When its colossal overseas empire was finally dismantled with by the 1960’s, Britain shrank to being again an island-nation, but it never ceased to exert an enormous influence in world affairs and culture, and as such, Britain’s contribution goes further than being the cradle of English, Shakespeare and The Beatles. In terms of tourism, Britain is rather unique in its landscapes, attractions and culture, much of them becoming an integral part of world culture and even daily life.
What can be said of London which its own landmarks haven’t done already? For centuries, England’s (and Britain’s) capital and largest city has been the magnet of so much wealth, art, culture and politics that it arguably replaced the ancient cities of Athens and Rome to become a ‘New Rome’ in its own right. The immense cultural influence of London has made it a major global destination, and the myriad variety of attractions is simply too much to be jotted down into a few places here and there because there’s just not enough you can do and visit in such a tremendously vibrant, cosmopolitan city. London has become so remarkably influential that it’s arguably impossible to really see something truly ‘British’ about it except its unique cultural, linguistic and culinary diversity, making London more of a world capital than a state one.
From Medieval to Elizabethan, to Georgian, to Victorian, to Edwardian, to 20th century, each segment of London bears the grace and greatness each monarch left in his or her reign. A ‘modest’ (and we really mean modest) trip to London would include Westminster Abbey, the headquarters of Britain’s Parliament and the so emblematic Big Ben clock; the iconic Tower of London; Buckingham Palace (try catching a glimpse of Kate and William, maybe even the Queen!); the Victoria and Albert Museum (museums in Britain are FREE!); the modern London Eye; and for the lovers of shopping…Harrods? Marks and Spencer? Anyone? Try Europe’s most bustling shopping street, Oxford (its lights are fantastic during Xmas); or head to the hip Picadilly Circus for a daze of the giant LED Broadway lights.
If you couldn’t catch a glimpse of the rich and famous, why! You can have them all at your disposition at Madame Tussauds’ famed wax museum. And if London reminds you of Shakespeare, why not visit the Globe Theatre on the banks of The Thames and experience his plays as they would have been played 5 centuries ago.
London is also a major culinary centre in the world and chances are you’ll find more restaurants offering international cuisine than anything else. Indian chicken tikka masala (said to be, humorously, Britain’s national dish), Thai tom yang goon, Middle Eastern kebab or mezze, Caribbean jerked chicken, Chinese beef chow fun, Russian stroganov, German sauerbraten, French bouillabaisse, Afghan kabuli palaw, Italian chicken parmigiana, Spanish paella, Greek youvetsi, Moroccan couscous, African chakalaka…an endless list of scrumptious dishes as fascinating to the palate as their nationalities are to the eyes. If you wish to culminate your trip with a journey to the obscure, mysterious entrails of history, take the train to the southwest, to Grateley on the London-Salisbury Lane, and be inspired by the ever verdant English countryside. From there head to nearby Amesbury, the UK’s oldest, continuously inhabited place; and 2 miles away is the famous Stonehenge Neolithic complex. Try to wonder how they got those stones there, and above all, what for?
The sonorous tune of a bagpipe over the Highlands…A very romantic place is Scotland, with its rolling hills, verdant valleys veined by streams, and its towering mountains. No wonder its dramatic landscape has been the inspiration for the likes of Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, and even foreign composers like Mendelssohn, whose third symphony was dubbed ‘The Scottish”. In fact, Edinburgh itself has had an immense role in the arts, literature and politics, with major characters either hailing from or having resided there, like Samuel Johnson, Arthur Conan Doyle, Adam Smith, J.K. Rowling, Charles Darwin, and Sean Connery. Edinburgh has also been a major centre of science, with many engineering and learning centres like the famed University of Edinburgh. But what makes the city so much appealing is its unique Old Town skyline. It preserves many Medieval and Reformation era buildings, cobbled streets and a picturesque profile seldom seen elsewhere. The main landmarks are Edinburgh Castle with the quaint Grassmarket at its bottom, and the area containing Holyrood Palace, the monarch’s official residence in Scotland. Edinburgh is also home to great museums, like the National Museum of Scotland, the National Gallery of Scotland, and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which houses some of Britain’s finest collections of paintings. Edinburgh is also packed with crowded, cheery pubs and cafes. Beyond the city is a breathtaking expanse of verdant valleys, crags, rolling hills and country mansions all forming the pre-requisites for a truly romantic painting.