For those of you who are fond of art, history and crime stories, London would be the perfect city to be in. This peculiar combination of mistery and tradition is what makes up for the original personality that London has, a city dead and alive at the same time. So, it was a couple of years ago that I finally decided to follow the yellow brick lane taking to the center of the British Empire.
Let’ s start with some history flashes : London s story starts with the Roman Empire in the 2th century, and follows the line of the crusades, when the construction of the great Westminster Abbey started, during the reign of Henry III (1245). It was here that the Queen of England, Elisabeth II married the Duke of Edinburgh, Philip Mountbatten, in 1947, and also here took place the wedding of the Prince William, Duke of Cambridge with Catherine Middleton in 2011.
Near the Abbey, on the river bank, lies the Palace of Westminster, known as the Houses of Parliament so beautifully painted by the French Impressionist Claude Monet in 1904, with the great clock at the North end, nick named Big Ben. Some interesting rules still apply with regard to the activity within the Houses of Parliament, for instance members may not eat or drink in chambers, with the sole exception of the Chancellor of Exchequer, who may have an alcoholic drink while delivering the Budget Statement.
If you started the day early in the morning, after taking a look at Westminster Palace you can walk on the Birdcage Avenue down to the Buckingham Palace and Park, just in time to see the 12 o’clock change of guards, a ceremony that brings thousands of visitors every day. The palace can also be visited, but only if you have a previous reservation and only during summer months, when the Royal family is away on holiday.
From there, take a couple of hours off and go for a short shopping session on the busiest shopping street in Europe, Oxford Street, with more than 300 shops. Or, if you are not fond of shopping, turn left on Baker Street to visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum at no. 221B, a 19th century Georgian house, which includes a fireplace where the famous detective used to sit, smoke pipe and unwrap crime misteries.
With regards to history, London has some of the most amazing pieces of medieval architecture, dating from the 11th century : the Tower of London, built during the reign of William the Conqueror, a symbol of the Norman opression, has served as a prison for more than 8 centuries, although this was not its main purpose, but that of Royal residence. Inside the fortified walls of the Tower, you can take a look at a chamber of torture with instruments from Medieval times, and meet a couple of crows still guarding the Jewels of the Crown, amazing pieces containing colorful large precious stones. Right next to the Tower of London, there s the Tower Bridge, an iconic symbol of London, built in the late 19th century, a bridge which is lifted every time a tall ship passes by.
Cross the famous Tower Bridge and go for a walk on the Southern bank of Thames, where even more wonders await for you to discover them. Start fresh with the HMS Belfast, the largest and most powerful submarine cruiser of the Royal Navy during the Second World War. Take the time to explore the engine and boiler rooms, the transmitting station, the sleeping quarters and afterwards go up the small iron stairs to the upper deck and forward superstructure where you can enjoy the view over the river Thames. And let yourself be amazed by the opportunity to actually walk inside a submarine who survived many battles during the Great War.
Afterwards, continue with the South bank promenade and head for an amazing lunch at the Borough Market, one of the best kept Victorian markets, situated under a railway bridge, where you can choose either traditional cooked English dishes or international food and at the same time buy fruits, vegetables and a lot of sweets. The great thing about London markets is that you get to taste Spanish traditional paella de mariscos, German bratwurst, French duck sandwich or Asian seafood, and many others while preparing for a delicious chocolate fudge brownie or some giant meringue.
After lunch, stop and take a look at Shakespeare s Globe Theater, a fine replica of what used to be the 17th century theater where Henry VIII or Romeo and Juliet used to be played. The original Globe Theater was built on this precise location by Shakespeare s playing company in 1599 and was destroyed by fire in 1613, during a play representation. Apparently, a theatrical cannon, set off during a play performance, misfired, igniting the wooden beams and thatching, which lead to a great fire. Nowadays, you can view a Shakespeare s play inside the new Globe Theater and feel the beat of a 17th century representation.
But London is much more than a wonderful collection of attractions, and if you take the time you may discover what makes it so unique. Go for a cofee in Covent Garden, enjoy the colorful Soho, stop on Denmark Street to take a look at one of the many quitar shops and afterwards have a taste of the exotic on China Town restaurants. You will smile whenever you see a black vintage taxi or a traditional red phone booth, as they are all reminders of the good old times. Also, you must not pass the opportunity to have a tea on a terrace with buttter biscuits, perhaps after some quality time spent inside The National Gallery or Tate Britain, two of the most amazing collections of paintings in London. And let’s not forget the popular double deckers, the red two stories buses which serve as public transportation in London, providing a great perspective and the possibility to choose the next thing to see. And you can even stop on the now famous Abbey Road…