There is much to explore in London but even the most typical of sights are incredible experiences.
By Savannah Simmons, Opinion Editor
Days expected to be the most simple are always the most fun and this became true on our trip to London when a sightseeing cab ride became the highlight of our art filled trip.
This summer, I decided to go on a trip with my boyfriend, Sam, and our friend, Justin, to see one of our favorite artists, Keith Haring, and to have an adventure together in a new place we hadn’t been before. When October rolled around, it was finally time to embark on our long-awaited vacation we had spent so much time planning out.
The first shock of being in London is that the traffic is on the left side of the road and let me tell you, this is not easy to get used to. Driving with your cabbie, you will think you have got it down, but the second he makes a right hand turn, crossing traffic, you are shocked again remembering that you are abroad.
Our main and favorite cabbie was a guy named, Mick. We had made plans with him before hand to pick us up from the airport, have a day of sightseeing and take us back to the airport when our trip wrapped, which was a real bonus for us. Sam’s parents had used him before on a recent trip to London and said that it would be a great way for us to see the city in a different way. Mick’s London day would soon become my favorite day of the week but first, we had our spreadsheet full of activities to do.
Like every tourist, of course, we had to go enjoy some tea. We picked a place called Sketch London which has a beautiful dining room decorated with work from the British artist David Shrigley. His quirky drawings line the baby pink walls and offer something new to see every time you glance up. The teas were delicious and their vegan food, unfortunately, was terrible but having a cool drink at the bar while waiting for our table, sitting in that remarkable dining room and walking into the futuristically colourful bathroom, made for an amazing experience.
We ventured up to Liverpool for a few days to see the Keith Haring exhibit at the Tate Museum, and, once again, we were beyond impressed. The vast exhibit featured more of his works than we imagined which was a great surprise. There were compositions and videos from when he was in art school, tiny pamphlets he had scribbled on, preserved chalk drawings from the subways and enormous pieces from his anti-aparthied and AIDS awareness messages.
The bright colors and loud messages from the works of Haring were incredible to see up close. Keith Haring was an artist and activist in the 80s who constantly made street art in New York. We were excited about seeing this exhibit, as it was the catalyst to us going on this trip, and it surpassed our expectations.
Even though we were blown away by the art, our cab driver, Mick, was the star of the trip. One of the most impressive things I learned on this trip was that cab drivers have to be well versed on the roads and that it can take two years or more to pass the test to become a driver. Most cabbies do not use Google maps because they have the roads memorized so well that when you give them an address, they can change routes on the fly, take small alleys and pop up at your destination easily.
Mick took us on a nine-hour sightseeing tour where we learned about the landmarks of London. All day we were hopping in and out of his black cab which was surprisingly roomy and had an amazing turn radius. We followed Mick around who was easy to spot in his shirt with the flag of Great Britain on it and learned details about each place we were at by listening to Mick’s fun facts and stories while looking at pictures on his tablet.
Some of the sights were Tower Bridge, where President Clinton crossed as the bridge went up causing panic within his security team as they were stuck waiting, Saint Paul’s Cathedral, where Princess Diana and Prince Charles got married because (it can hold more people than Westminster Abbey where royals usually have their weddings), and Abbey Road Studios where The Beatles recorded almost all of their albums and crossed the road imitating their Abbey Road album cover.
Going out and seeing all of these sights for the entire day, I thought, would be a long drawn-out process but the knowledge Mick had and how he taught us through his interesting stories, familiar humor and bits of wacky history made our tour day with him the best day of the trip. We were in Mick’s cab from 9 to 6 and were never not fully alert, listening or asking questions ourselves about the fascinating city around us.
A great deal of his knowledge came from his studies to be a cab driver and from classes he took in preparation for the London Olympics. The city wanted to promote itself by having their drivers be able to educate their tourist passengers on their trips during the games. To do so, they offered weekly classes for them to attend months before the masses showed up.
Walking around the city, the museums, tea and driving with Mick all made for a different enjoyable experience that I am so happy to have had. A trip is always a bummer to wrap up but leaves me with a whole list of new things to explore when I have the chance to go back and makes me want to venture out into the world and see what other places have to offer. After coming back from this London trip, I cannot wait for the next adventure abroad.