Several years ago, during a third trip to England, I was urged to visit outside London, convinced I had seen all — or most — of what the city had to offer.
And so off I went to Manchester, a lovely walking city with local shops that sit alongside stores the likes of Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Armani and DKNY.
True enough, this is a very interesting city, since many firsts happened in Manchester, including the first professional football league. It was also the birthplace of various pop groups, like Herman’s Hermits and the Bee Gees.
I made sure to visit Shakespeare’s birthplace at Stratford-Upon-Avon, and experienced a play at the Royal Shakespeare Company Theater.
Then I traveled to Warwick Castle, originally constructed in 1068 on the order of William the Conqueror. I took a tour of Britain’s capital of china, including a trip to the famed Wedgwood pottery center, where I not only saw how Wedgwood was made, I even got a chance to “throw” my own pot, later colored with the famous blue Wedgwood glaze and shipped to me at home.
But after several days of seeing the countryside, admittedly a beautiful part of the world, I simply had to head back to London. I missed it terribly and, as noted writer Samuel Johnson once said, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life, for there is in London, all that life can offer.”
Well, I certainly wasn’t tired of life or London, and that is especially true now, during two major events: the queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and the 2012 Olympics.
Queen Elizabeth, who ascended the throne in 1952, celebrated her Silver Jubilee (25 years) in 1977, and her Golden Jubilee (50 years) in 2002. And just last week, the whole nation geared up to help celebrate the queen’s Diamond Jubilee (60 years). The only other British monarch to celebrate such an event was Queen Victoria in 1897.
Millions came to London for the Jubilee and took part in dozens of events, hoping to catch a glimpse of the queen as she attended the Epsom Derby, or floated down the River Thames in one of the largest flotillas ever seen.
The government granted a four-day holiday (June 2–5) featuring jam-packed events in Elizabeth’s honor, from a concert at Buckingham Palace to several special exhibitions all across London, many of which will continue over the coming months.
In case you miss some of the events, you can still experience beautiful London for yourself. Maybe you won’t be one of thousands to join in all the ceremonies, but you too can float down the Thames in a riverboat, probably one of the best ways to “tour” the town.
Or you can see Westminster Abby, where kings, queens, statesmen, aristocrats, poets, priests, heroes and villains are all part of the church’s fascinating history.
Or take in the Tower of London, one of the world’s most famous fortresses, that has seen service as a royal palace, prison, armory and even a zoo.
Or ride atop the London Eye, one of London’s most popular tourist attractions since being opened in 2000. You can see all around for 25 miles, even as far as Windsor Castle on a clear day.
And then, of course, London will be playing host to the Olympic Games, expected to draw nearly six million visitors between July 27 and Aug. 12. These make London the first city ever to have hosted the Games three times.
It is estimated that some 10,500 athletes will participate in events at the Olympic Stadium in London’s Olympic Park. These Games are then followed by the Paralympics, slated for Aug. 29 to Sept. 9.
And after all is said and done, London is the perfect place to visit anytime of the year for a taste of history, food and fun.