When we're not tutting at them on escalators, being shoved in the face by their backpacks on the tube or sighing as they hog the pavement during lunch hour when we really need to rush to Marks and Spencer, we sometimes feel sorry for tourists. The tube is bewildering, tourist traps are dirty and expensive and us locals are all a bunch of unhelpful, miserable bastards: official.
Seems the lot of the London tourist was ever thus. A new translation of one Spanish visitor's letters home 400 years ago presents a veritable litany of whinges about London hospitality. Consider some of Luisa De Carvajal's observations:
Food: "looks good, but has no smell and almost no taste and is not very nourishing" - Aberdeen Angus Steak House - check
Rip offs: "Since they sell things in pieces and not by weight, you are obliged to buy more than you need" BOGOFs, Twofers - check
Yoot crime: The Spaniard complained that at least 25 thieves were hanged at the gallows in London every month "even though some are children of 10 or 11." Well we don't execute people anymore but we're yet to find an effective way to deal with youth crime, so - check
Thin walls: "At times they grind me down with the noise that comes through the wall where I sleep... All you hear is the sound of meat being roasted and others cooking, eating, playing and drinking." Luisa was staying at Barbican so we imagine she was staying at an inn (not a Premier Inn). We've not spent the night in a Barbican flat (if only) but when it comes to neighbour noise, who hasn't taken a broomstick to the ceiling at 3am or been kept awake by couple in the next room "playing" ahem - check
Binge drinking: "On Fridays it gets worse." - hic
On a more positive note and to put it in context, De Carvajal was a Catholic crusader in a hostile Jacobean England where she was converting folk and kept winding up in prison. The woman's main aim in life was to be a martyr so we could take heart that her griping was less to do with our sprawling, beloved beast of a city than her own miserable life.
Tourists, we love you. Please come back.
Image courtesy of markhillary via the Londonist Flickrpool.
Last Updated 24 September 2008