Affogato, Baltimore Black Eye, Black Tie, Breve, Caffè Americano, Café au lait, Café Bombón, Caffè latte and Caffè Marocchino are only a minute sample of the plethora of coffee available to the tired traveller in England’s capital city.
London in November, not everybody’s idea of a perfect destination in the winter, where so many of us now look for winter breaks in a warmer climate. But, for those willing to open their mind to the possibilities that England’s capital city can offer then a holiday can indeed be a pleasurable experience, even at the colder time of year.
One of the first things I noticed was that London quite possibly has more coffee shops per square feet than anywhere I have ever seen before, as the top coffee mercenaries battled it out to entice me with the promise of a creamy mocha or an iced Frappuccino, I was instantly attracted to a small café on a corner, no big brands, just good old fashioned English hospitality and warmth.
After paying rather more than I had expected for a coffee and bacon roll (London prices I expect) I settled into a window seat, and watched the many Londoners going about their business, like a hive of bee’s or nest of ants creating the production and commerce of the city to produce the sweet nectar which keeps our country alive. It is rather a nice feeling to watch everybody else rushing about and knowing that you don’t have to be anywhere, you don’t have to rush, but at times you can’t help but be dragged along by the relentless pace of the city.
Then as I watched the world go by in its tranquil way the peace was disturbed by the emergence of a squad of armed police, 12 men carrying machine guns slung over their shoulders, breaking through the bustling tranquility, breaking the quaint feeling and reminding me that the times we live in are not all so peaceful.
One of the more surprising experiences I had was the tube, I topped up my oyster card, and entered the platform as I headed to check into the hotel I would be staying at, and it was quiet, hardly a soul there.
After hearing the horror stories of people pressed together like sardines and nowhere to move I was happily surprised to find I would have a seat and near enough a compartment of the tube train to myself.
I counted my chickens before they had hatched, because after checking into my hotel, in a little side street in Kensington, I headed back to the tube station at around 3pm, and the difference was astounding, rush hour had started, and in London rush hour is the longest hour in all time, as it stretches from around 3pm to 7pm a staggering 4 hours of rush hour. Sardines have at least the area they lie on, on the tube at rush hour, I’m not even entirely sure the air I was breathing was my own, as I was pressed against from all sides, shoved, bumped and jolted to the next stop where the number getting off was significantly less that the number getting on.
Some people have told me that London is no destination for a holiday that its inhabitants are rude, unhappy and ungrateful, but I can tell you, to visit London is to be blown away by culture, beauty and radiance.
When you enter central London, the colors hit you like an explosion, the lights make the city glow with a radiance fit for the lordliest of men, and the sounds are a crazy orchestra of voice, machinery music and merriment. You forget the pain of the tube; you forget the rat race, because in the city that works hard, they also play hard.
In Leicester Square, bars, clubs, pubs, shopping centers, music venues, and cinemas alike, all throw open their doors and welcome their congregations, people drink, talk, romance and dance and all under the influence of London itself. It fills you with a sense of joy, to see the lights of Leicester square, the joys of Oxford Street and the neon glow of Piccadilly Circus in the night air.
London offers more attractions than can be listed, but some of the best ones include, Buckingham Palace, home of the queen, although these days the closest you can get is a perimeter fence patrolled by armed police.
Harrods offers a taste of the most elite shopping in Europe, containing children’s toys that are over £1000, bottles of whiskey over £5000 and cigars at £1000 per cigar, Harrods shows how the other half live.
Hamleys toy store is a child’s dream in living motion, as you walk in, there are toys whizzing and flying around the store, every kind of toy imaginable is in that shop, a brilliant place to take your children as long as you don’t mind splashing out on some extravagant toys.
However, the London Eye was the most awe inspiring and magnificent attractions I had the pleasure of visiting. I rode the Eye at night and as it made its slow ascension to the top of the wheel, I started to see all that London had to offer, Westminster, the houses of parliament and the House of Lords, Oxford Street and the shopping precinct and the River Thames snaking across the land below me. With the Christmas illuminations lit and lights on every tower London looked like a Christmas wonderland from the top of the wheel.
So, as I left London at the end of my two day stay, I felt that in my time here, I had hardly scratched the surface of the vibrant city. I sat back and watched the landmarks pass by for one last time and felt a twinge of sadness as the coach passed from the center of London, to the motorway and finally home.