This year’s World Science Fiction Convention was held in London, England. We don’t normally go it is overseas, but we decided if we were going to do any traveling, it was time to get started. I won’t go into details about our trip to get there, except that a storm in Atlanta (Georgia) made our trip an endurance battle.
The convention was held in a huge convention center located in the dock area on the Thames River. There were several hotels in the immediate area, but they were expensive, and by the time I had figured out our plan early this spring, I couldn’t find one in the area that had a room available for our entire stay. We wanted to do some site-seeing, too, so I found a cheaper hotel closer to London Central... and only 4 or 5 blocks from a major underground station.
London doesn’t have street signs like America. The names of some streets are on the side of the corner building, if you are lucky. Some streets are no wider than an American alley. It made reading my map difficult, especially after our marathon of non-sleeping to get there. When we finally paused and asked for directions at a cafe, we had turned a block too early.
I had been told that European hotel rooms are smaller than American, but when we finally got to ours, we were stunned. The room was the size of the bed with about a foot of ‘walking space’ on 3 sides and an attached bathroom that’s smaller than ours at home (which is definitely ‘dinky’). There were no chairs, no table, no drawers or shelves to put your clothes. Very claustrophobic! The first thing I did was fall on the bed and sleep for 15 hours.
We figured out the underground system and crammed 4 days of site seeing into 3. We didn’t have time to do the Jack the Ripper Walking Tour, but eventually I realized our hotel was IN his ‘hunting area’. (How exciting!) We weren’t afraid to ask questions, so it wasn’t difficult to add a ‘Docks Light Rail’ route to our pattern to get to and from the convention center, but it did mean we were riding the underground during the morning rush hour. Crammed like sardines.
The convention itself was good. There were a couple of space organizations giving lots of science panels, which always seemed to be over-crowded. Many times, people got turned away because all the chairs were full, and sometimes that wasn’t a science panel, either. There were times when I had to go to my 3rd choice of a panel, because both of the first 2 choices were full.
The convention had registered over 10,000 people, but on any given day, there were about 5 or 6,000 people in attendance.
Food and drink was probably over-priced, since it was all brought in by businesses within the convention center, but we were dealing in Pounds, so it was hard to say. I can’t say any of it was good.
Registration had a looooooong line every morning, but seemed efficient when my turn came. The freebie table, however, was way too small. This one table had fliers, books, business cards, book marks, pens and who knows what else, all jumbled together because there wasn’t room to lay things out nicely. As soon as somebody tried to organize an area so their items could half-way be seen, somebody else came along and slapped down a stack of... something right in the middle of it.
To sum up London: metropolitan, crowded, fast paced, efficient mass transportation, confusing; but if you can get a local to slow down, they will answer questions. As an introvert, I was stressed because it was so cramped, which I couldn’t escape, but I lived through our
10 9 days there.
LonCon3, the 2014 World Science Fiction Convention, was also crowded, but fun. Some things could have been better, like more freebie tables, or more room for photographers of the costumes in the costume contest, or a better method of presenting art workshops. (In the art show area was too noisy, especially without a microphone, and only those in the front of the crowd got to see what the artist was doing.) But they did have tables and chairs in the hallways, as well as water coolers.
Make a note; there are no water fountains in London. You are expected to buy your drinking water.