Last Updated on June 19, 2013 by
Culture creeps up on you in London.
Walk into a pub, The Haunch of Venison, in Salisbury and it just happens to be the very same pub in which Eisenhower and Churchill planned D-Day. In fact, you can sit where they sat – it’s over there in the corner where there’s two guys yelling about football. Without even knowing it, you’ve stumbled into history.
Another day, another pub- so you walk into Kensington’s Anglesea Arms because you really don’t want to walk all the way up the road and in the middle of a pint you find out that Dickens and D.H. Lawrence used to drink there a lot. Heck, it was even one of the favorite bars of Dickens. Just like that, you’re in the midst of literary history. You can’t escape history in London. It’s all around you and all you wanted to do was grab a pint.
Walk down the street and see the home of the great modernist poet, T. S. Eliot, or the beloved English home of the Kennedy’s.
Take a wrong turn when you’re trying to get to McDonald’s and you might run into where Virginia Woolf was born. A quiet walk down the park will put you nose to nose with a statue older than America, or drop you off in front of a palace.
History walks beside you when you traverse the streets of London. It talks to you from the street signs of Fleet Street or Abbey Road. It’s almost unbelievable how much the mundane can become special and how much the extraordinary becomes unforgettable simply because of where you are.
I was excited about seeing Elvis Costello play because he’s been a favorite artist of mine since before I was in elementary school, but I can honestly say that seeing him in the Royal Albert Music Hall was an experience that will never be equaled. Where else can I boast that I heard “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding” played on an organ bigger than my house and nearly older than my country. I simply couldn’t have had that experience anywhere else but here. Nowhere else competes with London in the mind-blowing casualness of its history. History, real history, places and people that changed the course of the world politically and intellectually, are so common that you’re nearly tripping over them.
London proves that history isn’t just good for slapping some plaque on a wall for nice place to snap a picture. A trip to the Tower of London opens up a history deeper, richer, and more complex than anything in the States. It introduces an unforgettable cast of characters and timeless stories, both lovely and dark. The whispers in the home of 221b Baker Street echo in television, movies, and countless stories. The music of Abbey Road, the Marquee club, and more boom out of speakers worldwide. The words of Shakespeare come to life in the Globe and make you both weep and laugh.
London provides the best education; no books are required, all you need are your feet. So, by all means, go see that First Folio or the Origin of the Species first edition in the free museums around Kensington but don’t forget to take a walk. You never know what you’re going to find.