"I have to be seen to be believed."

-Queen Elizabeth II

The "see-to-believe" sentiment isn't just applicable to the Queen. London is a cultural hub full of rich history and modern marvels. While London's setting has been exhausted in film and books, travelers cannot truly understand the city until they have seen it for themselves. 

The Smoke in All Its Glory

Story by: Mary Kathryn Carpenter 

Red buses, red telephone booths, and red, white and blue flags surround passerbys in waterproof coats as they shuffle from their workplaces and train stations and pubs.

The sound of rushing wind gives way to the whirring of vehicles driving in circles on the wrong side of the road, giving tourists a visible sense of anxiety as they obey the painted letters on the ground that say “look right” for oncoming traffic.


“It’s quite lovely, isn’t it?” said the cashier within the Kensington Palace gift shop, recognizing that it might not seem lovely to the herds gathering in the shelter from the light sprinkle of frigid rain.


“That’s London for you,” she said, laughing quietly and briefly as she went off to help a visitor retrieve a teapot off the highest shelf.


That wasn’t how London had always been, however. They weather, maybe, but the history of the city extends back nearly 2,000 years where the zooming and honking of taxis and double-decker busses weren’t even a wildest dream, let alone the reality of the city.


Founded by the Romans in 50 AD, the city has gone through transformation after transformation, plague after plague, and war after war, and still, somehow, stands.


The tarnish of time can be seen in worn walls and worn roads, especially in some of the major attractions foreigners are most drawn to, including the Elizabeth Tower, which houses Big Ben.  The iconic landmark is currently shrouded from view as it is under repair. Only the face of the clock is able to peek out through its cloak of scaffolding.


However, the tarnish tends to add charm to the city, giving it a lived-in look that can be found in knickknack-crowded corners of pubs or musicians playing in the tunnels of the Tube.


Thousands of years later, the city still brings people back.

  • Apple Maps and Google Maps provide transit navigation. 

  • Other useful applications: City Mapper and Tube Map. 

  • Oyster cards allow travelers to load funds for fares on the Underground and/or buses. This can be done at the station or online. Contactless payment is also accepted. 

  • For more information visit: 

Mary Kathryn

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