London, Ontario: A Great Place to Live But I Wouldn’t Want to Visit
So I read this article the other day at OurLondon.ca about how London, Ontario made TripAdvisor’s list of Top 25 Travelers’ Choice Destinations in Canada, and I have to say, as a Londoner, I disagree with this inclusion. Here’s the writeup from Tripadvisor.ca:
You’ll see double-decker buses and even the River Thames, but while London, Ontario, has clearly been inspired by its British namesake, this is a distinctly Canadian destination. Attractions like Fanshawe Pioneer Village, Banting House and Eldon House will captivate history buffs. Or indulge your, shall we say, slightly less cerebral side with a tour of the Labatt Brewery.
I enjoy living and working here, but what kind of writeup is this?! First of all, this makes it sound like we’re a quaint village where you’ll get a taste of jolly old England without the travel costs and with a Canadian twist. Well, aside from maybe seeing a double-decker bus three times in my life, here’s a comparison of the Thames River in London, Ontario and London, England:
As you can see, their version is a touch nicer.
And lets talk about those attractions… maybe I take for granted the fact that I drove by Banting House almost every other day when the boxing club I frequented was located in crack alley (Adelaide near Dundas, lovely area of the city), but it’s not somewhere I would suggest civilized people spend their time. Fanshawe’s Pioneer Village is kind of hokey and not an attraction worth spending hours of travel time to see, Londoners really only care about the camp ground nearby. And what kind of selling line is that about the Labatt Brewery? It might as well have said “and, if you’re a beer swilling moron, you’ll love touring this factory that makes your favourite brain cell-killing beverage!”
The “OurLondon.ca” article is something else too, it includes quotes from Marty Rice, who is the “Director of leisure travel and advertising for Tourism London”. Hopefully my taxes don’t go towards paying this man’s salary because I don’t like paying the salaries of liars. Aside from a bunch of buzz words that don’t mean anything (he mentions that we’re “broad-based” and have a “big selection of tourism infrastructure”, and that he was able to promote the city well “using social media”, none of these things really mean anything), here’s my favourite gem from the article:
“[Marty Rice] said the city is also laid out nicely, so it’s easy for visitors to get around London.”
I’m sorry, what part of the city is nicely laid out? As someone who’s lived here a long time, I constantly find myself forgetting about the one-way streets that make absolutely no sense downtown (like King Street and Queen Street, one of which stops being a one-way street at one point), the random signs that tell you that you can’t turn left between certain hours, if at all, and the street festivals that block chunks of the area off on the weekends in the summer. That’s just downtown, never mind the streets that just dead end at some point and magically re-start somewhere else (like Huron, or Wellington), and the fact that the city crawls during rush hour traffic despite it only being a mid-sized city of 400,000 people. Try to drive the 9km down Oxford Street from Fanshawe College to the apartments on Proudfoot Lanes at 4pm in the 14 minutes Google Maps says it should take… good luck. And should a visitor try to use our public transit system, well… enjoy waiting 15 – 30 minutes for a bus that’ll take you part way to your destination, before getting a transfer to wait another 15 – 30 minutes for the next bus. I timed it once, it took me 45 minutes to go from Argyle Mall to Masonville Mall by bus, a trip that should take no more than 10 if you drove there going from Clarke Road to Fanshawe Park Road. If this is the experience of someone who has lived here for 29 years, how is a guest to the Forest City going to fare?
Wellington Road and Huron Street. Why do they just arbitrarily end, then begin again? Is it too much to expect that once you’re on a street, you should be able to follow it to its conclusion?
So, what about other landmarks? Sure, we have the JLC, and it’s nice to see some big concerts in a smaller venue than, say, the Rogers Center, but the acoustics are awful for concerts. Maybe it was just the sound guys working the shows I’ve been to there, but everything was echo-ey, and I couldn’t hear what was actually being said by the performers on stage when they stopped playing to talk. We’ve had some sporting events that were decent draws like the Memorial Cup and the Brier, but those would have been draws to any city, it had nothing to do with how nice London is. There’s the museum… it’s kind of boring and doesn’t really specialize in anything, there’s some art, there’s some artifacts, sometimes there’s some sort of installation, but I don’t know if it’s supposed to be a museum of art, or of history, or what. There’s the Children’s museum, which I’m told hasn’t changed since I used to go there as a kid. There’s East Park, which is ok but ultimately a shell of Wally World, the water-park that London used to have before everyone stopped going to it and it went broke. Other stale attractions include Storybook Gardens and that Native Archaeologist Museum out on Wonderland… we have some nice parks I guess? Oh, or you could take in a ball game at the world’s oldest continuous-use baseball diamond, Labatt Park, with about 98 other people (London used to support their old semi-pro baseball team, the London Tigers, until they started losing, and since this city has no loyalty to anything that’s not a winning franchise, the fans abandoned the team and they moved).
As for the rest of the city? Nothing special… lots of fast food and chain restaurants and Wal-Marts and Best Buys and all the kind of stuff that’s great for a city you’d want to live in, but it’s not the type of place I’d think would be a good tourist destination. “You know, I want to do some traveling this year… where can we go? Oh, I know, how about a city just like every other city in North America!” Don’t get me wrong, London, Ontario, Canada is a decent place to live and work. If you’re a college kid, there’s an entire street devoted to places to destroy your liver. If you’re raising a family there are lots of schools and places to buy school supplies. If you’re an old person there are lots of retirement homes, hospitals, walk-in clinics, pharmacies, and funeral homes.
The problem is, there’s nothing to set us apart from other places on the list. Even Windsor, despite being a dirty hole of a city, has the casino (we have a horse racing track and some slots at the Western Fair, but a casino it is not). Niagara-On-The-Lake has the wineries and such, Niagara Falls has the tourist traps, a couple casinos, and of course, the Falls itself, Edmonton has the West Edmonton Mall, Jasper, Whistler, and Banff have the ski resorts (don’t even embarrass yourself by mentioning Boler Mountain)… basically, there had to be some city or town, ANY city or town, more deserving of #25 on the list. What about Stratford? If people are bored of seeing the festivals, they could go see Justin Bieber’s house. Maybe Grand Bend, the place Londoners go to when they’re sick of doing nothing here? Port Stanley is a nice quaint little village with little independent shops and places to eat, and it at least has a beach. The point is, I don’t know how much London paid to get on this list, but they don’t deserve to be there and I want my portion of the tax money that was spent on being added to this list returned to me, post-haste.