London has become a United Nations of people, but one thing remains the same – the cabbies.
Our driver, Danny, told us how he had to study for five years to become a London cabbie. You have to know every street, every neighborhood, and every point of interest – no slackers allowed here. Wouldn’t it be nice to find a cab driver in New York who was trained like that? Heck, it would be nice find college graduates in the U.S. that are as well trained.
It’s fascinating to walk the streets of London and hear all the different languages being spoken. But one thing I still can’t accept is women walking in full burkas with face coverings. Disregarding the security issues, no one will ever convince me that this is not dehumanizing to women and is anything other than subjugation. It turns my stomach to see women treated like chattel, and I will never believe that they do it willingly. The French got something right for once when they prohibited burkas, and the U.S. shouldn’t allow them either.
One of the great joys of traveling is working with and talking to concierges. These men and women have devoted their lives to service at the highest level, and enjoy taking care of even your smallest needs. At our hotel, the concierge, Michael, lamented that it’s very hard to attract young people to the profession. They have to endure a long apprenticeship to earn the gold keys that signify acceptance into that respected order, and, unfortunately, few are willing to put forth the effort. And some say there are no jobs….
My wife wrangled tickets for a tour through Buckingham Palace – an indulgence that’s only available for two months every year, when the Queen is on holiday. It was a rather special tour because the wedding dress belonging to the Duchess of Cambridge (Kate) was on display. Unlike the White House, you can’t take any pictures inside the Queen’s digs (although my wife, ever the rebel, was able to sneak one of the dress.) You also have to pay a pretty penny to view the Queen’s fabulous art collection and walk through her enormous living area (no viewing of her private quarters), all of which can usually be seen only in a BBC documentary. My wife loved it, but the revolutionary in me thought: “Turn all this stuff over to the people and let them view the pilfered treasures for free!”
Thank God I was born a colonist. Have a Happy and Healthy New Year no matter on which continent you celebrate it.