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Published: March 16th 2008
Ah, London in winter……the skies are consistently gray and a threat of rain is constantly in the air. But yet this city is quite alive despite this onslaught of sub-optimal weather. We couldn’t wait to land in this great city and take in the sights, sounds, and smells of one of the truly magnificent cities in the world.
As our plane was on approach into Heathrow some 27 year old gentleman from Sri Lanka was jumping the security fence at the airport and running onto a runway near an airplane. The authorities quickly caught him and began their questioning. Security is heightened because the following day the Queen was going to be at Heathrow for the grand opening of a new terminal. We are pleased that his foolish stunt did not delay our landing, nor did we see anything unusual while we were at the airport.
It is great to be back here once again. We visited ten years ago and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, so we were looking forward to this visit with great anticipation. Our good friends Ian and Olaf had invited us to stay with them at their home in Westminster. They have a lovely home in
Lovely home on a grand street!
one of the 12 inner boroughs that surround this storied city. The neighborhood provides all the wonderful attributes that make this a great place to live. There are neighborhood shops, pubs, wonderful restaurants, and friendly people.
Their home was built in 1870’s, as were most of the surrounding homes and flats in the immediate neighborhood. We found this amazing as we are quite used to “older” homes that were built in the 1940’s or 50’s. Like Seattle and San Francisco, homes in London are at a premium due to large influx of population and limited housing choices.
We arrived in mid-afternoon and were met by Ian’s sister Melanie, who lives right around the corner. She made sure we were settled in comfortably. We were exhausted after having been up since the wee hours of the morning and still were adjusting to the time change from Australia. Needless to say, we turned in quite early that night.
We spent the next day relaxing and exploring part of the neighborhood while Ian and Olaf were at work. We rendezvoused with them that evening in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral. This was almost like a scene out of the DaVinci
Our friends Ian and Olaf
Our wonderful hosts in London
Code or some cold war spy novel, a clandestine meeting in a public place with large marble steps ascending to an impressive edifice. The light from the cloudy skies was fading, a light rain was falling as we stood on the steps awaiting there arrival. (Clearly we have read too many spy novels)
This cathedral is better known to some as the place where Lady Diana and Prince Charles were married a few years back. It is a magnificent building. We spent enjoyed the company of some of their friends at a pub around the corner from the cathedral and then had dinner at a great pub in Westminster.
The next day we wandered down Portobello Street and took in the sights of one of the larger outdoor markets we have seen. Block after block of this street is filled with vendors selling everything from t-shirts to gold to jewelry to antiques. We went past the house where George Orwell (1984) lived and took time to just watch all the diverse people that made up the crowd that day. And they did not disappoint. This street also presents some interesting architecture and has transformed itself over the
The Earl Percy
Ian's father used to own this grand place...
years from a rather poor and somewhat dangerous place to one where the houses are now quite exclusively expensive.
We continued our journey down to Old Brompton Road and made our way to Ian and Olaf’s dental practice where they gave us a tour of the facility. It is always great to lay your eyes on another workplace to better appreciate the stories that are related to you.
Just a few storefronts down, we stopped in at the Troubador for a glass of wine and some appetizers. This is a wonderfully appointed restaurant that has a great history. In the late 60’s and early 70’s it played host to some up and coming artists such as Cat Stevens and Janis Joplin when they were largely unknown. It was fun to soak in the atmosphere and imagine a time when those performers plied their trade for little or no money.
On our way back to Westminster, we drove near Hyde Park and saw some of the ritzier digs in town. The mansions feature impressive architecture and are quite opulent here in the heart of the city.
We awoke the next morning to more gray and rainy skies
The Kensington neighborhood
Everything you need is here.....food, pubs.....
with the knowledge that we had to leave soon for Amsterdam. Our time here flew by and we knew that we would be returning again to take in more of this grand city as we were quite aware that we had barely scratched the surface of all London has to offer!
Stuff you may not have know about London:
Greater London consists of the Corporation of the City of London, usually called the City, plus 32 boroughs. The City is the old city of London and is the modern city's commercial center; it is also referred to as the "Square Mile" because of its area. The 12 inner boroughs that surround the City are Westminster , Camden , Islington , Hackney , Tower Hamlets , Greenwich , Lewisham , Southwark , Lambeth , Wandsworth , Hammersmith and Fulham , Kensington and Chelsea . Greater London includes the area of the former county of London, most of the former county of Middlesex, and areas that were formerly in Surrey, Kent, Essex, and Hertfordshire. Each of the boroughs of Greater London elects a council.
The Greater London Council administered the larger London area until 1986, when it was abolished
by the Thatcher government, making London unique as a world metropolis without a central governing unit. In 1999 the Greater London Authority Act reestablished a single local governing body for the Greater London area, consisting of an elected mayor and the London Assembly. The city’s first mayor was elected in 2000.
London is one of the world's foremost financial, commercial, industrial, and cultural centers. The Bank of England , Lloyd's , the stock exchange, and numerous other banks and investment companies have their headquarters there, primarily in the City, but increasingly at Canary Wharf. The financial services sector is a major source of overall employment in London.
London still remains one of the world's greatest ports. It exports manufactured goods and imports petroleum, tea, wool, raw sugar, timber, butter, metals, and meat. Consumer goods, clothing, precision instruments, jewelry, and stationery are produced, but manufacturing has lost a number of jobs in the once-dominant textile, furniture, printing, and chemical-processing industries as firms have moved outside the area. Engineering and scientific research are also important to the economy, as is tourism. The city is a hub for road, rail, and air (its airports include Heathrow and Gatwick), and
The Heathrow Express
A fast train to London from Heathrow.
it is now linked to the Continent by a high-speed rail line under the English Channel.
London has an ethnically and culturally diverse population, with large groups of immigrants from Commonwealth nations. South Asian, West Indian, African, and Middle Eastern peoples account for much of the immigrant population. The city is the site of one of the largest Hindu temple complexes and the largest Sikh temple outside India; there also are many mosques, including one of the largest in Europe.
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