Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Bless My Taxi Driver

My taxi driver from the train station to my hotel, when I first arrived in London, made an odd recommendation to me. He suggested that, if I'm seeing shows in the West End, I should walk along Waterloo Bridge one night after a show and take in the sights.

This was an odd recommendation because I know all about Waterloo Bridge -- indeed, I'd sort of thought it was my own personal discovery -- I'd had no idea taxi drivers were recommending it as an actual tourist attraction.

But after years of seeing shows on the other side of the bridge and taking the Underground from one side to the other, I finally discovered the bridge allowed pedestrian traffic and learned that the view at night (when the lights are on, and the Thames is dark so you can't so how polluted it is) is freakin' gorgeous. I often try to see shows at the National -- the theatre on the other side -- because I really look forward to that walk back. Once, when asked my favorite place in the world, I responded, "Waterloo Bridge, with a great show fermenting in my head, and beautiful music on my Walkman." (Although, at the time, it was a cassette walkman, not an mp3 one.)

But what the taxi driver reminded me is that I can take in the view from Waterloo Bridge without actually seeing a show on the other side. You know, you can walk there just because.

Which is what I did tonight. I have no photograph because, like several things this trip, it was something of an impulse. This afternoon didn't go entirely well (spent altogether too much time finding the bank, walking to the cheapo internet cafe, and dealing with their very slow network connection), but things picked up awesomely thereafter. Had a proper British cream tea in lieu of dinner; saw a fantastic production of a brilliant play -- a revival of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia -- this is the fourth production of it I've seen and the only one which comes close to rivaling the original -- and when it was done, I was just so full of happy I couldn't think of anything else but how wonderful it was.

And so, I was paying so little attention to anything I walked the wrong way out of the theatre. My subconscious GPS was clearly at work again, because when I finally figured out my mistake, I was halfway to Waterloo Bridge. So I thought, what the hell? Cranked up my Walkman and went for a good and proper walk across the bridge. Full moon tonight. Gorgeous. I actually walked all the way across the bridge and back again -- so that I could get the full view from each side.

There's something ironic in the fact that the view I love only works at night so you can't see how brown the river is. I mean, there's something of a lie in it -- something ugly hidden in all the lovely city lights and the juxtaposition of the old and new architecture. And somehow, that makes it all the more right.


Peg said...

We did the Jubliee walk around sunset to when it got dark and yes, it's gorgeous.

Wil said...

The Thames in London is part of the estuary and as such is brackish water. According to Wikipedia, "(t)he decline of manufacturing industry and improved sewage treatment have led to a massive clean-up since the filthy days of the late 19th and early- to mid-20th centuries, and aquatic life has returned to its formerly 'dead' waters."

Just because she's brown doesn't mean she's down. After all, it is the main source of water for all of London...

So I'll venture a guess that a trip across the Waterloo Bridge during daylight is also in order.