London is an interesting place, with much to do and much of it at a pretty pence, and some very disturbing issues. I'll skip the tourist's guide, as you can find that on just about any place and concentrate on the things I found interesting/difficult.
First, was the ride in a taxi. We rode to the real estate office to sign paper work to rent an apartment (much cheaper than having a hotel room and in city center and much larger than your average hotel suite) and then to the apartment building. All total: £120 or $180! For that amount of money, I can rent a taxi in Moscow for 1 to 1.5 days. Literally, to ride from any of Moscow's airports to the city center, it would cost me about 2000-3000 rubles, or about $60-100 and that is regardless of how long it takes. Our ride was going up by 10 pence every 10 seconds!
Than there is the London famous Tube. Wow, what a shock. We can start by the absolutely chaotic entry area, where its hard to figure out who's coming in, who's coming out and where to buy tickets and for what. In London there are three different fares, based on from where you are coming from and to where you are heading. There is a special frequent riders card, which is broken down to peak rides and off peak rides, though its not always a price difference and depends how far you are riding. So, we had one train station, switch lines and four more stations. Cost per adult? Two pounds on the card. Two pounds sterling, that is 3 USD, or 91 rubles. So, if you have the card, a short ride on Tube will cost the same as 6 rides on the Moscow metro and on the Moscow metro you can go from one end to the other or just ride around all day and to all the stations and its one entry cost.
We did not have the card, obviously, so our ride was £4.50 per ride. That's 6.75 USD or about 200 rubles or enough for 20 rides on the Moscow metro....do the British, the average Londoner make 20 times the same as a Moscovite? Hardly. The average Moscow salary now stands at $2,000/month, or $24,000 and with a 13% tax rate, that means the average Moscovite keeps $20,880 in his pocket, per year. The average Londoner has a salary of £35,000 or $52,500 and with a top tax rate of 45%, has an average of 20% for the majority. So at 20%, that means the average person keeps $42,000 or just a bit over twice the Russian amount. So, while making just twice what the average Moscovite makes, a Londoner must pay (assuming he has a frequent rider card and is not on peak hours and not going far) five times what a Moscovite pays to go to work and home. At least children under 11 ride for free.
Thankfully, on the second day, when I was buying tickets, the cashier explained about getting a one week all you want to ride pass, for £35 each adult. Ok, so that is 1,575p, or enough to ride the Moscow metro 62 times (also you can ride buses and trams off of the same ticket, in Moscow).
The Tube's map is a spaghetti nightmare and depending on what routes you are taking some maps have them as one colour and others as another. It took me 10 minutes to find our way around on the map.
There are no doors on the entry stations to the Tube, so the cold wind of winter blows through and down the narrow tunnels and stairs and so the whole of the place is windy and often quite cold.
On the bright side, London has a lot more stations than Moscow, however, it is obviously that they went for quantity over quality. Even the newly built stations in Moscow, which are drab compared to the Moscow central stations, are luxurious by the standards of the Tube.
Ok, off we go under ground: narrow passage ways, as opposed to the wide Moscow ones. Bland walls, with some green and other colour tiles. The trains arrive on time, at least, like ours, unlike say the NYC subway, which unlike the Metro or the Tube arrives as it feels like. Anyways, I digress, so we get on, or rather fight our way on. You see, only the central door is double, the doors on either end are single and narrow by that margin and people are trying to get on and off. Try getting on with a small child, it is a nightmare. The train itself, is also narrow. The Russian wagons do not look as sleek and sophisticated, but they are comfortable and wide, the cadellacs of metro cars.
One last thing, there are bums sleeping in the metro and as many bums and homeless begging on the streets as there are in Moscow. That was shocking in the financial capital of the world, London....
Third thing: there were hardly any British working anywhere in London. From the German woman who ran the real estate office, to the Scottish driver, to the French girl selling me and mine tickets to the London Eye (worth going on by the way, even if quite a bit expense, at some £26/rider), to the Romanian waiters or the Italian retailers. Quite literaly, there were hardly any English, working anywhere in London. And the British unemployment rate is? Why 8% and I am sure that is under reported. Heck, I like the British accent and was looking forward to hearing it, what a surprise, I hardly did.
Fourth, the amount of non-white neighborhoods in London central. I know there's regions around London, just like around Paris, where white British is an endangered beast, but in central London? We passed several, riding in the taxi and I started counting. At one point, I got as many as 20 blacks before I saw one white and I have no way to know if she was British. Wow, things have changed incredibly in a decade.
And the toilets...why are all the toilets so bloody cold? You are in some warm restaurant and walk into the leu and its bloody cold. Public toilets are cold, that is one thing, but the private ones too?
I will finish on a positive note. The merchants, both the few English and others, were much more friendly and customer centric than our own in Moscow. So were the people generally on the streets and in the metro. That is a talent that most of our own have yet to pickup. See, I am a positive person.