Notes on My Visit to London & the Apple Store Site

While standing at the Tower of London, a group of people approached the entrance and paused briefly. I looked over at the man in the group, did a double-take, and then waved at him..."Hi, Paul!" Guess who?

That "Next" store near Regent Street?, it's not a Steve Jobs left-over. It's a clothing store.

There is a heavy Italian tourist presence here during the summer, but also representatives from every European and Asian nation. These visitors add more diversity to a city that is already a true international city.

London has perhaps more surveillance video cameras than any major city, and Regent Street is no exception. Pole-mounted clusters of cameras are just north and south of the Apple store, part of the city's fixed surveillance of every vehicle entering city center. The poles also have a pan-tilt camera is for spotting crimes and criminals.

The really, really high-end retailers are two blocks over on Old and New Bond Street, where you'll find: DeBeers Diamonds, Gucci, Yves St. Laurent, Ralph Lauren, Cartier, Chanel, Bulgari, Ferragamo, Tiffany, Louis Vuitton, Burberry's, Donna Karan and others.

Yes, they drive on the right here, making pedestrians from America a natural target at crosswalks. Fortunately, London has painted "Look Left" and "Look Right" onto the pavement as you step off into major intersections, so us non-native pedestrians won't be caught on the hood of a Vauxhall.

If you're an Austin Powers fan, or even if you remember fashion of the 1970s, you can walk just a half-block from the Apple store to find Carnaby Street, where flared bellbottoms got their start. The street isn't as influential in fashion now, but is still home to lots of clothing stores.

Gut the interior, take down the dome, sandblast the façade--but don't touch the Starbucks! The original coffee shop on the Princes Street side of the renovated Apple store building has remained open throughout the construction, complete with its original stone and wood work. Those attending the grand opening will have hot coffee without interruption.

The city has a comprehensive street cleanliness program: teams collect from trash bins, while street and sidewalk sweepers patrol the downtown. They work at all hours--but seem to be losing the battle.

About 100,000 persons attended Sunday's annual "Party in the Park" for the Prince's Trust, including music starts Avril Levigne, Alanis Morisette, Lionel Ritchie and Sugarbabes. Such a crowd in the U.S. would be a major event, but London and it's Metro Police find these events to be routine, and handle them without major incident.

A tanning parlor in London? It seems like a contradiction--I've never seen a tanned Brit. But, yes, they have them. There are time plans starting at £49.95.

Construction sites around town, including the one at the Apple store building, have posters declaring themselves neighbor friendly and "green." That is, they work quietly, try to recycle and be respective of the inconvenience they may be causing. The Apple building work site includes a "wind warning" placard that shows what actions should be taken when the winds increase to levels where scaffolding damage might occur.

Both Oxford Street and Regent Street are major bus routes, and there are sometimes 10-12 buses traveling together in a caravan, or so it seems. Interestingly, the bus shelters feature message signs showing when the next buses will arrive and where they going--very advanced.

The John Lewis department store sells Mac gear, but there's a sign noting, "This area is served from a queue. Please see the receptionist at the desk." Well, at least that was the procedure on Sunday, when there were lots of people. Good displays, but you had to "take a number" to speak to a salesperson. The store reportedly has an Apple Service Consultant (ASC) on-duty, but I didn't see the person.

I've bumped into two giant (320 seats!) Internet cafés associated with the Subway sandwich chain. You buy a small ticket at a machine (£1 for an hour) and then log onto a Windows-based computer using the long number on the ticket. Believe me, it's a surfing experience you'll never want to endure after you've surfed with Safari.

Of course, the streets of London are much safer than back at home, although it does have its moments. Like Tokyo, the hours after 10 or 11 p.m. can get pretty rowdy as drinkers hit the sidewalks. You sometimes hear loud yelling and see some unsteady walkers, whom you simply avoid to stay safe.

London's transportation system is very huge and busy--which is a good thing. The Underground goes to every point in the region, buses cover places in between, and taxis (no longer are all of them black) go to everywhere else. The Underground can be daunting, especially at transfer point stations that have tunnels leading to other tunnels. But it's all worth learning a bit about to make getting around the city easier.

International retailing is a complicated business, not the least of which is currency values. When selling an American product elsewhere, do you simply charge as much as you can get, or simply convert your American price to Pounds, Yen, Euros, etc.? But what do you do when the price of the currency changes--and it does every day? Do you adjust your international pricing, or hope the cost of other currencies goes down? And what if you produce the products in another country? Many of Apple's UK items are being made in Ireland, which reduces the cost of making the item, and puts the final retail price more in line with other British products. Well, it's a complicated subject.