The High Points of London

The High Points of London

We are celebrating our 60th day in London. Over the past decade we have returned to this amazing city, it calls to me.
Having read the 1854 ? exhaustive treatise called Mayhew’s London by Henry Mayhew makes London the place for me. I go there to prove to myself that I love big cities. It seems that when I go to New York I get hopelessly lost and end up on the subway going the wrong direction. I can’t tell north from south.

In London I can reconnoiter, in London I’m able to find my way without confusion. In London the Tube (subway) is well lit, clean and doesn’t smell bad. I nearly blend in, in London people ask me for directions…..and I tell them! (some of them are Londoners!)

We’ve had the good fortune to go to London numerous times, hence day number sixty. We no longer plan our days in specific detail to milk the final minute out of the day. Our favorite hotel is close to the British Museum, the Celtic Hotel. Mrs. Marriotti greets us as we arrive and by now she actually knows us! The Celtic is a well kept and tidy place that is affordable. It is in the shadows of the famed Russel Hotel, the third purpose build hotel in London. The Russell is a place that you have been to in your imagination. Their restaurant is so special that the builders of the Titanic reproduced it in their mighty ship. Now there are two beautiful restaurants, cept’n one is at the bottom of the North Atlantic. We also love this hotel and have checked on their special rates, alas we can’t afford them. Our friends are to be found at the Celtic and they provide an delicious and ample English breakfast.

Today our time in London will be spent with simple elevations, attaining some of the higher points in London. We haven’t been here for three years and the skyline has already changed dramatically.

We head off on a long walk to Monument Station tube stop. It is good to know the place names, Monument station is the sight of “Monument Tower”. The tower has 311 steps to the top and it gives you a grand view of the city. The view is not only grand but also sobering. All that you can view is the playing field of the great London fire of 1666. The year prior the city was hit by the Bubonic Plague, it wrecked havoc throughout. The city was completely leveled and the fire went on for days. Over a square mile of the most densely populated city was turned to carbon. It was thought that 13,000 houses were destroyed, between 70 and 80,000 inhabitants were displace and over 87 churches were destroyed. A sobering moment indeed.

Our view from the top dictated that we find the next high point.

It was an old favorite, Tower Bridge. We have never wanted to stand in the long cues to cross over the Thames. Today we had an early start and we knew that the newly installed glass sidewalk was in place on the upper level of the Bridge. Another mile walk on a lovely day, what could be better. Tower Bridge also has an informative museum room that allows you to see the inner workings of this magnificent mechanical structure.

One of the recent buildings on the skyline is the Shard. It commands the attention of everyone in London and it wasn’t here 24 months ago. It almost seems a bit to much for this ancient city of Londinium. We had to deliberate (the price) for a few minutes to decide if we should afford the elevator ride to the top. We weren’t sure when we would be back in London so we took the ride! It was unusually smooth and imperceptibly fast. We blinked and found ourselves at the top of London…the top of Europe. The trains in the train yards looked like slow moving centipedes. The barge and boat traffic of the river was ever moving, freight, passengers & tourists. The Thames Clippers move workers and tourists with great efficiency at an affordable cost.

The cool thing about London is you can’t get lost as long as you orient yourself to the RIVER. A person learns quite quickly to understand where the river might be. The river is always downhill! It is so simple stupid that everything makes sense. You want to find the Thames? Roll a marble on the sidewalk and follow it, you’ll get to the Thames in no time at all!

The inner city of London is the size of the little lake that is in my community. My lake is five miles in circumference. This is approximately the distance from Tower Bridge (Tower of London) to Millennium Bridge. You can take a casual stroll around my lake or you can take an epic stroll around London, all in a day….you decide.

A favorite historic Calypsonian musician of mine was Lord Kitchener. He was captured on film (in the early 1950’s) as he was immigrating to London from Trinidad. A BBC film crew approached the freight liner ship as it came into port, found him and asked him to sing a song. With a bit of reluctance he mustered up enough courage to sing acapella.

“London, is the place for me,
London, this lovely city.
You can go to France or America,
India or Australia, but London is the place for me.”
“They’ll take you here, they’ll take you there,
They’ll make you feel like a millionaire,
London is the place for me.”

2 Replies to “The High Points of London”

  1. Another great story Bill, I have worked in London extensively from 1979 – 2007 had an office in Elephant and Castle for the UK mobile phone company O2 and I learned a few things I did mot know / forgotten from this well written article. I have commuted to London from Poole on the South Coast, and from Chepstow, and as a commuter you have little time to revisit UK and London history as work and family life predominates. Your comparison to NYC is interesting as I have always thought Americans learn the lesson of London and other UK cities and purposely planned places on a simplified grid system

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