United Kingdom – London

  • London is the ninth largest city in the world and the largest metropolitan area in the European Union. If London was a country it would be the eighth largest in Europe.
  • Ancient Londinium (London gets its name from the Roman settlement) was where the current ‘City of London’ stands. This is the financial district and is often referred to as the ‘square mile’, demarcated as it is, by its medieval boundaries.
  • In Britain, motorists drive on the left – except for one road: Savoy Court, leading into the Savoy Hotel, where cars enter and exit on the right. This was changed by an act of parliament, to enable women to exit cars first, since they traditionally sat behind the driver (from horse and carriage days). Politicians socialise here, which explains matters. The Prime Minister, when visiting, dines at table 1, in the River Restaurant which has the Houses of Parliament as a backdrop.
  • London will host the Olympics for the third time in 2012 (1908 and 1948). The first city to do so.
  • Richard the Lionheart introduced swans to Britain in the 12th century, from Cyprus. Mute swans on parts of the Thames are owned by the Crown. Claiming and counting them, is known as Swan Upping.
  • London has more international visitors than any other city in the world: 15.3 million per year –  the next highest are: Hong Kong with 12 million, Bangkok and Singapore with just over 10 million, followed by Paris with 8.7 million and New York with 7.7 million.
  • More languages are spoken in London than in any other city in the world (270).
  • Big Ben, as everyone should hopefully know – is the bell, not the clock. The tower it’s housed in, is simply referred to as the Clock Tower (not St. Stephen’s Tower, which is above the public entrance). The Houses of Parliament are part of the greater Palace of Westminster, built by Barry and Pugin in the mid-19th century.
  • The current London Bridge, is the third with that name to span the Thames. The first stood from 1209-1831 and famously contained houses and shops. The second by John Rennie, built to replace the original, lasted until 1968, when it was sold to an American entrepreneur. The outer cladding stones were shipped to Lake Havasu City in Arizona and added to a concrete base, where it still stands today. The current London Bridge was opened in 1973 and is the only bridge controlled by the City of London Corporation (historically protecting its commercial guilds which originated in the medieval period), however only half the span of the river underneath is in their jurisdiction – making it unique in British law. (The famous one in all the photos is ‘Tower Bridge‘.)

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