London, City for the World
Two hours on Eurostar took me across one time zone, under one channel and over a language divide. Brussels to London by train in nearly the time it takes Chicago commuters to travel downtown via the Kennedy Expressway on a rainy night is a modern wonder. My train departed Brussels midi, two quick metro stops from our house, at 10:56am. An hour an nine minutes later, after our single stop in Lille, France, we headed into the Channel Tunnel, the engineering marvel that we Americans call the Chunnel. The tunnel is a little over 31 miles long, 23 1/2 of which is under the sea. I clocked it. My train popped into the tunnel at 12:05 and popped out at 12:28, a mere twenty-three minutes.
At 11:56, exactly two hours after departure and allowing for a change in time zone, we pulled into Saint Pancras station in London. A short walk later and I arrived at the flat of my dear friend, Gia. Her invitation to a black-tie installation at the Worshipful Company of Management Consultants was the reason for my visit. I met, Gia twenty-eight years earlier when we were both students at The London Business School. Gia isn’t a native Londoner but she considers the city home, having lived there for over thirty years. Residents from every country of the old empire, the new commonwealth and just about every other nation on earth, makes London an International city.
I’ve been coming to London since my parents brought my sister and me to London for my first trip outside the United States in 1977, the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. I was a wide-eyed teenager soaking in all of the sights that I grew up with in the movies, television and literature. My high school AP English teacher gave me instructions to visit Poet’s corner in Westminster Abbey, Dr. Johnson’s house off of Fleet Street as well as the Old Curiosity Shop, made famous by Dickens. Mary Poppins and Walt Disney may have fed my fascination for London, but it was true love at first sight.
Thirty Seven years and dozens of trips later, London still impresses me. I fall in love again with the double decker buses, roomy black cabs, efficient Underground, and historical buildings. The British Museum never loses its charm. And, from the gridlocked sidewalks of Piccadilly Circus, Regents Street, Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square and the re-invented south bank of the Thames, it appears that London has captivated the world.
While I make sure to dine at least once on traditional fish & chips washed down with a pint of warm English ale, London’s culinary gems are endless. Gone are the days that dinners meant roast meat, boiled potatoes, greasy puddings and overcooked vegetables.
Architecture too has come of age in London. The Shard, Cheese-grater, and Walkie-Talkie have joined the Gherkin as metal and glass additions to the centuries old monuments of granite, marble and stone.
I hope to keep coming back to London. In fact, I’ve made a pledge to call this amazing city home once again. Fortunately, my spouse, Jim agrees with my taste in cities.