Beauty and the bus

By Hannah Silverman

Not that there isn’t one million amazing things to do in London or anything, but my new favourite thing is riding the bus. (I do have a fulfilling life, I promise).

I’m a Tube girl, generally. I love the speed and convenience of the Underground network but sometimes while there is no waiting on certain lines, there are a hellavalot of delays on others. Like last Monday. Monday was the Game Changer.

The most beautiful walk to work.
The beautiful surrounds on a wintery commute. This was not Monday. Or maybe it was, but it was so last year.

Monday was the first day back to work for many commuters after the festive break. It was also below 10 degrees, bucketing down with rain and the day my alarm clock decided to fail me. Leaving my flat at the time I was supposed to start work was bad enough but once I had walked the daily 10 minute strip to the Tube station, I was horrified to see a crowd of disgruntled wannabe passengers held at the entrance like they were trespassers waiting to be prosecuted. In the gruff, slightly over-it tone attributable to most public transport workers (not all, Caledonian Rd has a lovely, sometimes humorous announcer who I’d like to be friends with) we were told a neighbouring line was suspended and therefore ours was the Ivy Club of the Underground, everyone wanted to get in. The alternative to this conundrum, however, was the bus.

Now, I have nothing against buses other than they often smell bad and you can’t always get a seat. As a London tourist years ago I was delighted if the front seat at the top of a double decker was free, but these days I figure it was a desperate measures kind of scenario. But here’s what I didn’t relaise; the buses can pick me up right near my flat and drop me off right near my office, they aren’t actually that much slower than my tube commute (with walking included) and there are some absolutely amazing sights which I had been unknowingly missing out on. Many of the attractions I passed I had previously conquered, like the British Library and the gothic architecture of St Pancras Station, but there were some unGoogled sites like the Museum of Zoology. Say what?! There’s a Museum of Zoology! I know, that’s what I thought too.

My mission this week is to take the bus everyday and see what else I can find. Fortunately there are several key routes into work (luckily I’m based on The Strand, so very central) and I figure if I mix it up a bit during the next few days, I’ll have a list of new attractions to explore. Of course, the tube will always be my transport BFF simply because it is faster and easier for longer distances in general (not that it’s a competition), but I won’t be so quick to dismiss the bus either. Whether your alarm fails you or you just want to sneak in some sightseeing on your way forward, either way buses won’t ruin your day but they just might enhance it.

As a tourist, traveller or resident there are plenty of pros to bus catching, too. I’ve listed a few more here.

  • Get perspective – Travelling above ground gives you a great opportunity to work out how close – or how far – some of your favourite London landmarks are because, well, you’re not in a dark tunnel zapping between As and Bs.
  • Phone a friend – Phone, text, email, Facebook, Twitter, Candy Crush, Snake, chose your poison as there will be no reception fails on the bus.
  • Get comfy – You’re probably more likely to score a seat than you are on a tube in peak hour. Nice.
  • Less stalling – It’s a completely unresearched fact that there are less delays on the train than on the Tube. I can’t actually back that up, but I’ve been less frustrated by buses than Tubes in my time. I’ve also caught, and attempted to catch, more Tubes than buses in my time.
  • Night owls – The Underground is a modern day Cinderella coach in that it turns into a pumpkin at midnight. Why else does the network shutdown around this time in one of the world’s largest cities? Buses, however, offer a night service.
  • Getting a seat at the front of the top of a double decker. Enough said.

Are you on Team Bus or Team Tube? Why?

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