London: Fascinating blend of antiquity and modernity

The oldest pub in the City of London

The oldest pub in the City of London

When we think of major cities in the world, New York, London and Paris often comes to mind. I had the chance to first visit New York back in 2008, and Paris in 2011, but not London. In my head, London was this… modern (old?) European city, Queen’s abode… I actually had very little idea of what London really is.

I had the opportunity to visit London last month, and she blew my mind.

The layers (literally) of history in this city, including roads buried underneath dating back to the time of the Romans, were fascinating. When you stand in the middle of the old City of London, you are literally setting foot on historic greatness. I must admit that I have been pretty ignorant to European history all these years, and it was interesting to learn that London originated from Roman Londinium around AD50 and grew to become the commercial center for the Roman Empire. Back in the days, imagine the volume of trade flowing through this one tiny spot in Britain – silk, tea, sugar and all the precious goods from the Silk Road.

And then you walk down to the River Thames and stare across the body of water into the Eye of Sauron – the towering Shard representing the modern world, all 87 storeys of it. I won’t go on to describe modernity – you should have a pretty good idea of that.

Random quirky things:

1. The Wedding Cake, as we know it today, originated from one man in the City of London. Inspired by the spire of a building in the old City of London, he produced a layered cake and presented it as a gift to ask for a hand in marriage. The birth of a tradition.

2. The Lord Mayor of London who governs the merchant guilds in the old City of London still exists as a function today. This sounds ridiculous but the Queen of England  actually needs to seek permission to enter the Old City of London from the Lord Mayor. At her entrance, the Lord Mayor presents a sword to her (presumably relenting his power to her), before she steps into the Old City. The last time this happened during Margaret Thetcher’s funeral, the Lord Mayor tripped and almost took off the Queen’s head … apparently the sword was too heavy for him!

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