Sunday, February 22, 2009

Back from Jolly Ol' England

Been quiet around these parts lately, so I thought I'd post a little synopsis of my latest adventure.

As most of you know, I've spent the last couple years trading oil derivatives. Last week, the petroleum industry held their annual International Petroleum conference in London. I attended with a number of others from my firm, and had the chance to meet (face-to-face, finally) several people we do business with and a bunch of others we don't. Also got the chance to experience London from the perspective of a Londoner, as opposed to a tourist.

While the particulars of the business side of our trip aren't all that interesting, the city of London is a very cool place to spend your time. The people are universally warm and welcoming and great to be around. The city itself does a tremendous job of intermingling the old with the new, as parks and squares and cathedrals are interspersed with office buildings and sushi restaurants. The streets are very clean, and the sidewalks are not poured concrete but stone tiles; it was like constantly walking around on someone's back patio, which I thought to be quite charming. Though at first a bit difficult to navigate, what with the maze of Mews and Gates and Squares, once you figured out where the major thoroughfares were you could get around fairly easily without asking directions.

The populace is very multicultural; I attended a get-together on Wednesday evening hosted by an Iranian broker, and spent the night getting to know an Indian, a Frenchman, a Dane and an Atlantan, all living and working in London. They all had nothing but good things to say about their adopted city and were as eager to show it off as the natives were.

But while most around the world says that America is the standard bearer for conspicuous consumption, let me tell you that we have nothing on the Brits. Everyone is dressed to the nines virtually all the time. There are as many shopping districts as anything else; I discovered, as I wandered around the city, three different areas that could be considered comparable to our own Michigan Avenue here in Chicago. I spent an hour inside the famed Harrod's building and didn't even see a fraction of their inventory. And the cars, oh the cars. The streets were practically lined with Bentleys, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Rolls Royces. It was as if spending well into the six figures on an automobile had become de rigeur. And they would park them on the street!

But despite all the trappings some took a relatively leisurely approach to their work. It was nothing to go down to the pub mid-day and have a couple pints at lunch or for a break in the afternoon. We were visiting a broker in the downtown area in their brand new, state-of-the-art building. We got a tour of the office and met some of the people that we deal with often, then went down to the pub around the corner for a pint or two before lunch. The pub, which happened to be one of the oldest still operating in London (it poured its first pint in 1610), was packed, with several people even lining the ledges they installed on the outer perimeter of the place (for resting drinks) and chatting with their co-workers or friends in the fresh air.

Yet in contrast to the propensity for mid-day drinking, everyone we met maintained the air of professionalism that we'd come to expect, and which I think is part of the British culture. They assume that everyone deserves the utmost respect and courtesy until they encounter evidence to the contrary. It was truly a wonderful experience getting to know the people and culture of London in such a way, instead of via the usual avenues of getting it from ticket-takers at Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. I highly recommend it to any and all with the means and the desire.

Hope you all enjoyed my travelogue. Still getting over the jet lag as I returned yesterday afternoon, so I might have some updates as I shake out the cobwebs. Stay tuned.


  1. At last !!! I thought everyone had dried up.
    You are one lucky dude Tyler to see London for the first time with some Londoners.
    I've been twice but only for 3 or 4 days and strickly as a tourist, hopping on and off buses,taking chances on eating places etc.
    It would be nice if you could exchange homes with one of your new friends, you and Liz could have some great vacations. I eagerly await more of your adventures when you rest up.

  2. There once was a large family Blog,
    whose Wit surely would send one agog.
    Then lo and behold,
    they ran hot to cold.
    What must we do to open this clog?

  3. Wow.

    Best limerick ever.

    Gram, you are the straw that stirs the drink.

    Apparently, my trip to London wasn't all that interesting to the rest of the crew. Maybe I'll try some fiction, see if people notice.

  4. I too am impressed both by Grammy's rhyming prowess AND Tyler's lovely prose. I told Ty in person that he would give Rick Steves a run for his money. If this is the first time you are hearing the name "Rick Steves", may I suggest... no, demand... that you check out his show "Rick Steves' Europe" on PBS. And don't change the channel until you catch the bloopers at the end. Priceless. But I digress. I felt as if I was walking along the streets of London with TyTy. Didn't you all?
    I can only hope that my upcoming trip to San Francisco inspires the same eloquence. Any suggestions of things to do/eat in San Fran?
    Also, I am trying to parlay my well-developed skills as a nanny into a free ride down to Palm Coast. Things are looking good, as I have been able to train my potential charges to drop hints to their parents that spring break in Florida without me would be like Disney without Mickey Mouse. I will keep all of you retirees down there abreast of developments.

  5. I too enjoyed hearing of your experiences in London, Ty. Thanks for sharing. Sounds like an interesting group of people you were socializing with also. I haven't been there since high school, so my recollections of that city are very
    Non, I do know of Rick Steves and also stay tuned for the bloopers. His book on France saw us through our last trip there.

    As far as San Fran....haven't been there since my early 20's so I would be of little help. I do remember eating at the wharf and enjoying it.

    And, I CANNOT imagine anyone turning down an opportunity of having your company on a 21 hour drive to sunny Florida. I will be happy to put in a good word for you if need be.

  6. Bravo to all. Tyroni, you did indeed take me with you through the stone lined streets of Londontown. I hope to visit those Brits one day soon, although I may need to touch up on my eloquence in the mean time...

    Gram, terrific Limerick indeed. And I vote your profile picture as my favorite (and the competition was tough).

    As for me, I had some reviews on my last post that it read like a somewhat interesting "forward"... so, I will try harder next time, but in the meanwhile, check out this Conan clip... a little perspective delivered the best way... a la humor:

  7. I'm guessing that last entry was from Motor Mouth but I'm wondering why it read "Anonymous"?

  8. With luck the clan of Chiarieri
    can hire a Psyche Master Nanny.
    The dear little kids
    will have perfect ids
    at the end of the Florida sally.