Tower Bridge, London.
Tower Bridge, London. Louise O'Mara

Underground rail systems a necessary part of sightseeing

AS MUCH as I dislike using the metro or underground, there is no denying their efficiency in getting you around quickly in a clogged city.

People will warn you never to use an underground rail system in a large city - the threat of having your wallet being nicked in the crush or having an unsavoury armpit in your face (think I'd rather have my wallet stolen) - but if you're careful it's the quickest and easiest way to travel.

Try sitting in the traffic in Paris, Rome or London in a taxi with the meter ticking over and you'll soon get over your aversion to underground rail travel.

Some years ago we did 15 trips on the London Underground in one frenetic day of London sightseeing. It almost finished us but we soldiered on.

We descended many times into the earth's bowels, rose appreciatively to light again, went down, down, down again and came up gratefully once again only to descend reluctantly once more … and so it went throughout the long, tiring day.

Sometimes we went down so deep we had to take five, six or more escalators.

Once it required an agonisingly slow trip in an ancient elevator to get us all the way down.

Being so deep in the earth in a black tunnel wasn't fun, but coming up at Piccadilly Circus was.

Piccadilly Circus, for goodness sake. How evocative is that?

Train travel can be interesting in Europe, especially with the fast trains in France and Italy.

These beauties fly through the countryside at great speed and get you to your destination without traffic hassles, or, more importantly, arguments with your better half.

The slow trains in France can be amusing, especially when a "blind" man gets on complete with white stick and an "assistant" with a portable karaoke machine.

Once the "blind" man has sung a chorus up and down the carriage, the assistant passes around the hat, which kind people (never me) drop their money into.

At the next station the "blind" person suddenly becomes sighted (it's a miracle) and leaps off the train with his assistant to race off down the platform like a Kenyan sprinter with a decent haul of money.

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LONDON CALLING

TAKE me to London please. Let me be a tourist in this vibrant city and hit all the spots: Tower Bridge, Windsor Castle, Madam Tussauds, Westminster Abbey.

Take me on a cruise on the Thames and then take me to any one of London's cozy pubs and buy me a pint of beer and lunch.

When you tire of London you tire of life, is the old saying - and it's true. London has different charms all year long. It's really exciting in December when the Christmas lights are on.



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