Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Credit Crunch Culture

For those of you who do not live in or have never really been to London, I am not going to lie to you: It aint cheap. Without the secret weapon of an Oyster Card, a tube journey into central London costs about four pounds. You do well to buy a pint for three pounds. It even costs you 20p to have a wee at the train station, and even more if you happen to end up in a pretentious bar where you are expected to tip someone for handing you a paper towel. As for house prices... don’t get me started.
Having said that, you don’t have to spend a fortune to have a good time. Even as a tourist sightseeing, you can experience the best of London without hemorrhaging money. And, to be quite honest, I often find the cheap and cheerful options much more enjoyable than the cash crunching must-sees.
Take last week for example. I decided to take the week off and spent four days in London without anything terribly pressing to do. So I decided to catch up on some culture. After enjoying a facial and a hair cut on Tuesday morning (special offer through work – massage, facial, hair cut and colour for £40! Told you bargains are to be had) I headed over to the Women’s Library to see an exhibition on the Women’s Movement in the 1970’s. Not everyone’s cup of tea, I am sure, but I found it really interesting and informative. And... it was free. Admittedly I paid £1 for a newspaper which accompanied the exhibition, but it turned out to be a good buy, ram-packed with art work and information which I will no doubt refer back to and share with others. Happy days!
On Wednesday I ventured out with Him Indoors. We decided to do what we have been meaning to do for years and go to the London Dungeon. Mainly because we had a 2 for 1 voucher, courtesy of Tesco’s, which made it a slightly more affordable £11 each. After queuing for a good half an hour we finally got into the attraction. And... quite enjoyed it. I say quite, because, in my humble opinion, it could have been a hell of a lot better, especially considering they charge most unsuspecting tourists £22.50 to get in. But why invest money in an attraction that people are going to visit once and probably not bother going back to anyway? Why pay a few more actors when you can show a crappy video and play a recorded voice in a darkened room? Don’t you know there’s a recession on? Let’s put it this way, I would have been rather disgruntled if we had parted with nearly fifty notes for the experience.
After a cuppa and a pretzel we decided to try out another much loved London attraction we had yet to tackle, Monument. I say tackle as to get to the top you have to climb 311 steps. But it was worth it. For the very reasonable price of £3 each the views rivalled St Paul’s and the London Eye, which are decidedly more expensive, and you get a certificate to show you have been to the top with a brief history of the Monument thrown in for good measure. And the exercise made me feel a hell of a lot less guilty about the burger, chilli cheese chips and peanut butter malt I enjoyed in Ed’s Diner afterwards (not as cheap as Burger King, but a decidedly superior experience!).
So, bargains are to be had in London Town. Get onto a few email lists and special offers abound. But, to be quite honest, it is the cheap and cheerful side of London’s museums and attractions which give it its edge. Take the Tate Modern, the National Gallery, the British Museum. All free. Not to mention all the tiny but wonderfully charming museums hidden away behind the flashing lights of Madame Tussaud’s and Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. I recommend the Old Operating Theatre to anyone with an interest in a slightly macabre history. And there are plenty of others that I have not yet discovered.
Can’t wait until I do though.

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