Bad Taste Tour: London's Amphibious Tour
The idea's basically a good one: Touring London in an old amphibious vehicle from World War II. Okay, well, put that way, it doesn't sound too good, but it is. The vehicle's technically called a DUKW, which stands for Durable Underground Kite W. Actually, I have no idea what it stands for, but the Frog Tours company has a whole fleet of them. They're bright yellow, and tour guides Matt Lyder and Hannah Bentley think they're the best thing, like, ever.
Matt: "It's an alternative way to see London. Everybody's had their share of hopping on and off buses or getting on a train. If you combine road and water, you kill two birds with one stone."
All the same, some people weren't willing to take the risk. They listened to the sales pitch on the sidewalk then ran off. Like these two.
Cash: "You looked so worried when he said, 'It goes in the water and there's a propeller.' Your face fell."
The guy's so chipper you want to slap him. The idea is the staff are supposed to be frogs and you're little froglets, which is cute. The vehicle, though... Oh my God, it looks like a cross between a dumpster and a snow-plow. In fact, only as you pull out into the street does it hit you how idiotic you must look, riding through rush-hour traffic in an amphibious landing craft. By that time, though, it's too late. You can't get off.
Matt: "On the right hand side is the National Theater and Film Theater, media cultural center. Froglets, keep your eye on the Eye!"
Oh yes, and they make you shout stuff too. But it's all quite fun, and you get to visit enough London landmarks over the course of an hour to remind you how few landmarks London actually has. I was shocked. It's about four. So there's lots of padding on the tour. During the gaps, Matt told jokes.
Matt: "I heard a good one today. What do you call a Spanish man with rubber toes? Roberto?"
I said he told jokes, I didn't say they were funny. About halfway through, though, just when you're thinking, "Hell, I could have done this whole thing on foot in half the time," something quite startling happens. The bus veers off the road and plunges down an embankment into the river. I think even atheists found themselves praying at this point.
Crowd: "Five, four, three, two, one..."
It was all a little too Chappaquiddick for me. As we hit the water, half the river swilled over the side. Now, the landing craft may be amphibious, but I'm not. I got drenched. Not only that, but the water ruined a perfectly good hairstyle and, coincidentally, the rest of the trip. Of course, nobody cared, and so, with half the River Thames in my lap, I had to sit through another 30 minutes of this.
Matt: "We're going past the statue of Winston Churchill, a prime minister and quick-witted guy."
Right about now you realize there's not much dignity to be had, floating downstream in an army vehicle. I suggested they make the experience more exciting by having a bunch of Germans fire live ammunition at you from the beach, but there were no takers. Some people have no vision. Anyway, when we got back on dry land finally, I confronted Matt about the near-death experience I'd just had, just to check that he didn't care.
Matt: "It depends how high the tide is at the time. Sometimes you go in and you don't get wet. That's the first time I've seen anyone get drenched."
I know, I was a fool to expect sympathy, and hopefully we'll settle out of court. All in all, though, the Frog Tour is great for anyone who likes boats or water, or just sitting on a boat covered in water. Be warned, though. It's a bit chilly on the river, and you don't get to see very much of London. Also, the guide tries too hard to be funny - but then again, who's among us?
In London, England, I'm Cash Peters for The Savvy Traveler.
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