The title I originally used for this piece was "To London With Love. Not very original title, a bit clichéd drawing on the Ian Fleming book, To Russia with Love. London is a place of mystery and excitement, where you can revel in its intricacies, streets, alleyways, traffic jams, people and much more.
Its tufts, batches and squares of green are scattered all over the city. The rolling Hyde Park for instance, cuts through the architectural debris and speaks of fresh air, coupled with lakes, and off course Speaker’s Corner where virtually anybody can get up and say what they like.
Even today I can see the soot on my hands, between my fingers, under my fingernails and on my skin as I cross from one underground to another, and helplessly, tirelessly move from one platform to the next dragging my feet along endless corridors, stairways and escalators to get to different places like the Planetarium or Madame Tassauds .
But the hectic nature is part of the thrill and enjoyment for here is the place of culture enthusing in its art galleries, world-famous theaters, Shakespearean actors and the opera house are huddled in such places as Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden and Leicester Square.
In the city, and next to London University is the world famous British Museum where you need to spend hours and perhaps days looking at its precious artefacts and were taxidermist mummies become alive. Likewise is the Victoria and Albert Museum.
More green has to be sandwiched between culture. In Regent’s Park is the world-famous London zoo where what is required is strong walking shoes to be able to see its lions, tigers, giraffes, hippopotamus and dolphins. The Park is huge have a great mosque.
I remember the ach, the soreness and all the fatigue of its long distance travels in its world famous department stores where you can taste the consumer culture. If you are not interested in fashion surely the next best thing is bookshops and second-hand books where you lose yourself in such places as Charing Cross Road going from one old-book to another, and one novel to a travel manuscript. Here it’s good to get your finger tips dirty among the musty bookshelves.
I remember Earls Court, South Kensington, Oxford Street and Piccadilly Circus where the trick is to keep walking and believing. There is a very strong scented smell that is not of one thing, but of different things as you greet your teeth while being whisked by air as you travel between different underground stations.
I remember Soho, the place noted for its sordidness, and little alleyways of girlie things. But around these have been built different communities like Chinatown and its famous markets. The girlie things are part of a living culture.
London imposes itself on travellers because of the many things to see and do, connecting its roads and neighbourhoods with each other through urbanized and congested traffic systems passing Buckingham Palace, which is itself a tourist attraction and to Westminster, where the country’s power houses continue to linger and itch on a political world no longer controlled by Britain as once used to. Nevertheless, in its buildings and structures you continue to see a sense of prowess and decorum as admired by many around the world most of all, Americans, Russians, Indians, Pakistanis and even Arabs.
Flickering images continue to dominate, speak of a past history as seen in its St Paul's Cathedral, London Bridge and the Tower of London where executions and beheadings had once upon a time been the stock-in-trade of politicians and royalty.
And then here is the square-mile city, the financial powerhouse of not only London, or Britain but Europe and the world where famous institutions like the Bank of England can dominate a political and economic system through a flicker of the interest rate.
Here also is the world famous stock exchange where tourists if they so wish, can get a guided tour to see how stocks and shares, bonds and other financial instruments are handled, traded, bought and sold. It’s good to visit the city because it’s on exchange paths to other areas.
London is definitely worth a visit as a standalone destination, you don’t need to go anywhere else. When I am in front of Big Ben I feel small, minuscule compared to its hugeness, its reverence, overlooking the River Thames that once was criticized for its industrial pollution, but no longer.
In the houses of Parliament there is frequent rows upon rows of visitors eager to get inside and see how decisions affecting the lives of millions of people’s are made, debated, extracted and cajoled. However, as you enter and move through the corridors, the gallery and the chambers, there is of tradition that has been built over the years to come up with that elusive term democracy.
There is a sense of awe when you pass through the chamber of the House of Lords with its thick red carpets, that reflects the once-rule of the aristocracy. This is contrasted with the commonality of the House of Commons of elected deputies who are today’s real power-brokers in the British political system.
In London there is much more than meets the eye. There is a sense of continuity and change in the city. Oh yes sure there is a miserable aspect as is the case with other great cities around the world, but there is gleam and amber that will not die down. A tip of the iceberg view.
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