This summer we took the entire family to England for an epic wedding in Devon followed by a four-day excursion to London. I wish I had taken more photos. I wish we could have stayed longer and explored more of the City. For now, this five part series on London should be just enough to give you a window into why this city blows every other city away (sorry Paris). It starts with the continuous thread of civility and courtesy which influences nearly every aspect of the City.
Chapter One: Transit
If only all transit could be this polite. When I rode the Metrorail earlier this week it was fast and efficient, but I wouldn't characterize it as polite or even clean. It's always the same scenario. Wait for the train in the sweltering sun. Try to find a seat where you don't have to sit next to anyone. And definitely, don't touch anything. Forget about anyone smiling or being friendly. But let's transport ourselves, now, to London's Paddington Station.
It's All About Setting the Mood
When I stepped off the Great Western Train in London's Paddington Station after a 2.5 hour train ride from Exeter and a terrifying 40 minute car ride from Devon through a one-lane windy road with eight-foot tall hedges, I looked down and was greeted by this lovely message stenciled on the station platform. And the message's sentiment of courtesy, safety and comfort is woven throughout the station experience. Let's read on for some examples.
When I looked up, I saw this magnificent ceiling structure. It creates the illusion of being outdoors because of the glass windows which give full view of the sky and the sun. In addition, the building's structure resembles the underside of a bird's wings which made me feel like the whole building was some massive flying machine. The whole experience was truly grand and uplifting.
Here's another view of the station interior. You just feel that you're somewhere special when you enter.
The Bicycle Storage Closet
I have seen versions of this on US trains, but none designed so nicely and considerate of the bike owner's bicycle. Bikes are securely stored in this clean closet which can be closed behind a sliding door. The space is large enough for a person to stand inside it while securing the bike without blocking the aisle and holding up traffic. The space can also be used as an overflow for storing luggage. Courtesy, comfort and safety in action.
The Taxi Stand
This reminds me of the Miami airport or any US airport for that matter- only better. Again, courtesy, comfort, safety and design stand out here. A well designed space for people to wait for London cabs. The shiny and clean looking metal bollards separate the road from the pedestrian zone. The pavers are for people and the asphalt for cars. But the Brits take it one step further by placing glass panels between each bollard. I think in the US they use retractable lines like the kind you'd see in movie theatres, airports and swanky clubs to corral people into orderly lines. The glass is much nicer don't you think?
Sadly, I did not take enough photos of Paddington Station. There was the beautiful plaza that connected the Great Western Railway trains to the local trains and the beautiful shops and quick service restaurants with loads of healthy and interesting food options. Chalk it up to trying to keep up with a 2-year old while my husband waited for the attendant to fish my older daughter's Ipad from the gap. It's hard to mind the gap when you're holding your baby sister and your backpack and your Ipad.
But courtesy, safety, comfort and design go a long way in making a pleasant transit experience at London's Paddington Station.