If anyone were to ask me to name my favorite European city, then without a doubt the answer would be, London. How predictable that an English lady should be claiming her home town as number one, I hear you say and rightfully so. But let me assure you that I feel that I have abundant resources and a pletherith of worldwide experiences to draw upon, that have helped me arrive at my conclusion. Having started traveling the world at the tender age of 6, I have been lucky enough to visit many of the continents upon this earth, including Europe. I have seen Lisbon, Malaga, Marseille, Florence, Venice and areas of Austria, all of which, without a doubt, have their own exquisite uniqueness and appeal.
It is London however that truly touches my heart and my mind. Firstly because of its abundant richness of history, – London is many centuries old and it floats on a barge of history, from the playwright William Shakespeare to William Pitt the younger (prime minister) and beyond, you can’t travel around London without ingesting mouthfuls of history. My favorite historical place to visit is Hampton Court Palace, the court of Henry VIII and his six wives. Take a 10-15 minute train ride from the center of London and you arrive in the comparatively rural station of Hampton Court. The palace is not overly majestic, as you might find at Versailles, but is casts a spell that transports you back to the Tudor splendor. You can imagine King Henry and his court arriving aboard their boats on the river Thames, which flows alongside the palace. The great banquet halls, vast kitchens, rich tapestries and impressive bed chambers all make up this unforgettable experience and are well worth a visit. Also for the history lovers among you I would highly recommend a visit to Westminster Abbey, many Kings (between 1272 – 1760), Queens (notably Elizabeth 1 and Mary queen of Scots), nobleman and influential people (Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, Charles Dickens, Geoffrey Chaucer, to name a few) were given there final resting place there, you can experience history in a very unique way, as it becomes almost tangible.
Once you have had your fill of history, London also dazzles in its entertainment. From the annual night at the proms in The Royal Albert Hall, (a traditionally stirring and robust night of music,- mid July to Mid September) to a multitude of west end shows that will have you laughing, crying and everything in-between. But if I had to recommend something really special it would be in the arts entertainment. London has always been a great patron of the arts; it understands the importance of new ideas. And so I always like to make a point to visit The Serpentine Gallery in Hyde Park, they never fail to produce an excellent and thought provoking show, especially if you like to follow contemporary arts – check it out.
And now what about every ladies favorite pastime, shopping? Well for all you die hard fashion aficionados there is ‘London Fashion Week’, which typically happens mid-late September (you can find all information and tickets online). It is an amazing dazzling week in which Londoners throw caution to the wind and express their passion. But it is the Aladdin’s cave of Camden Town in north London that I really enjoy however. Here a vast market of used clothes, hats, boots, costumes, antiques, and materials spanning a dazzling variety of eras line the walls and floors. It is a visual feast that makes for a truly fun day out, take your friends and feed your hunger for shopping.
And lastly there is the food. London has always been a cosmopolitan city, a melting pot for international cuisine that travels through its streets. From the Roman influences to the height of the British empire, Londoner’s have witnessed the introduction of tastes and aromas from the four corners of the world, which is why eating in London can truly be called a global experience, with Indian, Japanese, Greek, middle eastern, Chinese and Thai resturants open for business next door to one another. But for me nothing can beat a good Sunday roast lunch, and there are many to be had in London. Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding has become a British institution and is not to be missed. Enjoying a tasty lunch in a cozy pub followed by a walk in one of its many parks is as British as teatime. The most memorable, both for its food and atmosphere is ‘The fox and grapes’, in Wimbledon village. Near to the ‘common’ (park) it is an idyllic public house and they serve the tastiest roast beef and Yorkshire pudding around.
London is a city bustling with energy and verve, it is an old city and yet it is continually leading the way, and I believe every beating heart will find its very own London to love, and therein lies its appeal. To quote Samuel Johnson, “When a man is tired of London he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”