Most people have a well-defined idea of “London”—staid tradition, afternoon tea, heavy ales, and cultured accents in tweed.
People with this notion of London can easily complete their vacation in 3min. by making their way to the banks of the Thames and staring pointedly at the gilded heights of Big Ben, but this would be to miss the true charm of this expansive, diverse place.
Despite its weighty history, the city today is not all ghost tours, beefeaters, and double-decker buses. Beyond Buckingham Palace and the blinding lights of Piccadilly Circus, London is a living, breathing metropolis, home to more people than any other city in the European Union. Comprised of 32 boroughs along with the City, London can seem at times more like a conglomerate of villages than a unified city, but each part’s unique heritage and character contributes to the big picture. Thanks to the feisty independence and diversity of each area, the London “buzz” is continually on the move—every few years a previously disregarded neighborhood explodes into cultural prominence.
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The London Top 5
St. Paul's Cathedral
It’s something of a challenge to enter St. Paul’s Cathedral and not take the Lord’s name in vain.
London has no shortage of lovely churches steeped in history. But Westminster Abbey stands out as the best combination of historical importance, breathtaking beauty, and a still-vibrant community of worshipers.
The National Gallery presides over Trafalgar Sq. and is perhaps even more impressive than the square itself.
Museum of London
The Museum of London is an exhaustive celebration of the city.
Imperial War Museum
Housed in what was once the infamous Bedlam insane asylum, the Imperial War Museum is mad for history.
Yesterday, I dropped off British Friend’s guitar with his dad down in Richmond, who brewed English tea in his backyard garden and bade me a very sweet goodbye before I hopped on a train and then another train, and then one more at King’s Cross/St. Pancras which took me at last away from London. The original trainride, from Gatwick airport to Victoria station six weeks ago, is now a somewhat-remembered, dimly-felt parabola—I remember looking through the window into the countryside I knew I’d know, then the suburbs, and the interior of the city, the slow curve of people winding up, […]
My last day and a half in London is underwhelmingly packed with errands—aside from a quick jaunt through a Pride- and beer-soaked Trafalgar Square, I’ve mostly been doing the little things for the job: finding restaurants and hostels, keeping to the shade and nipping into the occasional pub for some cold cider when the (surprisingly hot) weather reaches peak static numbness.
The exception to the humdrum stuff is Westminster Abbey, which I’ve been saving, best-for-last style, the whole trip. It’s one of the few sights I dimly remember from 7th & 10th grade family vacations—the arches, grey divoted stone everywhere, sulky […]
Greater London is comprised of 32 boroughs—and tourists usually see about three of them: City of London, City of Westminster, and Kensington and Chelsea. Of course, these 14 sq. miles out of 607 for the whole city contains the hitlist of top sights: British Museum, Parliament, Westminster Abbey, etc. However, in this four part series, I will be exploring the periphery of this august metropolis and what tourists can glean from the borderlands.
This week: West London!
For the morning: Kew Gardens
Once, when I was researching a restaurant in Marylebone, a salty-haired gentleman sitting next to me was wooing a nice young […]
Back in the same little teashop with the dregs of my vanilla-strawberry tea, which, in spite of Cute Recent British Acquaintance’s raising of her polite eyebrows—“but fruity teas can be so. . . .” she trailed off—is frankly amazing, esp. when coupled with chocolate velvet cake kept fresh under sheets of plastic up at the front. I’m midway through a tooth-yankingly awful writing batch, with the internet dying again and again like so many fruitflies; meanwhile it’s been the Rhianna/Kanye/Sir Paul hour here at the shop, and whatever charm “fourfiveseconds” had on first listen wilted and shriveled a long time […]
So long, Shoreditch, I’m leaving you for Camden. And it serves me right that our separation drops me back into the same kind of undercleaned and underhip hostel I’ve been trying to avoid—I should’ve learned by now that the more I move around, the less I sleep and the more the trip feels like a series of disappearing dates. Having gotten up at I won’t even tell you how early, I arrived at the new place to nap and then write and write and write. It’s 11pm now, meaning a quick blog signoff and then probably reading for awhile.
Hi blogland: it’s been awhile—since taking up residence in Shoreditch, the nights have been protracted til 3am and beyond, not always by choice per se, but because Shoreditch is by volume 80% clubs ‘n’ pubs, with several of the most zealous (note to editor: “bumpin’est”?) clustered beneath my window. Throw in the dude coughing his lungs up and out and an internet connection best characterized as pre-Raphaelite and you’ve basically gleaned my last week or so.
Like POWs far from their native land, though, my hostelmates and I have grown closer than at any of the other places I’ve stayed. (Stress […]
Discovery, terra nova, boom-chucka-ho, something new is out there and today I peeped it. It is Shoreditch, where people who want to buy CDs exist and eat big pizzas. Looks like new home away from new home. The guy at the local hostel was the first to give me real resistance when I asked to inspect the rooms, meaning I’ll just have to book a stay and see for myself. I’ve bought like a million CDs in the last two days: Joni Mitchell, the Beach Boys, David Bowie, Woody Guthrie (been trying to absorb that deep bedrock folk), Brian Eno, […]
Slothrop woke next morning feeling, in spite of an empty stomach and a runny nose, better than he had in months. Seemed like he’d passed a test, not somebody else’s test, but one of his own, for a change.
Last night’s P-Road show dipped me back into familiar haunts of my youth and subsequent old age: amazing how you can travel the world and hear parallel chiming (or growling) indie kids at it, spanning seas and scenes with their glamorous noise. Thrown in amongst the pop- and folk-rockers were some really talented musicians, several of whom I chilled […]
Just beyond sight of the Thames, the crowd of Shakespeareans milling peaceably around the courtyard of the Globe has me in the corner of it. Two women sitting next to me on a log ask me what’s my favorite part of London so far. Door #2 will open in a few minutes to let those of us with the £5 tickets, the cheapest offered, stream in to the floor section, where we’ll stand for the next two hours and fifty minutes (the box office’s official runtime for tonight’s performance of “As You Like It”). Surprisingly, the three of us are […]