The following is a guest post.
I can’t believe that, despite living there twice in the course of my nearly 40 years, I’ve not yet taken my six year old son there. He looks upon and talks about going to London one day with wide eyes and a kind of majesty in his voice – London to him holds the key to all that is exciting and rich and mysterious, and I think he is right.
London holds something for everyone – if you don’t like the craziness of Piccadilly Circus, take a short walk to Green Park and behold the delights of the Ritz and the beautiful parks for which London is famous. If the Tate Modern doesn’t float your boat, then it’s off with your head at the Tower of London. And the boroughs of London each have their own personality, their own vibe and their own culture. This is why I love London. It is diverse and extreme, and beautiful and rough, and fast and sleepy, and noisy and peaceful.
Each time I leave London I take a piece of the experience with me. The West End theatres, Brixton High St, Camden’s bars, Harrow, Trafalgar Square, The Dorchester….I have stories to tell about them all.
So, what do the Smitten by Britain readers make of London? I asked you to tell me what you love most about it, and here are your responses.
Why We Love London
“I love the hidden corners and alleyways we discovered using our Dickensian walking guide. Even having that, we almost got caught in some hidden nook. I love the singing pizza chef in Harrods’s food hall (please let him still be there when I return in the spring!). The Tower of London (hopefully that’s still there too, although it’s probably a long shot, I know) calls me with its crystal pillow where Ann Boleyn was beheaded and its melancholy air of lives lost and history changed in seconds. Plus I love a chat with the Beefeaters!”
“What I love about London is that it is an eclectic mix of everything! Not just buildings either! You can go from near rurality to utter urbanity in just a few minutes! From grandeur of Palaces to the everyday existence of railway stations. As far as large cities go, London trumps all I have experienced in terms of diversity of things to do, people and sights!”
“Walking. I have only been there as a tourist, but it and Paris are the best walking cities.”
“There really is everything in London that life can afford. I particularly love the history at every turn – it is just oozing out to be absorbed as you go. My favourite spot in London is Russell Square. It’s a haven away from the bustle of the city in a great part of town.”
“What amazes me more is how you can be in the middle of, for example, St. James’s Park and feel as if you are really in the middle of the countryside. With nothing but nature.”
“During 2012 I went for a short break of 15 days in London and I ended up there until December, I also visited other parts of England. I organized the journey to attend George Michael’s concert, that’s right, I travel around the globe for a concert, and be sure I will do it again.”
“I used to hear many people saying that they have visited the same place many times and I couldn’t understand why they do that with all the places you have to visit. But today when I have to plan a journey, London has to be in the itinerary. I visited London 3 times in 4 years. It is always my number one. My next dream is to receive New Year under my friend, Mr Big Ben!”
“My husband chaperoned London Theatre Tours with his high school Drama students for a few years before I had a chance to go. He told me early on that I would never be the same after visiting London (and its environs). He was so right.”
“The blending of history and the present in London. The palace sitting in the middle of a major intersection with cars zooming by. The chairs in the parks, ready for people to come and relax in the urban oasis. The manners, even in the subway — everyone saying “sorry” in place of “excuse me.” The cabs — with foot room. The bookstores. The churches, filled with Royal arms rather than crucifixes. Oh, and again, the palpable sense of history all around you, the horse guards, the foot guards, and road barriers, and statues….”
“London is the greatest city in the world, so full of history and customs. I miss my capital. Living in the USA now for 30 years but never lost that yearning for my native land. God bless our Queen, a grand lady.”
“I can choose to study any period of history or the country’s history in London!”
“When I am in London I feel I am at the center of the world surrounded by incredible architecture Gothic or ultra-modern… in this glorious city rich in past history I have learned much from its people who are courteous and friendly… I am really impressed by its multiculturalism and the pride of the Londoners I have met… but most of all to be honest, I just love to witness the Changing of the Guards which is synchronized always beautifully… for me London is a city that can be walked through and through… you just need a good pair of shoes, a short leather coat, and jeans, and here you go… Oh yes… have never needed an umbrella… how’s that for comfort?”
“Two thousand years of history. I love the combination of the old and the new. You can find some of the oldest buildings in the world along with some of the most modern designs.”
“The history of London fascinates me and the fact that I can walk in those places. I also love the fact that that history is blended with an ultra-modern city. You can have it all.”
“I love London architecture, especially iconic Houses of Parliament. My favourite place…. I’m a devotee of the Big Ben, truly as it sounds! River Thames and all that borders it brings a touch of serenity in the middle of the City, the sight at night are breathtaking. My favourite “corner” is the intersection of Horse Guard Ave. and Whitehall Ct. I spent many moments just looking at that corner. I don’t know exactly what is that captures my attention, but this is my favorite corner.”
“Visit the markets that abound everywhere, see the blue plaques on the walls of buildings, stop in the pubs that locals go to (not the trendy micro-breweries). I miss London so much.”
“What I love about London, is that it is an eclectic mix of everything! Not just buildings either! You can go from near rurality to utter urbanity in just a few minutes! From grandeur of Palaces to the everyday existence of railway stations. As far as large cities go, London trumps all I have experienced in terms of diversity of things to do, people and sights!”
“London has so many classic buildings with historical and iconic history behind them, that a person could spend a couple weeks going to different cities and venues site-seeing all of them. Besides that, Sherlock Holmes stories come from London, etc. Just seems to be the place to be!”
“Everything old is new again; the past is never really past, it is all around you.”
“Afternoon Tea at the Ritz of course!”
“London is now the International Food Capital of the World. Those words could not have left my fingertips twenty-five years ago; I just wish England could shake that “bland” food reputation now.”
“Best: Afternoon Tea at the Ritz! Worst: Getting stuck in the West End because we stayed out too late and the tubes CLOSE down!!”
“Very elegant afternoon teas, all kinds of food, V & A, the Royal Mews, the Tower of London jewels, the Eye, the Zoo! I could go on and on!”
“As an American, I was impressed with the friendliness and helpfulness of Londoners. We were trying to find our way to Tower Hill tube station after a lovely day at the Tower of London. I must have looked confused because a dear lady stopped and asked, “Are you lost, love?” I explained my predicament and she laughed and said, “Happens to me all the time.” She pointed the way to the station. I wish I had taken her photo. I have often wondered how many Americans offer to help foreign tourists and hope to “pay it forward” one of these days. She was lovely.”
“It is in my DNA my father’s side of the family lived there for centuries. He was a proud cockney I was born in Suffolk and moved to London when I was 11 I worked in” The City” in the sixties walking across London Bridge to work was always an awesome experience I never took for granted. Lunch hours spent in Leadenhall Market, Petticoat Lane or sitting by the Tower of London was such an honour. To be part of the throng of people moving about a big city filled with beauty and history everywhere is something I look back on with love.”
“As an Argentinian, I grew up listening to all kinds of bad things (politically talking) about English people, but none of that had effect on ME when I decided to visit that country, especially London, I felt I arrived home. I wish I was born in London. I even have it tattooed.”
“London and the people JUST make me happy.”
“Born and raised in New York, I found London to be very similar in terms of the energy, culture and frenetic lifestyle and of course the seemingly endless sights. I first visited London many decades ago and did all the touristy things that us Americans do but then I met my friends Sally and Derek later on who then took me by both hands and showed me a London only Londoners would know. It was a wonderful experience that’s been reciprocated many times when my English friends and I are in New York together. On one of my trips to London, I had the privilege of visiting the banks of the Thames at low tide and came home with a corn pipe that had been thrown into the river about 300 years ago as corroborated by a collector in Greenwich. That pipe is a priceless treasure that is probably more important to me than anything else I could’ve taken home from that visit. What a fantastic artifact and the story that goes with it to share with my young grandchildren. Someday, I might not feel anxious about stepping off a curb as my head turns to the left making sure there aren’t any cars heading my way. Whoops!!”
“It’s history, overall vibe, and it’s so multicultural!!”
“Visited last year with a friend. Two South Carolina ladies who were welcomed with open arms. They loved our accents. It was a very friendly place.”
“What is not to like about London?! I live in London, Kentucky. I made my first visit to London, England last year. I was in absolute awe! The history! I stayed in Notting Hill, just beautiful! I had heard the people would be stuffy and unfriendly. Not even close ! They were just as friendly as folks from the South in the U.S.! 99% I met were English. I have visited the UK twice since but hope to move there! I feel so at home there! The English should be so proud of their Capitol city and their country as a whole! I cannot wait to live there!”
“All I can say is that when I landed in Heathrow it felt like I was home. Can’t wait to go back.”
“I love London! Studied there in college in the mid-1980s. Returned for my honeymoon. Have taken my children. They love it as well.”
“A multi-cultural city with so much history and life!”
“My first thought of what I love about London is the many bookstores, such as Hatchards and Foyles.”
“What makes London unique is how much they cherish their history past and present. You can feel the tradition in the air and see it all around you. They have statues and memorials for events and people that have significance not only in their country but other countries as well.”
“As an American with English roots I fell in love and ‘at home’ when visiting. I love it! It’s my epicenter.”
“When our girls were 4 and 5 we were visiting Grannie in the West Country. We decided to take them on a train to London to the Natural History Museum. Of course, Grannie said, “Children don’t belong in London. What on earth would you do there?” Undeterred, we had a great train ride, and trip in London.”
“Thanks to all who contributed. London has a special place in my heart and whilst I am originally from the West Country, I remember it fondly. There are times, living in the USA, in the area which I live with its space and its peace and its 40 year history that I yearn for that buzz and history of London. Sure, I’ve been to New York and that is in my top five cities, but London, there’s just something so iconic and so very wonderfully British about it.”
“I see pictures of it now, and I think I appreciate it a little bit more every time. It’s like having a long-distance relationship. One day, we will be reunited! I love you, London!”
Thanks to all the readers who contributed!
Claire McGill is a British expat living in Maryland, which means she still drinks tea, but now has it with a corn muffin instead of a crumpet. Claire has two blogs – one which observes the amusing and confusing cultural differences between living in America and Britain (www.ukdesperatehousewifeusa.wordpress.com) and her fitness blog (www.fortyshadesoffitness.wordpress.com)