Access London (Access Guides)

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9780062771612: Access London (Access Guides)

Who designs hats for the royal family? Which hotels offer the best afternoon tea? Where to find the former residences of Churchill, Mozart and Virginia Woolf? Color-coded entries clearly highlight everything you need to know about London--the city's best restaurants, hotels, shops, parks, and sights. Follow our well-charted trail' it's all you'll ever need and more.

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About the Author:

Access Press is a team of writers from across the United States that travel frequently, and know what you want and need from a guidebook and what you don't like and don't need.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

 

Orientation

A provincial settlement on the edge of the civilized world; a trading district dominated by merchants and aldermen; a royal stronghold; a center of politics, power, and culture ... London has had almost as many faces as it has years of history. England's capital and Britain's seat of government has evolved over the centuries from an area covering just 677 acres into a vast 620-square-mile metropolis along the north and south banks of the River Thames, home to seven million citizens.

Indeed, London is not one but several cities coexisting in the same space. Look up at Big Ben on a bright autumn morning, or stroll along the Embankment on a warm summer evening at sunset and you'll find the London of film sets, complete with red double-decker buses, chunky black cabs, and umbrella-toting politicians. Look closer, and catch a glimpse of local London, comprising 32 highly individual boroughs, each with its own mayor and council, not to mention its own special quirks and charms. An elegant town house atmosphere permeates Mayfair, for example, while the literary legacy of Virginia Woolf's era clings to Bloomsbury. To the east, finance still dominates the original City, or Corporation, of London; meanwhile, law and politics rule sober Westminster.

Of course, there is also historic London, seat of cathedrals and kings. The city was established roughly 2,000 years ago, first as a Celtic settlement, then as Londinium, a lonely Roman outpost that eventually grew into the hub of an empire extending around the globe. The city is a survivor, having outlasted a whole series of catastrophes: Queen Boadicea of the Celts burned the city to the ground in AD 61, but within a few years it had risen from the ashes; the Great Plague swept through in 1665, followed by the Great Fire of 1666, but neither disaster nor the 20th-century Blitz could annihilate the city's collective soul or the souls of its inhabitants past and present. Famous ghosts from every epoch cohabit here-in just one day you may happen upon Henry VIII or Anne Boleyn in the Tower of London, William Shakespear in Southwark, and Charles Dickens in Tavistock Square. Even modern redevelopment plans have failed to tarnish London's grandeur: St. Paul' s Cathedral retains its majesty, despite the cheerless and now derelict glass and-steel structures that now crowd it on Paternoster Square.

But no city thrives on its past alone. Modern London stands tall, in the spaceage Lloyd's of London Building, in the high-tech Docklands developments, and in the best of con-temporary art and theater, as well as in the fast-food joints that have cropped up on various corners. "Modern British" describes the inventive, eclectic cooking of a new generation of chefs who base their dishes on British ingredients but draw on the best of international food and flavor combinations, using such seasonings as lemongrass, coriander, white truffle oil, and pairing quail with foie gras and wild mushrooms or monkfish with herb risotto arid tomato confit. Trendy restaurants are booming, and the fashion scene is rated the most exciting in the world by international designers who have opened their flagship stores here. But, to be honest, London also possesses a dark side, with an undercurrent of racial tension in the East End; a class system that produces its own special problems, including stereotypes perpetuated by something as simple as an accent or dialect; the homeless, who huddle under railway bridges; and, of course, crime. The infamous pea-soup fogs have disappeared, but they've been replaced by noxious exhaust fumes arid grime-mostly from cars jamming narrow streets and alleyways never meant to cope with modern-day traffic.

For all its problems, however, the magic of London acts as an elixir for tourists: 27.7 million of them visited in 1998 alone. Some come for the West End musicals; some for the fashion of Bond Street and Knightsbridge; some to wander the spacious parks and meet history face-to-face; others to explore the modern street culture that thrives in tiny art galleries arid pulsates in clubs and discos. Whatever the reason, visitors to London share an affect ion for a city that is at once ancient and modern, reserved and tempestuous - an ever-changing kaleidoscope of a metropolis.

 

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