discovering the city of london

What is London


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With 10,000 years of history beneath your feet; London, itself almost 2,000 years old, is chock-a-block with history and mystery.

london by night "Earth has not anything to show more fair". Wordsworth.
“Earth has not anything to show more fair”. Wordsworth.

London over the centuries is a city that has seen plunderers, builders, kings, queens, and people from all corners of the planet (and in some instances you would think even from beyond) :)

world cup 2010 london
all dressed up for the London 2010 World Cup

London, the nerve-centre of the 2nd World War, stood alone and at bay in guarding the future of the civilised world, as the doors of Europe clanged shut.  A covert city of mystery: MI5, MI6, CIA; cloak and dagger – a murky nether world of “dead letter boxes”.

WW2 citadel - alongside The Mall near St James's Park and just off Horse Guards Parade
WW2 Citadel – alongside The Mall near St James’s Park and just off Horse Guards Parade

London is the financial capital of the world; both a disaster and a success story, the greatest and the worst of both worlds are here.  A place where cutting-edge, 21st Century power and energy are tangible. Home to Westminster, the forge of the national destiny – the place where the heart of the Empire beats; the Mecca of politicians throughout the ages.

houses of parliament
the wonderful Westminster Palace aka The Houses of Parliament

Constantly in the news, London shapes not only the United Kingdom, it shapes the history of other countries and cultures in far-flung corners of the planet.
London is the centre of a democratic country, that like a shape-shifter, changes her personality to suit the person who lives in her suburbs.
London is a city of contrasts; poor and rich, hot and cold, pretty and ugly, clean and filthy, old and new, quiet and noisy, of fun and laughter, terror and fear, slums and opulence.  London, a paradox of artistic expression and social ferment, work-place and playground: Leicester Square, China Town, Soho and Covent Garden.

covent garden london
the world-famous Covent Garden, London

London, a time-honoured city, is constantly reinventing itself with a changing landscape of development and progress; mixing the old with the new – Westminster, Southwark, Chelsea, Canary Wharf, the 2012 Olympics Village.
London is time-less, ancient, modern – ever the same and constantly changing.  Yellow brick, worm-worn timbers, ancient terracotta tiles, pristine marble, a city of winding canals, twisting cobbled streets, narrow alley-ways, broad tree-lined avenues; cobwebbed and dynamic.

London is a city redolent of antiquity with quirky and curious street names that hark back to her chequered history – medieval lanes, gas-lit 1890’s streets,  modern byways….Bleeding Heart Yard, Cut Throat Alley, Cock Lane, Bread Lane, Milk Lane, Cardinal Cap Alley, Cloth Fair, Charter House, Crooked Usage, Cyclops Mews, Frying Pan Alley (you have to wonder about that one!). Ha Ha Road, Tweezers Alley, Quaggy Walk, Bacon’s Lane, Threadneedle Street, Shoot-Up Hill, Little Britain, Haberdasher Street, Poultry Street, Crutched Friars, Seething Lane, Pear Tree Lane (without a pear tree in sight), and  a circus that is not a circus but a traffic circle: Piccadilly Circus.

piccadilly circus london
the ever so busy and very famous Piccadilly Circus, a mecca for visitors to London

London is also a city of historical pubs: Shakespeare’s Head, The Ten Bells (where the Ripper likely eyed his victims), Horseshoe, King’s Head & Eight Bells, Goose and Granite, The Gatehouse, The Mitre,

the gatehouse highgate
The Gatehouse, Highgate – an historic London pub

Green Man & French Horn, Ye Old Cheshire Cheese, Moon under the Water, Rat & Parrot, Hung Drawn and Quartered, The Lamb and Flag, Witness Box, and The Viaduct Tavern, all with a murky history, all with secrets and stories to tell.

London is a city of priceless jewels: an Abbey, Cathedrals,

the pearl of London - St Paul's Cathedral
the ever so wonderful St Paul’s Cathedral – the pearl of London

palaces, towers, bridges, squares, parks, gardens, fountains,

fountains at trafalgar square
the wonderful fountains at Trafalgar Square

lakes, statues, monuments, half-timbered Elizabethan dwellings, Terraced Georgian houses, Victorian mansions, Mediaeval and Gothic Churches and Cemeteries,

egyptian avenue highgate cemetery
the famous Egyptian Avenue at Highgate Cemetery

a Russian Cathedral, a Crystal Palace, now long gone, all but it’s name remains and a palace that isn’t a palace but an exhibition hall: Alexander Palace.   There are synagogues, mosques, white stucco homes and 60’s terraced houses, thatched cottages, pastel colour-washed Mews, Tudor homes, towering modern sky-scrapers with names like ‘The Gherkin’, the Cheesegrater, the Walkie-Talkie, The Shard.

the shard viewed from millenium bridge
the Shard viewed from Millenium Bridge

London is home to quaint theatres, cosy old pubs, cobblestoned streets, a subway that inspired the greatest London poem ever, underground railways and forgotten tunnels, alleyways so narrow you can’t open an umbrella in them, cannons, and silver dragons.

city of london griffon emblem
the City of London; a dragon marks the borders of the city

Chinese Lanterns, Flower Shows, the world’s largest nautical museum, a museum that’s home to the Rosetta Stone, ancient Egyptian Mummies, 140billion frozen peas, a quarter of a million butterflies, Sutton Hoo treasure, and world-famous paintings housed in Galleries large and small.  There are quaint villages, busy market stalls, bustling river-side piers, a place of a maypole, a whispering gallery, a centuries old peep-hole, Victorian sewage pipes, a 13th Century White Chapel, a spectacular statue and the Cutty Sark.

This London is a city of canals and boats,

nautical london river thames
the River Thames plays a major part in the life of the city

cafe’s, studios, zoos, hills, walls, woodland, fens and meadows – an urban enchanted forest.

London gave birth to fair maids, feminists and philanthropists, smugglers, tars and pirates, a place where 13 knights performed three deeds of bravery –

order of the knights of malta
St John’s Gate, Clerkenwell – Order of the Knights of Malta

London is also the final resting place of heroes, inventors; statesmen, kings and queens, cardinals, and a Forgotten Soldier.  A city of Robert Browning & Elizabeth Barrett, Oscar Wilde,  James Bond, Burgess, Maclean, Blunt, Philby, Shackleton and Livingston, Shakespeare, Horatio Nelson, Christopher Wren, Charles Dickens,

charles dickens lived here highgate blue plaque
Charles Dickens lived here – Highgate

Jack the Ripper, Dick Whittington, Winston Churchill, rock-stars, film-stars, the haunt of the Beatles, home to nuns and friars, the Knights of Malta, The Knights Templar, and scarlet-coated Chelsea Pensioners, Sloane Rangers, Hooray Henry’s, Cockneys, Hippies, Punks, Goths, artists, actors, the Krays, the Elephant Man, Geoffrey Chaucer, 11,000 beheaded virgins and ‘real’ people – citizens of a thriving metropolis.

London a city that today, despite the ravages of time: riots, bombings, fires and plagues, legends, monsters and mysteries, with a rich tapestry of the paranormal – is colourful and cosmopolitan; alive with celebration, pageantry, age-old traditions,

the lord mayors show london
The Lord Mayor’s Show, an annual London event dating back nearly 800 years

spectacular fireworks, concerts, strikes, carnivals, street fairs, fairs in the Square, frost fairs on the Thames – the most celebrated of which in 1683-4, was attended by King Charles II when the Thames froze over.

London is the city that stands at the beginning of time on the Meridian Line;

the greenwich meridian line royal borough of greenwish
The Greenwich Meridian Line – Royal Borough of Greenwich

the city that has inspired authors and artists;  playwrights and poets.

“Earth has not anything to show more fair”. Wordsworth.

This is London!

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