London – A City for Life
Every traveler knows that each new city you visit has its own distinct feel. Venice is for romance, Paris for walking, Budapest for eating…
And London is for fun.
We’re coursing through the veins of the pumping London Underground. A hemorrhage of people pouring from the metro funnel us out to the streets of Kensington. We only have 48 hours, and Big Ben is ticking…somewhere around here. We’ll walk 16 miles before the day is done, so unless it involves tea, there’s no time to waste.
Out of the capital’s transportation underbelly, we find a place to breathe. The largest Royal Park in London and older than many countries, this 350-acre land merges gardens and greenspaces used for everything from the hunting grounds of kings to a Queen concert before nearly 200,000.
Over Christmas, Hyde Park hosts Winter Wonderland – one of the largest holiday markets in Europe. Preparations are already underway. In a few months, the children playing football and slipping on muddy pitches will be falling on the city’s largest ice rink. But that’ll be well after we’re gone.
Stand with your back to the Baroque and bronze Victoria Memorial, and your eyes might confuse you.
A palace. I mean, a real one. Somewhere in its cloisters, royalty. I mean, real royalty. Our collective imaginations of kings and queens, and even that nice lady with the posh wave and a face for paper money…all in living color.
What that means today? I have no idea. You’d have to ask a real Londoner, and it’s unlikely you’ll find many here amid this abscess of tourists. And yet, it’s magnificent and deserving of its must-see status.
Big Ben and Houses of Parliament
Ah, there it is.
Rising beside the River Thames (and please, say it correctly,) the city’s most recognizable landmark. Ninety-six meters (315-feet) tall, Elizabeth Tower overlooks the Houses of Parliament. The figurative heart of British politics is dwarfed by a Latin inscription at the base of Big Ben’s clock face. Keeping the country’s time since the 1800s, its message is as charming as you’d expect of England’s icon. “O Lord, keep safe our Queen…”
Monarchy may mean more to some than others here, but it feels like anyone can find something significant to themselves or their interest in this city. London is alive, and anybody living can find something here for themselves. It’s an endless city to explore. Yet from cemeteries to Stamford Bridge, any traveler can find a space to feel like they belong.
We funnel into the afternoon congestion of the Hammersmith line back to High Street Kensington. At night, London is intoxicating in the best possible ways. We absorb it over pints of beer and cider in preparation for tomorrow morning’s Heathrow-bound train.
The flight is headed to Rome. Go further.