“So poetry, which is in Oxford made An art, in London only is a trade.”
I have been reading quotes to try and find the one that fits my recent City of London experience. Having also spent some time in Oxford, this one by John Dryden seemed to fit. He died in 1700, but it still applies today. London is a city of business, be it trade or tourism. The fantasy of the history is long gone, and swallowed up by commerce and commercialism.
I don’t want what I write to come off as anti-London, because I am far from that. But after spending a month in England I saw both sides, and appreciate what has been preserved vs what has been given up in the name of progress.
When thinking of London the things that come to mind are the Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben. All these things, and more, are the history of London. The Tower of London’s construction began as early as 1080, Buckingham Palace was built in the early-mid 1700’s, and Big Ben c. 1859. As a tourist you will listen to your guide giving you these facts and dates and marvel that the buildings are still there. But here is where you stop looking at it all through rose colored glasses.
As you look at this photograph you see the people sitting in the foreground. We are on a boat on the Thames getting ready to dock. Modern buildings to the left and skyscrapers tower overhead, but lost in the middle sits the Tower of London. In your mind you think “Tower”, and this is it. Looking small and dwarfed by the buildings around it.
When we started this boat trip we were at the Parliament building. A very large and grand structure. But it also hit me, all the people! All tourists. All there for one reason, to work their way down the list of places to see. To rush to one place, stand in line to pay an exorbitant entry fee, hurry through with all the other tourists, tick the box, and dash onto the next one on the list.
Dotting the landscape were carts set up with overpriced London themed trinkets and souvenirs for sale. Lines everywhere, money flowing faster than the pints in the pubs. Personally I got more from watching a documentary on these buildings than from being there. We were part of it. We had our list. The soul and spirit of what was, just isn’t.
We went to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. The crowd was insane! I stood next to a tour guide who told me she had never seen this many people there at this time of year. What isn’t shown in these photographs is that there were so many more people to the left, and right of me. They were lined up all the way around the Victoria Memorial and beyond.
After our Lunch at the Tower, at one point I was so disgusted as I watched a man walk his family across the street. Through heavy traffic, with no apparent concern for their wellbeing, when there was a crosswalk just a few feet down the street.
It was at this point that I realized what was to come was the real England. The places I wanted to see, and take my youngest to see – Brighton, Oxford, Hever and everywhere else we went. The England of the history books, and the England of today. What has been preserved and cared about, and mostly the family and friends that live there. They are the heart and soul; what was missing during those days in London.