My first encounter with London was in 2006 en route to my home following a magical week in New York. I arrived in London on a Saturday Morning with about 10 hours to spare. Passing through Heathrow on my way to New York had been a harrowing experience given the rush to catch my connecting flight, the vast sprawl of the airport and unfriendly airport staff. I was determined to enjoy my trip back and I did.
Something which is probably taken for granted in developed countries is that of commuting on a tube. I was fascinated by the whole culture around trains when I first passed through London in 2006 – an experience which is still relatively new in my country where many of us still use private vehicles or other modes of public transport and get stuck in traffic for hours. I loved the convenience and speed of the tube and the leisure to read or listen to music if you were travelling a distance. I was amazed at the sounds of a diversity of nationalities, races, languages and accents around me, convinced that most people on the train were from other countries. At the same time, it concerned me that many people were plugged into their ear/headphones and tuned out to everyone around them. As a visitor, I found this quite alienating.
Nevertheless, gazing out of the window and watching scenes go by, I caught a whiff of nostalgia. Coming from a former British colony, I was reminded of scenes from books I had read in my first grade from the Bobbies on the beat to the smoking terracotta chimney tops, I was taken back to the innocence and naivety of childhood.
It was the strangest thing to emerge from the underground and find myself here at Piccadilly – one of the streets dating back to medieval times.
The first site to catch my eye was a big Virgin store spanning about 4 floors of music and other electronic goods. With the digitisation of music, the store is no longer there but at that time, for a music lover like me, I could have spent the whole day there.The music that was belting out on high volume in the store was that of Mercan Dede, a Turkish musician who was en vogue at the time. Of course, I bought the CD and here is one of my favorite songs, the song that was playing as I walked into the store:
After stopping nearby for a wholesome English Breakfast, my next stop was a Waterstone bookstore. It offered six floors of a book lover’s dream. I always loved the smell of new books but the kindle and audiobooks have long since changed my reading habits. Still, at the time, I walked out happily with my stash of books.
My next venture was to get a ticket for the hop on and off buses and take in a bit of sightseeing:
I loved the beautiful gothic architecture and artwork of West Minister Abbey. This is the place where many monarchs have been crowned and married.
Having just left the yellow cabs in New York, it was interesting to find this contrast of the black cab:
I guess from a very early age I knew about Big Ben and The London Bridge from our fairytales so it was good to check out the real thing:
Alongside Big Ben is the British Parliament below:
The River Thames has been Muse to a number of famous poets. So I loved trying to imagine what those bards imagined as I passed beneath the famous London Bridge that has survived a number misfortunes to still tell the tale.
Situated on the River Thames is the Coca Cola London eye which stands 40 m high. Below, is a close-up of the individual capsule that makes up the wheel :
Hyde Park which comprises 350 acres of lush green space looked like a worthwhile destination to visit more leisurely.
Join me next week for my next edition based on later visits to London. Thank you for reading along and your comments are welcome.