London Calling: The Big City
NYC maybe an inverted ant hill, with vertical comings and goings, and Rome may be an expansive, historical winding Grand Canyon. So what, then, is London? London is like a massive coral reef, with swaying algae, flashy fish and a rainbow of activity; probably mostly akin to the Great Barrier.
I heard more languages spoken here than any other city in Europe, no small feat for the capital of an island-state so latitudally north. It really is impressive that England has maintained an iconic monarchy and a strong parliamentary economy. Victoria really was a sly queen who took full advantage of being at the right place at the right time. There is not a part of the current political climate that was not, in some way, influenced by the sun never setting on Victoria.
I don't want to bore my reader with details on every site, because like a coral reef, there is something to look at, learn about and mesmerize you at every corner. Highlights include the British Museum, this houses a permanent exhibition on the Assyrians (of John's heritage), Greenwich and the Prime Meridian on summer solstice at 1pm (happenstance), The Eye (pay for fast track), the Horse Guard and another Dungeon, a walk under Big Ben, tour of Westminster Abbey, the V & A museum of Art and Natural History (boys looked at dinosaurs and girls looked at fashion, FYI Bath Fashion Museum is more complete) and finally, a new one for both John and I, the War Rooms Museum.
The War Rooms was the bunker building used by Chruchill during WWII for him to direct the war. He hated that he was hiding in safety but new he had to have a secure location as a central hub to direct the war. After the war ended, the bunker was essentially locked up and left in disuse, forgotten about in situ. In the 1970's it was reopened like a time capsule. Literally maps still hung on the walls with pins, disconnected phones sat covered in dust, typewriters on desks and papers and pens laid about waiting for their next letter to be written. My kids are starting to catch on that they are on a huge, 6-week field trip.
The foundation of Londontown has it's start wth the Roman's; but like the coral reef, with a hard, bony foundation, very little of this can be seen, covered by years of expansive growth. By the turn of the first millennium, London flourishes under the tidal forces of a Kingdom. Today, the Big Smoke is an atoll of history and modernity; underground are the eels tubing themselves through the matrix of tunnels, monuments pepper themselves throughout the town like sea anemones ever with their souvenir clown fish enticing you in. Angelfish cathedrals, sea urchin homeless, starfish theaters and schools and schools of fish darting in and out of non-stop doorways, crosswalks and buildings.
I came to the realization that I have ridden on the Tube more often than any other metropolitan mass transport. I guess London is my big city of choice. I also have come to realize that I really hate big cities. I feel now, in my advancing years, that big cities should only be enjoyed at the beginning or end of a trip and not be part of the main attraction, as a means to arrive and depart. Nonetheless, this trip was for the kids, to learn about our great big world and London is a definite hub for this endeavor.
London's story really starts at the Tower of London. William the Conquerer (that dude again?) built the White Tower here in the late 1000's to establish his reign. While the Tower housed Kings and Queens, it has mainly been a white-collar prison (that'd be Tudor and Elizabethan collars) an armory and now a museum. I enjoyed the freedom to walk the grounds and meander in and out of exhibits at my pleasure, much like Edinburgh castle. Despite getting much deeper into the summer tourist season, I did not find the lines grueling (true for most places except the cue for passport control). Beefeaters, ravens, turrets and crowned jewels abound.
We also took Evie by the University of Arts, London - College of Fashion. It was really good for her to see that City Uni's are not always rolling green campuses but often concrete, drab institutions. It was good for her to grasp that, when fashion is involved, the physical school isn't as important as the location to high-end shopping districts, modern galleries and theaters. She learned a great deal about what she needs to do depending on what she wants to do. She learned that there are a lot of fish in the sea and that fashion designers are a guppy-a-dozen.
The next day we head out once more but not without a wave of an issue. The night brought to London a downpour of flooding rains and lightening; a full disruption of power and flooded streets around Essex. This hindered our drive out of East London, adding an hour to what should have been a quick getaway out beyond the Ring Road. If there is one thing you can count on in London, you will likely get wet at some point.