Showing off London

When one has lived in one of the world’s most fabulous cities [not biased at all] for most of one’s life, its wonder can begin to fade and immunity to its charms grows. The best way to combat London fatigue is always to introduce it to someone with fresh eyes.

This week two Texans are visiting London (and the Matryoshka Haus community) with a view to moving here permanently at some point in the near future. We met them first during last year’s trip to France and it was great to reconnect on home ground – especially as they’ve never visited the UK before.

They arrived first thing Sunday morning (via a rigorous, on-plane, police search – welcome to London people!) and were immediately whisked off to Columbia Road in the heart of trendy Shoreditch for a community picnic. Succumbing to jet-lag wasn’t an option – the evening was spent introducing them to the eccentricities of the Brick Lane curry haggling process. All in all, it was a unconventional introduction to London, but typical of the things we as a group get up to.

I made up for it on Monday morning. What American, when in London for the first time, doesn’t have a tick list of tourist sites they secretly want to see? Red phone boxes, Big Ben, soldiers in furry hats, the Queen…I was fairly sure I could deliver on all but the last, even if it did require me to push aside my loathing of large gatherings of tourists.

We had just over an hour and in that time hit Big Ben (well, the tower as opposed to the bell and yes, that was one of the many ‘interesting’ facts I shared during my tour); Horse Guards; Downing Street; Westminster Abbey; Houses of Parliament; and the London Eye. Oh, and as a bonus, I took them to the best vantage point to get a glimpse of Buckingham Palace (the bridge over the pond in St James’ Park). We didn’t see the Queen, but I think that was a pretty thorough job in a short space of time.

Ok, I confess, I’m responsible for cropping Westminster Abbey. In my defence, taking photos with an iPad is very tricky…

What I forget, or become too accustomed to, is just how amazing the city is to people visiting for the first time. Simple things that we take for granted – like seriously old, beautiful buildings – are awe inspiring. Usually I’d cringe at taking photos of soldiers in furry hats, but when it brings joy to visitors, it would be wrong to be churlish! The exclamations heard when Tower Bridge was glimpsed while on a bus later in the afternoon would warm anyone’s heart. I must never forget just how lucky I am to live here.

As an aside, though I know many useless snippets of London information, it seems I’m lacking in some basic historical facts – like when Westminster Abbey was built. Clearly I need to buy a guide book and swallow it whole, then perhaps I could offer professional tours of the capital. All I’d need is a colourful umbrella…

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