What is it like to be a visitor to London?
Having lived there during the swinging 60's, and living close by as I do now , I know it very well. But I thought it would be fun to do the tourist thing for a day!
So, I set off down the road to my local train station, and 75 minutes later I was in Charing Cross - bang in the middle of London Town!
I was instantly aware of strange languages and different accents all around me. As if people from all four corners of the world had been picked up and plonked down in a huge cosmopolitan melting pot!
Off I trotted to the Thames embankment. Suddenly all around me were the sights that everyone associates with this glorious city. Tower Bridge to my left, the Houses of Parliament to my right. The London Eye looked down on me, and the stark exterior of the Tate Modern beckoned me from across the fast flowing water. I wandered off in search of the Millennium Bridge would take me across to the South Bank.
This beautiful shaft of steel spans the Thames from St Paul's Cathedral to artistic hub of London. Within a short distance is Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, where the Bard's plays are recreated in an authentic setting. Nearby is the Royal Festival Hall, a centre for music and the arts. As I meander along, I find myself dodging lady joggers - their bouncing boobs seemingly making a bid for freedom, and young mums on roller blades propelling baby buggies along at breakneck speeds!
I arrive at my first port of call - the Tate Modern! This former power station now houses the national collection of modern art, and exhibitions as diverse as Dali and Tracy Emmen. As I approach, hoards of uniformed schoolchildren are converging on me from every direction. Parties of foreign students gaze up, bemused, as they are led towards the entrance to this magnificent monolith. Once inside, the ceiling is as high as the sky, and all around are stairs and elevators transporting eager art fans and reluctant school kids to the various halls on each level. I find myself trying to look interested in a priceless pile of of building bricks, then squinting at flickering images on banks of TV screens. I'm left wondering if I am somehow missing the point.
The London Eye has only been in existence for a few years, but is now as familiar to visitors as is Big Ben. The queue on the ground snakes this way and that, as tourists step with nervous anticipation into little glass pods This fabulous wheel carries it's camera clicking passengers slowly up into the sky then back down again, affording a view of the city only previously offered by a helicopter!
Covent Garden used to be a fruit and vegetable market. Today it is a mecca of free entertainment. The halls are now filled with stalls selling arts, crafts and souvenirs, whilst all around, jugglers juggle, singers sing, acrobats contort and clowns fool around. Suddenly I am faced with an advancing army of orange clad Japanese children, so I repair to an upstairs bar where I perch on a balcony - an oasis of calm. From there I look down on the chaotic scene below, whilst savouring a pint of Fullers London Pride!
A short walk away is Leicester Square, the hub of London's theatrical heritage. A theatre on every corner, each of them shouting from the hoardings, and luring eager audiences with their musical and dramatic entertainments. The roar of the greasepaint the smell of the crowd!Most major cities have a Chinese area. Why this should be I have never been sure! Anyway, London is no exception.
Here Chinatown covers a large area which is crammed with restaurants and oriental food emporiums. I have a favourite, and I call in for a truly sensational lunch. It's called Lee Ho Fook, and this palace of Chinese gastronomy has graced Gerrard street for as long as I can remember. The majotity of it's customers are Asian - a sign of a really good ethnic eaterie.
The London skyline has changed dramatically in recent years. Modern buildings like the aptly named Gherkin, and the fabulously inside-out tin tower occupied by Lloyds, jostle for position with ancient brick and timber buildings. Once considered large, they are now dwarfed by their brash modern counterparts!
For many years my home turf was North London. Hampstead, Finchley and Kentish Town. Today this area revolves around Camden Town - a gloriously over-the-top market place for all things fashionable. Here mere mortals rub shoulders with celebrities. For this is the place to see and be seen! The Regents Canal runs right through the middle of the town and Camden Lock is the where to find some of London's most famous bars and clubs.
I didn't visit any museums - I didn't go to Buckingham Palace. I could have gone to Oxford Street or I could have shopped in Harrods! But I didn't. There is simply so much to do. I just looked at my favourite places from a different viewpoint. And had a jolly good time!
A complete set of my pictures is now on Keith's Images. Click on link at top of page!