We’re off to London now, where Chance runs a coffee shop (with chocolates of course) in the shadow of the London Eye. London is the largest urban centre in the European Union with a population of nearly 8 million. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its founding by the Romans, who called it Londinium. (Which seriously, I think they should think about calling it again.) Between 1831 to 1925 London was the biggest city in the world. It has a hugely diverse population and over 300 languages are spoken there. In 2012, London will host the Olympic games for the third time. Of course there are museums, royal palaces (and royalty if you are lucky), shops, restaurants, you name it, you can find it in London.
Clare has offered us a few suggestions for places to visit on our trip to her city. First up of course, the titular landmark in her first Petit Morts story, the London Eye. The London Eye is a massive Ferris wheel which opened to the public in March 2009. It is 135 m (443 ft) high and the wheel carries 32 sealed and air-conditioned passenger capsules. Each capsule holds 25 people, who are free to walk around inside the capsule. It rotates at 26 cm (10 in) per second (about 0.9 km/h or 0.6 mph) so that one revolution takes about 30 minutes. The wheel does not usually stop to take on passengers; the rotation rate is slow enough to allow passengers to walk on and off. It is the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe and over 3.5 million visitors take a ride every year. I am NOT a fan of Ferris wheels but Clare claims it moves so slowly that you don’t feel creeped out and because it’s enclosed I wouldn’t have that “I’m going to fall out and die” feeling. Next time I’m in London I shall give it a try. For this view I’ll take my chances.
After our exciting aerial view of the city, we’re going to explore at ground level and head over to the Borough Market to pick up something for lunch. The market, which has focused historically on fruits and vegetables, has in recent years added stalls dealing with the fine food retail market. The market has been in existence in some form since 1014 and in its present location since 1756. Borough Market has become a fashionable place to buy food. It has been promoted by British television chefs and has been used as a film set. Notable films with scenes filmed in the streets around the market include: Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001), Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004).
Now we’re going to take a trip to somewhere more exotic, Chinatown. I had the pleasure of visiting Chinatown one year around Chinese New Year. It looked very much like this picture with hundreds of lanterns and many more people. The first area in London known as Chinatown was located in the Limehouse area of the East End of London. At the start of the 20th century, the Chinese population of London was concentrated in that area, setting up businesses which catered to the Chinese sailors who frequented in Docklands. The area began to become known through exaggerated reports and tales of (legal) opium dens and slum housing, rather than the Chinese restaurants and supermarkets in the current Chinatown. By the late 1960s, the current Chinatown was truly established as a centre for London’s Chinese community – now numbering in the tens of thousands as more and more Chinese workers arrived from the British territory of Hong Kong. It’s a relatively small area but it’s fascinating and not just a few Chinese restaurants or shops tucked in with other businesses. I saw things in shop windows that I’m not sure I knew what they were, but the meal I had there was delicious.
I found this picture on the Chinatown website and it really caught my eye.
I hope you enjoyed our little visit to London. Like so many cities, one day or even a week is not enough to see everything in London. Perhaps a month, if you can afford it. A city which always has something new to find every time you return. Thanks to Clare for sharing London with us.