Does a holiday count if you decide to stay in the same city? To visit the sights and sounds that is normally mundane and routine? Well, we have a much quoted maxim, you never bother to see Madamme Tussaud's unless a visitor is in town. Well, last month I decided to head out into the city, and explore it, just a little. So join me this week, as I take you on a mini-tour of some of London's more fashionable (and quirky) sights.
The City of London, sometimes known as The Square Mile, due to the historical size of the old Roman settlement. Well, it is a Monday, and after a frivolous weekend of shopping delights, we all have to get back to work on Monday morning, to slave away at our desks and look forward to another weekend of shopping delights! And where else to work, but at the very heart of it all, where London really began - the City of London, more commonly referred to by its colloquialism, The City.
(The Bank of England in all its Glory)
The City is a financial powerhouse, and despite the ravages that our economy has supposedly undergone, there are still new buildings heading upward towards the sky. The future is bright, especially when the government subsidises you!
The City has traditionally been a low-rise contraption. But deregulation of the financial sector in the 1980's led to a surge in the economy. Loadsamoney! And those ancient sightlines (more about these tomorrow) to St Paul's Cathedral, were silently shaved off. Slowly towers rose up. First came the Natwest Tower (now Tower 42):
Then came the Lloyds Building:
But The City never really had any iconic structures until the arrival of the Gherkin, or 30 St Mary's Axe to give it its official name.
Ah, the Gherkin, what a legachy of the Noughties this was. Flash cash, but with a touch of style, it stands out. A mistake, probably not, but a wee bit embarrassing of the times. That is the social commentary. As a structure, I think it is gorgeous. Not the tallest skyscraper in London, but probably the prettiest, and it has become iconic in its own way. If approaching from the East End, it stands out, amongst the other tall structures of The City, while from south London, its curvy shape is instantly recognisable amongst the other office blocks in this part of town.
The City of London itself is a fascinating place to wander around. On a weekday, this tiny section of London is filled with workers from across the metropolis. On weekends it is a ghost town, devoid of life, with roads eerily quiet. Both are wonderful times to go for a wander. The hustle and bustle contrasted with tranquility. The City is surprisingly cultural however, with its Ancient churches dotting the landscape and providing quiet oases of charm in the urban fabric. The excellent Museum of London is also based here, and there are other outlets to visit including the Corporation's own headquarters - Guildhall:
As well as St Paul's which lies in the heart of The City.
The City of London is often overlooked by visitors as a place where there are offices and one great big cathedral. But it is also a place which holds a certain charm. It is the oldest part of London, although very little remains of the original Roman settlement. It is the core of London, and reason why it exists today. As the starting point of the metropolis, it does hold a special place in the fabric of London. It is also socially fascinating. Watch those arrogant flash things mingle with the minimum wage cafe workers. Or watch the difference in society as the most powerful individuals in the country dominate during weekdays, while in the wee small hours of the morning, an army of illegal workers clean their offices and makes sure everything is nice and neat. Come on, this is me here, El Director, you do not think I am going to let go of a piece of social commentary, especially here, in the heart of London town, where there is probably no greater gap between rich and poor anywhere else on this planet in such a short distance!
Getting there and away:
The City is at the heart of London and as is such, is easily served by numerous tube stations and bus routes. The Central Line from Chancery Lane to Liverpool Street cuts right through the middle of the city, and any of the stations in between these two points will give you ample access to the rest of the Square Mile.
Bus routes 8/N8, 15/N15, 26/N26, 63/N63 341, 344 and 388 are the most scenic ways to cross The City, but really, the best thing to do is just walk it through!