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Passionate experience junkie. Lover of the arts and architecture. Want to see and share the world, one village at a time.

Traditional London

 

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The iconic Tower Bridge — not to be confused with London Bridge, which is quite plain. The blue paint is a recent change on this Victorian masterpiece of traditional London.

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

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I thought the gates were the prettiest part of Buckingham Palace.

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.

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The bland front is stately, but, well, bland. Buckingham Palace is certainly gargantuan, however.

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.

Real Estate

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.

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A boat tour down the Thames was part of our day-long tour. Construction cranes told a story of healthy growth. But the owners of these buildings don’t own the land beneath them.

 

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.

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This is the vintage open-top bus on which we toured London. I’m an idiot for not getting a photo of Mel! You’ll have to imagine his bad self with cigarette poised about three inches from his lips.

 

Fun Facts About London

 

  • All of England’s kings and queens were crowned in Westminster Abbey.
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The early morning light and fog, (it is London, after all), cast a eerie glow behind Westminster Abbey. Going B&W with this photo enhanced the mood.

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Then on another day, I caught this side view of the Abbey. Love the ornate repeating spires.

 

  • 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.

 

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Early commuters starting their day in London’s finacial district — the “real” London.

 

  • The Thames is a tidal river with a 26-foot water range. Larger ships must wait for high tide to travel on the river.

 

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From our boat on the Thames we could see the tidal water mark on the break walls. A huge range of 26 feet separates low tide from high tide.

 

  • 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.
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The Shard — Its official name, (unlike the “Pickle” which is the slang name given the phallic-looking London office building.) Glass shards climb into the clouds in this modern office, hotel, and condominium tower.

 

  • 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.
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London’s theatre district is tree-lined and very pretty, inviting.

 

  • 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!
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This is the view FROM the Tate Modern, on an outside balcony. Our visit to this free museum, (all London’s museums are free), was not included in the day-long tour. We went back to many of the places mentioned on the tour.

 

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Another traditional institution — the Westminster School, dating back to 960 AD. Boys start studies at the age of seven, girls must wait until they are sixteen.

Do you find London traditional?

 

 

House sitting

dsc_0067House 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.

~Josie

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10 Responses to “Traditional London”

  1. I had fun imagining Mel’s “bad self” during your tour and really enjoyed all of the fascinating factoids you scattered throughout your post. I recently saw a picture of Queen Elizabeth gaping at the things in a grocery store aisle (who knows when she last ran in for a loaf of bread?) and I have to think that 40% of the UK’s budget might go a long way towards shielding one from all the mundane chores in the day-to-day life of the regular folks! :) Hopefully, that we can squeeze England onto our list for 2017 and, of course, London will be at the top!
    Anita @ No Particular Place To Go recently posted..Emigrating, Immigrating and Celebrating Our First Year in PortugalMy Profile

    November 21, 2016 at 5:53 am Reply
    • Hi Anita,
      Thanks for your kind words.
      I hope you squeeze London into your 2017 itinerary, too. They are house sitting crazy there — in a good way — and so no problem with accommodations.
      Wishing you safe and happy travels,
      ~Josie

      November 24, 2016 at 4:52 am Reply
  2. Bex #

    It’s so funny for me, as a British person, to read what others think of our customs. EG: The ‘leasehold’ you refer to i.e.: 99 years on the land is really quite normal for us.
    And yes, we do like to be polite – unfortunately we’ll be polite to everyone, so one never really understands what we’re thinking!
    I’m proud of our architecture and every time I go back to London, I marvel at Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s. But yes, I do have to agree, the price tag on a private residence at the Shard makes me feel sick. You do know that the people that own those are mainly from the Middle East? So it’s not as if a ‘commoner’ can afford one.
    Bex recently posted..LUSH – a ‘lush’ gift at any time of the yearMy Profile

    November 21, 2016 at 7:55 am Reply
    • Hi Bex,
      So good to hear from a local so we can round out the perspective. This statement jumped out at me: “And yes, we do like to be polite – unfortunately we’ll be polite to everyone, so one never really understands what we’re thinking!”
      Oh my! This may explain much of what we experienced. People went out of their way to help us. We walk a lot and got lost several times, and the people who helped get us on the right track often walked with us to make sure we got to the right place. It led to some nice conversations and connections. One fellow we met actually knew the homeowners where we were house sitting! So fun.
      But the more difficult thing to swallow about your statement is that: “so one never really understands what we’re thinking!” As Americans who put it all out there in a “take it or leave it” attitude, I would have a hard time navigating British communication. I dare say that even my response to your comment may seem too brash for you! But my openness is always presented as a way to better connect, and I hope it is taken that way!
      Thanks for the peek into your culture.
      ~Josie

      November 24, 2016 at 4:45 am Reply
  3. I can never get enough of London! Both the traditional and the non-traditional are equally enticing to me. Thx for the great post!
    Doreen Pendgracs recently posted..a visit to Cailler Chocolate in BrocMy Profile

    November 21, 2016 at 8:55 am Reply
  4. I haven’t been to London since 1980! Looking forward to going back Spring 17~Thanks for this post!
    Vicki Winters recently posted..Boracay #1 Island In The World 2016 Conde Nast TravelerMy Profile

    November 21, 2016 at 2:56 pm Reply
  5. I use the term historic for those London places, but your “traditional” works. A big redo is in the wings for Buckingham Palace- maybe it will be less bland, but I doubt it.

    November 21, 2016 at 7:20 pm Reply
  6. I loved taking this tour of London with you. It brought back many memories and makes me want to return!
    Irene S. Levine recently posted..Oh, what a night! Celebrating the bounty of Emilia RomagnaMy Profile

    November 25, 2016 at 6:49 pm Reply
  7. Did I read that right? Surely not. 40% of UK’s budget can’t be allocated to one family, royal or not. I’m headed off to google to check that out.
    Lyn aka The Travelling Lindfields recently posted..The 17 best places to see Australian animals in the bush!My Profile

    November 26, 2016 at 9:07 pm Reply
    • Hi Lyn,
      Please let me know if you find differently. I tried to refute it with my research! You are so right, though, 40% of Britain’s budget going to one family seems nuts.

      November 27, 2016 at 1:46 am Reply

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