Falling in Love with London

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Up close and personal with Big Ben

My appreciation of the sophistication and the pleasures of London grew immensely on this, my second visit to the city. I was mostly working on both occasions so didn’t get a chance to fully enjoy all there was on offer for tourists. I did manage to get out and about a bit, however. I compare London to New York, because it has the same bustling energy with its theatre district, iconic buildings and cosmopolitan populace and visitors. I think London is more refined than New York with much more tradition. I know that is a cliche, but I see why many others have come to same conclusion.

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Inside the Gielgud Theatre London

I love theatre and so we went to the West End to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, a play based on the 2003 novel by British author Mark Haddon. I didn’t read the book and my friend did, but we enjoyed the play equally. The 2 and 1/2 hours went by in  flash as I was swept up in the story. It gave me much more empathy for people who suffer from autism, which great theatre is supposed to do, get you into the story. I am always amazed at the sets, choreography and acting. I joke with other educators that seeing plays in London and Broadway has forever ruined high school plays for me. They just don’t compare. 🙂 I was curious which theatre district was bigger, Broadway or the West End. More people attend theatre productions in the West End than on Broadway, despite NYC having more venues and seats. London is the center of the English theatre world. The amount of great actors, and musicians for that matter, that have come out of London is amazing.

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Classic symbols of London – taxis, buses and umbrellas

The hotel was located in the neighborhood of Kensington, which is close to the football club Chelsea’s famous stadium, Stamford Bridge. I made the walk to see it and buy some gifts for my children who are avid soccer players. The apparel and souvenir shop rivaled that of the Green Bay Packers store at Lambeau Field. The Premier League is the most popular sporting league in the world and Chelsea one of the biggest clubs in the league. We didn’t get a chance to see a game because we were working all weekend. I do want to see a match the next time I am here.

On this trip I discovered the pleasure of the British pub. I can see why the concept has been copied the world over. Coming in from a cold wet evening, the atmosphere is very relaxing. I like seeing families in the pub and it has a much different feeling than a bar in the US. I had a fish and chips and sampled local craft beers. I enjoy watching people connecting with each other. It is one of my new year’s resolutions to take time out to sit in cafes or pubs and enjoy other people’s company. I am often too busy to take time out to reflect on life and have a good conversation with family and friends.

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Buckingham Palace Gates

On the morning of our arrival, we were trying to stay up so we took a long walk from the hotel, through Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace, to Westminster Abbey and the Thames. London is a great city for walking, like Manhattan. Walking is so good one’s health, I see why there are less obese people in places where walking is encouraged or convenient. I was so impressed with the Tate Modern Art Museum, which is down river from Big Ben. The architects converted an abandoned power station, maintaining the industrial feel, but turning it into a work of art. There were pieces by Picasso, Dali and others. We spent several hours going through the exhibitions. I like how the city government places an importance on the arts, both theatre and the visual arts. Experiencing the fine arts makes us more human and it is another reason why I love London. Next door to Tate is a replica of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, which was not open on a winter, weekday morning.

London has become one of my favorite cities in the world and I hope to come back with my family to see it again.

“When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford” — Samuel Johnson
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