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Discovering London

Last night, I discovered London. You'd think I would have managed to do this before. I lived in Camden for a year when I was young, and greater London (Cheam, Great Bookham) in recent years. But when I was young, I never really ventured out on my own, and when I was older, I only went into the city for very focused visits. I've never been a full-fledged tourist in London, nor was I ever really a local of anything central.

We met up with Mary, a friend from my degree at York, for dinner, for conversation, for catching up on each others' lives, and for presents. Thanks to her decision, we met in Trafalgar Square. I've been there any number of times for the National Gallery, but never had a sense for how it related to anything else in central London, except via the Underground. This time, after our goodbyes, we walked back to our hotel. It was a revelation.

We walked down Whitehall, right across from the National Gallery, past the cabinet offices, past the Queen's Guards headquarters, past the black gates of Downing Street, past Whitehall, Big Ben framed by the street's end, its painted ornamentation crisp and endlessly renewed, the London Eye towering beyond the parliament offices, the Millennium Bridge glimmering white over the trees. I know the stretch of Thames from Parliament to Southwark Cathedral quite well, but had never connected it to other London landmarks. We walked on, not much further, and we hadn't even come very far. We walked past a battery of red phone booths, a dying sights in a land of mobile phones, past Westminster Abbey, and moments later, we were back at the hotel, an improbably competitive place right near St. Jame's Park and Scotland Yard. Suddenly, London was small.

I know well that at its heart, London bears the patterns of its Medieval past, the core within the city walls, the now-buried waterways. Yet, despite being a map lover, I'd never really looked, never really saw how it all connected, never walked the heart of the city. Today, eleven horses, ten with riders, clip-clopped by at 6:30 am, through the gloom of morning. I hurried to look, their presence an echo of transportation past, of London past.


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Dec. 22nd, 2004 08:12 pm (UTC)
Your last paragraph gave me a chill. I love those moments when the past and the present seem to merge seamlessly...

Have a wonderful time in London. How I envy your chance to see it at Yuletide!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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