By Ellen Frazer-Jameson
Other cities may try to claim this enduring epithet but it is to London that it rightfully belongs. As an honorary Londoner having lived there for almost all of my adult life, I am constantly enchanted and inspired by the diversity and immensity of the most beautiful City in the world. London has it all.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth's death, after 70 years on the throne, having reached the grand age of 96, has shown how the global nation admire, respect and love the British Royal family. Over four billion people watched the State funeral on television. Next year, the Coronation of King Charles the Third will guarantee the eyes of the world are spectacularly focused on Britain's majestic capital, London. No city on earth can compare to the palaces, pageantry, heritage, tradition, a two-thousand-year history, iconic landmarks, classical and contemporary architecture, culture, fine art, fashion, music, commerce, theatre, museums, international sporting events, vast open spaces and parks; world-class tourist attractions and monuments celebrate literary and musical greatness in playwright William Shakespeare’s magnificent Globe Theatre and the quirkiness of the Beatles’ Abbey Road zebra crossing.
One of the world’s most frequented cities, many visitors and even resident Londoners never experience London’s vast uniqueness and the hidden gems and discoverable secrets on bustling streets from Mayfair to Peckham. Gazing at picture postcard landmarks, riding a Big Red Bus or treading well-trodden thoroughfares provides unforgettable memories.
This fall, London is welcoming thousands of American tourists as they take advantage of the strong dollar against the not so Great British Pound.
The South Bank of the Thames, a river that stretches for 200 miles, is as good a place as any to begin a whistle stop tour of the Capital. The cultural heart of the city entertains with classical theatre, dance and modern drama in the Royal Festival Hall, National Theatre, the 02 Arena, and street theatre is alive with musicians, performers and mime artists. An awesome bird’s eye view from a glass enclosed carriage at the top of the London Eye opens up a breathtaking panorama of the finest London has with which to bedazzle, impress and delight.
The gold cross topped dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, Lambeth Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Tower of London, Millennium Bridge, MI5 headquarters, The Shard, the highest building in London, the eye-catching Gherkin and Cheese Cutter glass skyscrapers, the Savoy Hotel and the magnificent sweep of the river downstream with its leisure craft, working barges and speedy commuter Thames clippers.
Tate Modern, a former power station towers over the South Bank and is one of the most important contemporary art museum’s in the world.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, a 1400 seat reconstruction of the original Globe provides an extra-ordinary opportunity to see the Bard’s plays performed in an authentic setting, that being, outside. The open-air theatre operates all year round and every day ‘groundlings’ tickets are available for just five pounds. Wear warm clothing.
Join The Club
The Gold Hind, the galleon of Elizabethan explorer Sir Francis Drakes is now a function venue, moored on the South Bank within sight of the Tower of London. Tower Bridge which spans the river downstream, has a ‘selfie gallery’. A mirrored floor and ceiling balanced between the white and gold embossed columns of the blue iron and steel structure of the stone walkways and balustrades of Tower Bridge, over one hundred feet above the tidal flowing river. On the mirrored platform, claimed to be capable of supporting a bundle of hay and six elephants, the architect envisioned visitors observing the ‘beastly splendor’ of the river in a constant state of flux, forming and dissolving far below.
As night follows day, energetic sightseeing leads naturally to the need for a nice cup of tea. The grand tradition of Afternoon Tea – a lavish spread with small sandwiches, scones with butter, jam and cream and cake, is a specialty of some of the grandest London hotels, such as The Ritz and Fortnum & Mason on Piccadilly and the luxury department store, Harrods in Knightsbridge.
However, there are also smaller more affordable options at establishments such as Bea’s of Bloomsbury, Postcard Tea by Bond Street where you can buy tea from all over the world, and a pub version in Berners Tavern, Fitzrovia, where toasted crumpets come served with shrimp and caviar. To combine afternoon tea with sightseeing, Brigit's Bakery Bus Tour serves afternoon tea on a double decker bus or you can indulge on a boat traveling down the Thames.
Away from central London tourist hot spots, Camden Market delivers insight to youth culture and offers a glimpse into a mysterious world of flourishing underground tribes of native Londoners and out-of-town visitors. Flamboyant clothing geared to punks, goths, witches and warlocks, rock n rollers, bikers, cyber heads and war mongers are all on sale. A theatrical experience, glamorous vintage outfits, ethnic outfits, battle fatigues and glorious gothic fantasy wear are displayed by shop assistants dressed to the nines or made up to hell. Ethnic food stalls conjure up smells and flavors from India, Thailand, Mexico, the Caribbean and good old British fish ‘n chips. There is also a homage booth to the reggae legend Bob Marley selling dreadlock accessories, music, posters and t-shirts.
Weary feet can head to Covent Garden for the restorative treatments offered by Neal’s Yard Remedies or to the not so sweetly named Cowshed Farm, a haven of relaxation
in a comfy and casual spa on Primrose Hill.
To ensure a restful end to the day in your uniquely discovered London, pick up a Book at Bedtime from the former home of the novelist and visionary at Charles’ Dickens Museum in Chancery Lane/Holborn. You can also join a walking tours to visit some of the scenes of his most famous novels, Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby.
“You asked for MORE?”
Now we come full circle to Abbey Road Studios where the Beatles were photographed for the classic album cover, Abbey Road. Day and night, international fans gather around the graffiti covered gift shop and walk in the footsteps of the Fab Four while posing for photographs, selfies and videos on the iconic zebra crossing.
The Beatles declared, All You Need is Love. If you love life, you will love London.
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ELLEN FRAZER JAMESON
Ellen Frazer Jameson is a professional communicator working in media print and theatre. A former BBC broadcaster and national newspaper journalist, Ellen is a published author, producer, director and performer. Based in London before moving to Miami, Florida, she presented the largest late-night audience show in Europe on BBC Radio Two.
Ellen has written a range of nonfiction books and six romantic novels. She also wrote, directed and starred in several original musicals and drama productions.
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