Preconceived Notions: London, England

Posted by Christopher Wink on Oct 2, 2008 in Preconceived Notions |

Having never been in London before I’m shedding some thoughts on how I imagine that city before I yet see it. We landed last night, but, aside from a few train rides from the airort to the East London home of Sean’s brother where we’re staying and a Stella Artois or two, I haven’t seen a thing.

These preconceived notions are something you should come to expect here. As we arrive in each city, one of us will share with you how we imagine it. Then we’ll try to show you how wrong we learn we are.

London is one of the world’s banking hubs - so I imagine this global financial crisis we’re working on over here. As I result I suspect some skyscrapers have grown, though I can’t say I’ve ever seen, nor can now find a clear skyline photo. Its aged history, no doubt, keeps that from developing too thoroughly, I’d guess. Too many historical buildings - and federal bureaucracy - standing in the way.

My only European experiences before was a couple weeks metro hopping some of Italy’s major urban hubs in early 2007 and an extended stay in a German bar in the Frankfurt airport, waiting for a connecting flight. From those, I imagine American culture and commerce dotting the environs. I suspect my nationality will make me a bit higher profile, bringing me into more than one stereotype-naming competition. More broadly, I doubt I’ll find much traffic, with very little parking, gas prices that make me shriek, more walkable and mass transited major landscape playing transportation matchmaker.

From the summer I spent as a horse carriage historical tour guide in Old City, I spent plenty of time telling tourists about developments 18th century Philadelphia took on because of problems in London. William Penn wanted Philly to be a ‘green country towne’ to avoid the tight, dreary quarters of London. He wanted to break up the city with alleyways and wide roads - like Market and Broad Streets - to avoid disasters like the Great London Fire of the mid-17th century. Oh, and God bless Penn and his city grid system that became all the rage in the U.S., begining with its largest and most loved urban centers.

Thusly, I’m seeing those famed gray, cloudy skies of London looking over a dense, city center London with narrow, winding, convuluted roads. The green spaces will be rare, but buildings and sites with developed ages a dozen times more than American historical sites will be common. Oh, and they can’t still have any buildings not made of stone or brick, right?

Let’s see.

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