on June 2, 2010
On my first trip to London, I checked out The Original Tour and had a thoroughly acceptable time. Having done some research, I learned that The Big Bus Company had a slightly different, more comprehensive route that had stops very near to Waterloo station, where I was departing from that evening, and two places I really wanted to see-- Harrods and the V&A Museum. So I booked my thirty-dollar ticket.I caught the Blue line (buses with recorded commentary) between Waterloo and the London Eye at around 8:30 on a Sunday morning and headed up to the top deck. My first problem was with the audio track-- it was stunningly loud, even on the lowest setting, so I changed seats and settled in with the volume at a more manageable level. The commentary was dry and yet relatively informative, punctuated by long stretches of stereotypically "British", like what you'd hear on PBS specials about Buckingham Palace. It took about an hour to weave through traffic and get to Brompton Road, where I got off to go to the Victoria & Albert Museum and Harrods.After my detour, which grew to include a run to Spitalfields Market, I attempted to catch the Red Line (live commentary) near Piccadilly Circus. After 25 minutes and six Blue line buses passing, I got bored and hopped back onto the next Blue line bus, which was empty, and settled in for a whole circuit, after which I decided to ride it back to Waterloo in time to get my bags.Apparently London is in the midst of replacing old Victorian sewer pipes, which backs up traffic going in thirteen different directions, and allows the rest of the traffic to inch along at a snail's pace. I understand that this is hardly the bus company's fault, but couple this with the fact that the line doesn't make a whole lot of sense to begin with-- there's a lot of doubling back and crossing and turning and driving for long stretches with no stops and then three within a mile-- and the less-than-engaging commentary, it was not a great experience. I ended up getting off the train near Paddington Station and taking the Tube to Waterloo.In summation, if you're going to do a bus tour (and it's a good way to see everything if you only have a limited time), take The Original Tour and get it with live commentary. And be prepared for traffic.
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