December 28, 2010

Being a Tourist in London on Christmas Day

In general the whole of Europe shuts down for Christmas Day. In London the Tube and buses do not run, the streets are deserted, and most of the businesses close. However, this is not disastrous for tourists in the city on that day. Actually, it presents an interesting opportunity.

On Christmas Day we headed out to walk around London and visit several of historic sites. The street outside our hotel was almost empty - only a few cars and people going about their way. But, as soon as we walked onto a main street we joined the rest of the tourists that were out and about.

We began by walking towards St Paul's Cathedral via Oxford Road, Kingsway, and Fleet Street.

We arrived at the cathedral early in the afternoon. Inside was quiet and the sheer size of the building takes a different perspective. From the outside it definitely dominates the skyline of the neighborhood and places a part in the silhouette of the city overall. But, on the inside the massive size of the almost empty space was overwhelming.

After stopping to visit St Paul's Cathedral we walked out onto the Millennium Bridge to get a view up and down the river. This is a modern and marvelous food bridge that was constructed for London's New Year's Eve celebrations to mark the beginning of the 2000s.

Next we headed to the infamous Tower of London. Sitting upon the banks of the Thames this mid-evil castle is dwarfed by the larger and newer buildings that have been added to the landscape in the centuries since it was built. But it still stands sturdy with its many walls and towers.

From there we retraced our steps to Kingsway and then turned onto the Strand. We continued walking until we arrived at Trafalgar Square. The sun had set by this time. Lights illuminated the National Gallery building and Christmas lights twinkled around the square. At a distance we could see The light clock tower of Parliament - Big Ben.

From Trafalgar Square we turned back towards our hotel, our home while we are here in London. While traveling by foot in a city as large as London it is a rewarding experience. There are many hidden alleyways, unique buildings, and other interesting sights to see that are too small or insignificant to be featured on a tourist map but give the visitor a great perspective of the city.

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