I’ve been trying for days to define London, struggling to find just one word to describe it. Then, it dawned on me that I can’t. So I won’t. But I will share the moments that made me think ‘this is London’. It might not be your London or the guidebooks’ London. But this is my London. And these are my moments:
~ Most moving moment: Attending Sunday service at Westminster Abbey. We didn’t plan it, we just wanted to visit and forgot that it might not be open on a Sunday. But we were invited to attend the service and I am overjoyed that we did. The singing was sublime and the towering Gothic architecture made it even more so. We were not allowed to take any photos, but perhaps it was just as well, because I paid more attention to what was around me and I left the place in awe.
~ Laziest moment: sitting in the shade of a sprawling tree in Kensington Gardens and contemplating the fountains in the Italian Garden.
~ Best shop-window display: Selfridges of Oxford Street. Each window display was part of their Meet the Makers campaign which gave shoppers a chance to meet the people behind some of the items for sale in their food court.
~Favourite historical building: I would have to confess that it’s the Tower of London. This brooding fortress on the edge of the Thames has a dark and bloody history which has fascinated me for years. I am still trying to decide whether that is a good or a bad thing.
~ Favourite historical artifact: London museums are replete with important historical finds but, for me, the absolute star was the Rosetta Stone at the British Museum. The discovery of this stone was instrumental in helping scholars decipher hieroglyphics. I remember discussing its importance many years ago during history lessons at school. Incidentally, I did not realise that the Rosetta Stone was this big.
~ Best fast-food: it definitely had to be the sandwiches at Pret-a-Manger. There’s a wide variety to choose from and they are a healthier choice than burger and fries.
~ Most beautiful building: in a city that is almost over-crowded with architectural gems, it’s really hard to pinpoint just one. The Royal Albert Hall, St Paul’s Cathedral and the iconic Tower Bridge all come to mind, but as we walked along Westminster Bridge and the sun started to set, it cast a golden hue on Westminster Palace (better known as the Houses of Parliament) and Big Ben and my heart just missed a beat. I knew that this image of London would stay with me for months to come.
~ Most interesting restoration: the Covent Garden covered market. It made me think what, with some imagination, our own covered market in Valletta could be turned into. The Covent Garden market used to be a vegetable and flower market. When it was moved elsewhere because of traffic congestion, the market was restored and re-opened as a shopping centre with small boutiques, specialty stores, restaurants, cafes and a craft market.
~ Favourite neighbourhood: Notting Hill. This pretty district with its colourful houses and vintage stores feels very different from the rest of London. What once used to be a very run-down neighbourhood is now one of the most desirable residential areas of the city. The popular Portobello street market takes place in Notting Hill every weekend. Pity we missed it.
~ Most not-sure-whether-to-scream-or-laugh moment: as we walked along a lonely garden path in Kensington Gardens, a huge rat ran out right in front of us. I doubt I would have felt so relaxed under the tree if I had known these creatures were lurking in the bushes.
Since I don’t want to bore your collective socks off, this will be my last post about London – at least for a while. Now that summer is winding down and I get back into some sort of routine, I hope to write more regularly and be able to comment a bit more. Hope you’re all enjoying the last days of the season.