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My favorite pickup

My favorite pickup – no, not a pickup truck; but, my favorite vehicle to be picked up in when I arrive at the airport is a London Taxi Cab – their VIP edition. The ‘taxi cab’ name is a bit misleading. We have had the pleasure – and good fortune – to have been picked up at various airports in a Mercedes, a BMW complete with Internet connection, and even a Rolls Royce. Recently, we were in Chengdu, China and the luxurious Millennium Hotel picked us up in one of their two VIP London Taxi Cabs. What is so special you may ask. Well, I felt very queenly every time I rode in it because I sat up straight and the opera window was large and at face level. It was difficult to restrain from giving everyone we passed the queenly wave. The vehicle has a high roof and wide doors so getting in and out is easy and can be done in a ladylike fashion – no crawling to the seat like I have done in some stretch limos. There were two jump seats but if need be there was plenty of room on the floor for a briefcase, bags, or small piece of luggage. Sitting up straight with the high roof meant I could see out of all of the windows without craning my neck.

Chengdu, located in Western China, is a wonderful city with a population about the same as New York City. The city is very green with plenty of parks making it one of China’s most livable cities. Our hotel and the owner of two VIP London Taxi Cabs, was the luxurious Millennium Hotel. Across the street there was a lovely park, next door was a Starbucks, and it was near a pedestrian street with shop, stores and teahouses.

The major tourist attraction in Chengdu is the Panda Research and Breeding Center. We took the London Taxi Cab to visit the Panda Research and Breeding Center just a few miles from the center of Chengdu. With our excellent viewing position from the back seat we were impressed with all the nurseries, superhighways, and skyscraper housing complexes being built – everywhere.

The Panda Research Center is beautifully landscaped with many trails. Luckily they have a trolley which takes visitors right to the panda viewing area. We watched a toddler panda try to climb up to a platform while others dined on bamboo and some slept in the trees. Also on view are the Red Pandas which are similar to North American raccoons. The center also has a butterfly museum and a lake with storks and cranes. The center helps to insure the survival of several species but mainly the panda. The babies are basically born prematurely and can not survive on their own until they are several months old so their survival in the wild is difficult.

One evening we took the London Taxi Cab to the Sichuan Opera, one of Chengdu’s cultural treasures. We arrived early and waited in the car in the front of the theater. It was fun watching people check out the car. It got as much attention as a Rolls Royce would. The show includes drum and gong music, a puppet show, a comedy routine, hand shadow show, and traditional opera, but the most amazing was the Sichuan specialty – Changing Faces whereby the actors change their facemasks so quickly that is impossible to see them do it.

The London Taxi Cab is easy to get in and out of plus offers excellent viewing so I wasn’t surprised when we returned home and read an article in Bloomberg Businessweek. The Azerbaijanis have ordered 1,000 to arrive in time for when they will host the “Eurovision Song Contest.” Instead of the normally black cabs the ones headed to Azerbaijan will be violet. It will be the first time the London-based company will have sold more abroad than in Britain. I am willing to bet it is only the beginning and we will see more of these rider friendly vehicles in other countries.

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