London: Stuck on Business



London may be a charming, touristy city, but sometimes travel takes you there strictly on business. Strangely, the steely, glassy side of the city held its own charms. I was held in Canary Wharf all day, but this did not stop me from exploring the city’s vibe.



Be There in Spring

I always happened to visit London in spring. The British love their gardens, and plants are everywhere, lush as they can only be in May. Even in the business district, the fresh greenery of the trees glowed against the gray slabs of steel and glass. Without a care in the world, ducklings were swimming in the canals. It was a rainy spring, of course, as can be expected, but the rain only added to the freshness of the air.

In spring, people walk out to soak any ray of sunshine. Women break out in their summer dresses. One could just sit by the Thames and watch the fashions- red dresses were really in that year. The whole place seemed much less formal, the business world may have relaxed quite a bit in the past decade. Back in 2007, Canary Wharf was costumed and tightly-laced. Now, the styles were much more fun and relaxed, and most of the ties seemed to be gone for good.



Do as the Locals Do

What do you do when you have to work all day? Find the restaurants by the docks where the locals relax. I used the tips and guides of the local free newspapers and the advice of friends to find the best view of the river and a patch of sunshine.

Strangely, the pies and fish-and-chips seemed gone, replaced by healthier meals of greens and grilled fish. In fact, the whole of Canary Wharf seemed devoted to healthy menus, where even street food was fresh and contained at least two kinds of vegetables.

So after the day’s tasks were done, it was the hour to relax by the Thames, as the bankers’ chatter mingled into unintelligible noise and gets more and more mixed with laughter.



Cross the River in Style

Moving around London may soon become tedious, with crowded, rather long underground rides. Luckily, there were fancier ways to cross the river. One was the boat from Canary Wharf to Westminster, which I still have to try. I almost got on it, but missed it by a few seconds, not wanting to risk a jump and end up in the Thames. Sadly, the last boat left at 11 in the evening, and I had to track back to the hotel by the underground. But the next time, I decided to be more adventurous. If I could not cross the Thames by water, I would cross it by air, so with a friend to give me some courage we headed to the Emirates Skyline. Although I feared heights, I thought it would be a good alternative to the London Eye. And indeed it was- a 10-minutes’ ride up to 90 meters above the river. The ride was one part spectacular as the sun set over glittering skyscrapers, and one part terrifying. But still, I trusted the engineers and the thrill they provided.



Do the Shopping on a Friday

As something of a shopping maniac, I wanted to hit the malls and the stores- but always had other tasks. So I delayed and delayed…and delayed until Friday. And it turned out Friday was a shopping holiday. I was in luck, packing my bag full of all my favorite scents and ointments from the Body Shop.



Don’t Miss the Indian Food

For some reason, I’d always avoided Indian restaurants- not only because there only a few in my country. But London had its choice of such places. With a friend, we may have discovered the weirdest one. In a new building development near the Thames Docklands and the Expo center, we entered a place only to find it totally empty. That seemed to be the restaurant with the slowest service, and just as we were about to give up and leave after nibbling appetizers for half an hour, the food arrived. It did not look like much- a stew and steamed rice and nan bread. But my, was it not cooked from scratch and full of flavors. It was hot, satisfying, much like a home-cooked meal, perfect after a long day at the office.


So there I was, totally exhausted after a week in Canary Wharf. The place was a modern castle, with limited access, like a drawbridge. The towers of business skyscrapers were guarded by moats – the old docks where Thames ships used to land. I had found my little pleasures there, but I was ready to go home, and when in London next time, do the more touristy routes.


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