Thursday, June 12, 2014

Walk London

I recently returned to the quiet streets of Portsmouth after spending ten days walking the bustling boulevards of London. As you would expect, there are striking differences between here and there. Steering wheels are on the right side of the cars instead of the left, and vehicles drive on the left instead of the right. Normally, slower traffic keeps left for faster vehicles to pass on the right. Contrary to the roads, however, when you're riding an escalator, you're expected to stand on the right to allow people to pass you on the left. Odd.

Hazards for international travelers are everywhere.

Painted signs on the pavement at busy intersections remind pedestrians to "Look right" or "Look left" before crossing. 
You have to watch for cars taking a "left turn on red after stop", and be wary of yellow lights, which usually indicate that a red traffic signal is about to turn green, rather than a green light to red.

In London, horses and riders, and an occasional carriage, are common sights. Sadly, you rarely see equestrians in Portsmouth any more.

A major difference between the two cities is the age and size of the buildings. The oldest surviving building in Portsmouth is the Jackson House at 76 Northwest Street, built around 1664. The second oldest extant house is the 1680 Dennett House on Prospect Street. These are relative newcomers compared to the Tower of London's White Tower, constructed more than 900 years ago, around 1078. 

Tower of London and the 1078 White Tower
Construction of Southwark Cathedral, on the south side of the Thames, began in the early 1200s; and on the north side, Westminster Abbey opened in 1245. King Henry VIII's Hampton Court Palace dates from the early 1500s, Kensington Palace will celebrate its 410th birthday in 2015, and the Banqueting House in Westminster, where King Charles I was beheaded in 1649, was constructed in 1619.

Southwark Cathedral, circa 1220
Westminster Abbey, 1245

Hampton Court Palace, early 1500s 

Kensington Palace, 1605

Banqueting House, 1619

Some of the 'old' buildings in London were actually built centuries after the time periods they are meant to represent. For example, the Gothic-style Westminster Palace, where Parliament meets, was completed in 1870. Tower Bridge, a relatively modern achievement that opened in 1894, was intentionally built in a Victorian-Gothic style to complement the ancient Tower of London, which stands near the bridge's northern end.

Parliament opened as Westminster Palace in 1840

Tower Bridge, 1894

No comments:

Post a Comment