How does one describe a city as diverse as London?
Pulling from my Interior Designer Days, I describe design in three main categories: traditional, classic, or contemporary. Touring London had “traditional” coming to mind at every turn.
Traditional, according to Oxford dictionary, “long-established, handed-down, habitually done.” That’s London through and through.
Here are two of London’s Long-Held Traditions:
Great Britain’s Royalty
Queen Elizabeth II and her family need no introduction, and are a daily item in the news, not to mention the storied history and the grandeur of their lifestyle – a grandeur that is lived with the same pomp and circumstance as it was hundreds of years ago. Nine other European countries – Norway, Denmark, and Spain are three – still have monarchies, but UK’s takes the biggest chunk of the country’s budget. A whopping forty percent of the UK’s budget goes to run the royals’ lives, while Spain spends only six percent on their royal family.
Is this a bad thing? Perhaps my commentary tells you what I think, but good or bad, Queen Elizabeth II and her royal family keep tradition alive and well in London.
Purchases in Greater London don’t include the land beneath your feet. Five families own nearly all of London and merely offer a 99-year lease, after which time, the property goes back to the landowner family. Right now the new U.S. Embassy building is under construction on a plot outside the city limits, because the former building’s 99-year lease was up. The powers that be in America didn’t like that system so they moved the new embassy out of the city limits. We saw the cranes hovering over the half-finished structure. This traditional real estate system is long-established, handed-down, and habitually-done.
And Now for A Less Judgmental View
Okay, so I got all the provocative stuff off my chest. If you’re still reading, thanks, because London’s 30 million foreign visitors each year can’t be wrong. London truly embraces history and architecture on a grand scale. Neighborhoods offer theater, banking, and fashion, along with people-watching galore.
British people are extremely pleasant, polite, and helpful, too. Which, by the way, is also in their tradition. Think tea time with little cakes and gracious conversation. Those are delightful! So our visit here on our day-long tour, (see below), was a perfect introduction to a great city.
A shout-out is in order for our tour guide Mel, who, in his brown plaid tweedy pants, was the brilliant historian with facts galore. Mel had an edge to him, too. His greasy pony-tailed hair and raspy voice told a story of his own colorful history and attitude, which I liked. He held an unlit cigarette aloft the whole time as if ready to take a puff at any moment. And when he walked, he swaggered. Good theater, Mel.
Fun Facts About London
- All of England’s kings and queens were crowned in Westminster Abbey.
- The “real” city of London is only one square mile and encompasses 450 banks of the financial district. Greater London, as it is called here, is 406 square miles. They call the smaller “real” London a city within a city.
- The Thames is a tidal river with a 26-foot water range. Larger ships must wait for high tide to travel on the river.
- No wood & straw construction is allowed in the city after the great fire of 1666, which burned 80% of the city.
- Buckminster Palace was built in 1703. Queen Victoria, (reign 1837-1901), was the first monarch to live there.
- Shell out 20-50 million pounds for a “flat” in the Shard.
- The queen has no jurisdiction over Parliament and must knock on the door just like anybody else. Mel, our guide said of Parliament, “They do confer with the royals, though.”
- Number of theaters in London: 186.
- All city museums are free. The Tate Modern gets 6.5 million visitors per year. An enormous installation, “Anywhen,” by Philippe Parreno invites visitors to lie on their backs on an enormous carpeted area and experience sounds, lights, and video projections onto moving screens. I loved it so much and was glad when Conrad fell asleep so I could enjoy it longer! See the installation through April 2, 2017. Free!
Do you find London traditional?
House sitting affords Conrad and me experiences to fabulous places around the globe. And being a travel blogger means I am offered tours to these places. It’s quite a wonderful combination and we’re so grateful for our life of travel.
We took a day-long combination open-top vintage bus through London, boat ride down the Thames, and visit to Stonehenge sponsored by City-Discovery.com. And this is the link to the specific tour we took. The site is an aggregate of worldwide tours and activities. Simply set the city, and voila!, you have a list of available tours there, from simple walking tours to major days-long adventures. You choose. It’s a nice concept and we are happy to blog about our experiences with them. And don’t forget to request Mel, that cad.
Wishing you safe and happy travels always and all ways.