My image of London was largely based on Sherlock Holmes mysteries, Shakespeare’s plays, Charles Dickens’ novels, PG Wodehouse’s humour, some 20th Century Fox movies and last but not the least, the B&W Films Division documentaries seen during my childhood in movie halls. I always regarded London as a somewhat mysterious city – a city replete with heritage and history. So, no wonder I wanted to capture colours of London in black & white. And the B&W images in this feature reflect that sentiment.
Bette Midler said, “When it’s three o’clock in New York, it’s still 1938 in London. “ I agree with her. Though the new London has what most global modern cities offer, and more; yet, the spirit of the city is still very renaissance.
Upon landing, as expected, I found myself in a seemingly 2-seater cab (actually, in the famous London black cabs, the bench seat is meant for 3, and there are 2 folding seats, which you don’t see at the first glance). The fare is steep, but the view along the way was fascinating. I was staying in Lancaster Gate area; so, I came across landmarks like Royal Albert Hall and Hyde Park during this drive.
Truly a city of plenty, London boasts of 4 World Heritage Sites: the Tower of London; Kew Gardens (Botanical Garden); the site comprising the Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey, and St Margaret’s Church; and the historic settlement of Greenwich (in which the Royal Observatory marks the Prime Meridian, 0° longitude, and GMT).
Tower of London is steeped in history. The area includes the Tower Bridge, and also houses the crown jewels in a walk-in vault, where photography is not allowed. Besides many other enviable treasures, famous Kohinoor diamond is housed there. Beefeaters are its official custodians, and you’d do well to take a beefeater tour here – they are remarkably well informed about the place.
Westminster Abbey has only one parallel – Basilica of Santa Croce, Florence, Italy. Like the Basilica, which is the resting place or memorial of illustrious Italians, Westminster Abbey is the burial or memorial place of some of the most illustrious Englishmen – from Chaucer to Shakespeare, Lord Byron to Oscar Wilde, and hundreds more.
The London Underground is the oldest underground railway network in the world. While most of London is accessible through the tube (the underground railway), to reach the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, you have to either take a cab, a bus or use the DLR (Docklands Light Railway). Everyone who visits this place is bound to have taken a picture of his feet on either sides of the 0° longitude.
Besides, there are scores of other attractions that will interest most age groups. These include Buckingham Palace, the London Eye, Piccadilly Circus, St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower Bridge, Trafalgar Square, Madame Tussauds and The Shard. While I saw most of these, I could not visit the Shard (tallest building in the European Union as its inauguration happened on 5th July 2012, just a couple of days after I left London). While London Eye literally gives you a bird’s eye view to the cityscape of London, Shard is a taller building that may give you a better view of the city.
London is home to numerous museums, galleries, libraries, sporting events and other cultural institutions, including the British Museum, National Gallery, Tate Modern, British Library, over 40 West End theatres and the most revered of them all – Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.
Given the extensive shopping options it offers, though it may not seem so, but London is extremely child-friendly, and also, handicapped-friendly. Places like Trafalgar Square and Covent Garden are popular hangouts. Covent Garden also has a performer’s corner, where you can hope to catch a unicyclist keeping you spell-bound for up to an hour, or a mime artists having you in splits with his performance. You are sure to come across establishments, which have been there for centuries – e.g. Sherlock Holmes Pub, established in 1736. For its size and population, London may easily qualify as the greenest city on the globe with its vast expanse of parks and gardens.
The place has it all. To do justice to the place and see what it has to offer, even a lifetime is short. But any person visiting London will do well to earmark around a week for a glimpse of the tip – the tip of the iceberg called London.