London is a big fascinating city. Some distinct memories and impressions of our brief stop in May hang with me as we go into the summer. I’ll share a few random thoughts here and invite you to share yours in the comment section.
First, I’m sorry I didn’t do some kind of tour….it had been a lot of years –like 15–since I have been to London and I’m not sure I really got a sense for how it was laid out. A friend recommended some walking tours that absolutely sounded terrific but we didn’t get to do them either.
We did ride taxis though. I love the English taxis and their funny boxy shapes and spacial interiors. If you have never ridden in one, I think it is a “must do ” Probably very traditional people wouldn’t like that the taxis are adorned with advertisements. I didn’t mind. In fact, I liked some o f the designs.
I’ve always heard about Portobello Road–the place to go to find great treasures in London. We headed over there to check it out. I suspect I’m probably 10-15 years too late. Would be interesting to know. The narrow winding road hints at a wonderful charm but is now mostly touristy type shops. One shop intrigued me, but when I inquired about what appeared to me to be a vintage globe, I was told it was a copy. Darn. On closer look, we could see the signs that is was a reproduction.
It was on Portobello Road that we saw the this iconic British telephone booth repurposed and multi-tasking as an ATM machine.
I’m wondering where people go for “flea market” finds in London now. I asked around and told to go to the Old Spitafields Market but unfortunately we ran out of time and didn’t get there. Any suggestions?
A good friend recommended that we go to the Museum of London. It was a great recommendation and if you like history, it is a place to learn about London town. The top floor started with prehistoric times in the Thames Valley and covered all the eras through the times that Shakespear knew from the 1550s to 1660s when London was hit with wars, awful plagues and then a devastating fire. What a huge upheaval for the Londoners. The displays and videos really make history come alive.
I found it quite interesting that after the fire the city was rebuilt in ways that inspired the French to rebuild Paris without the fire as an impetus.
The lower level of the museum is a spectacular redo–only opened a couple of years ago. The Victorian Walk reminded me a bit of our own museum here in Grand Rapids showing life in an earlier era. I have never seen such an interesting interactive museum. I loved displays like this one of a traditional English tea service. The actual objects were in the front with a video of a maid service tea on the back ground. Some displays had quizzes and other interesting ways to keep you interested.
I also absolutely loved seeing the gilded bronze elevator cab from the Selfridges Department store, 1928. We’ve been watching the serious on PBS about this magnificent retailer and enjoyed seeing a real element.
I mentioned that I really liked the more interactive modern use of technology to one of the guides. She said that the lower floor was opened in 2010 and they felt that the modern use of technology was appropriate for the modern era it portrays.
After all the high tech stuff, we saw a wonderful contrast. One can view the fabulous Lord Mayor’s Coach. If you like seeing coaches from an earlier era be sure to go to the Coach’s Museum in Lisbon. It’s the place to see the best of the best. But, seeing the one in London–an actual working coach from the 18th century– is a real treat. It gets used every November.
Two other cities that have really excellent City Museums are Hong Kong and Paris. I’m wondering if any readers can recommend any others.