This is where it all really began for me. As a senior in high school, instead of going on the usual class trip to Florida, three friends and I got together and took a one week cheap charter to London. That experience opened my eyes and it was then, at the age of 17, that I truly caught the travel bug. Many years later, and I have been to London dozens of times and have traveled to most every country in Europe.
As part of my “seven in one” challenge, my fifth continent for the year was Europe – and a visit to the over two thousand year old settlement that is now London, England. Being from New York, I always tease Londoners that they live in a small provincial city, but one of the reasons I do enjoy London, is that like New York it is a quite dynamic city. Other European cities like Paris, in my opinion, are much more static.
London is the capital and most populous city of England and the United Kingdom. Standing on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its founding by the Romans, who named it Londinium. The Cockney accent notwithstanding, other than English, more than 300 languages are spoken within Greater London [as the story goes, to be a true Londoner, a cockney, you have to be born within hearing distance of the church bells of St. Mary Le Bow].
The Greater London Authority estimated the city’s population to be 8.63 million in 2015 making it the largest of any municipality in the European Union and it was the world’s most populous city from around 1831 through 1925. London contains four World Heritage Sites: the Tower of London; Kew Gardens; the site that includes the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey, and St Margaret’s Church; and the historic settlement of Greenwich [in which the Royal Observatory, Greenwich marks the Prime Meridian, 0° longitude, and GMT]. Even though the London Underground is the oldest underground railway network in the world, it does not run twenty-four hours and it is quite a bit more expensive than the NYC subway systems [The New York subway runs 24/7 and does not have zone charges]. Next month however, a 24 hour experiment will begin on the London Underground, that is if the local interests allow that to proceed.
Many famous landmarks and museums abound including the Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, St Paul’s Cathedral, the British Museum, the National Gallery, and the Tate Modern. I like discovering the less known hidden monuments and treasures hidden away on the small London streets, like the statue of Abraham Lincoln in Parliament Square, a 1920 replica of the original late nineteenth century statue in Lincoln Park in Chicago.
If you haven’t yet been, get thee to London!
On to continent number six: Africa.