I was eight the first time I visited London. It was my first experience of a big city and, I admit, I was scared. The Underground, the endless screeching of police and ambulance sirens, the punk rockers with their crazy hairstyles (it was the late 70s, after all), the hectic pace, the crowds – it was a bit too much.
But there is something about London that I have loved for as far back as I can remember and that is its history and its memorable, albeit sometimes roguish, characters. The story of London is the story of England. From its Roman beginnings to the present day, this city has withstood plague, fire, civil war and the Blitz and each time it has come back more defiant than ever.
There is much to discover in London – so much that it leaves me breathless – because a week is not enough to explore all the places that I want to see, but a week is all I have. So there I am, with all the other tourists, “seeing the sights” and despising myself just a little bit, because I know there is more to London than that.
But, at the same time, I am drawn to the sights, I have to see them all again, because the last time I was there was in 1997 and that was too long ago. So I revisited them, pointing them out eagerly to my Mischief Maker, hoping to plant in him a seed of love for this great city. But in spite of the lack of time, I was lucky enough to have enough of it to discover new places, new things.
So between spending time at the British Museum and Trafalgar Square; the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace, we discovered Covent Garden and Notting Hill. We saw London from the Thames, we saw it from The Eye and we saw it from the top of double-decker buses.
Despite the fact that I am not much of a city girl, this is one metropolis that never ceases to pique my curiosity. I have spent the last few weeks since returning home trying desperately to understand its vibe. Because it has one,as all cities do, but it is not easy to define. London is traditional but occasionally outrageous; regal but ever so insouciant; irreverent, unabashed, diverse…
Even its architecture is so varied that I am at a loss as to how to describe it best. Victorian with occasional medieval gems? Modern but interspersed with neo-classical beauties? It is constantly changing yet some things have remained the same.
You can read about London in a hundred guide-books yet it is still able to shroud itself in mystery. Perhaps that is what makes it so attractive. Perhaps that is why it keeps luring me back.
And if you’re in London and are at a loss what to do, here are some suggestions from the Telegraph: 100 of the best things to do in London.
Locations from top to bottom: the White Tower (Tower of London); Big Ben; Westminster Abbey; supporting columns of the old Blackfriar’s Bridge; the Houses of Parliament (Westminster Palace); the London Eye; Covent Garden market; the Shard and the Millennium Bridge; the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral; the London Aquarium; the Royal Albert Hall.