship. Also the lyrics “you can never go too far when can’t come back home again,” while not about physically traveling still felt appropriate.


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