London is an incredible city with history spanning several millenniums. A couple of weeks ago, I took a stroll through The City during lunch hours and decided to pop into the Museum of London, one of the very few museums I have yet to visit. This museum primarily focuses on the social history of London and is housed in one of the modern Barbican buildings right in the heart of The City, or the Square Mile.
Known then as Londinium, the city was founded by the Romans in AD43 following the invasion led by Emperor Claudius. Like Hadrian's Wall in northern England, the 3 mile-long London Wall was built as a defensive fortress surrounding the city. Today, only a small fragment of the historic Roman wall remains, however, it is still very much part of London's history, unofficially defining the boundaries of The City. You can view the London Wall from the street level on the modern road also named London Wall or from the interior of Museum of London.
With nine permanent galleries narrating the chronological social history of London dating back from the prehistoric times to the modern, you can easily spend a better part of the afternoon at the Museum of London. Short on time, I sped through the 'London before London' prehistoric gallery, but stopped to see the 5,100 years old skeleton of the Shepperton woman, one of the oldest people found in London, then moved on to 'Roman London,' where Londoninum served as a major commerical centre for the Roman Empire until the 5th century.
I walked through the 'Medieval London' to see Chaucer's London, and then to the 'War, Plague, and Fire,' a tumultuous time in England ravaged by wars and disasters, namely the Great Plague of 1665 and the Great Fire of 1666, which completely destroyed the City of London. The 'Expanded City: 1666 to 1850' documents the expansion of the British Empire to territories as far as India, while 'People's City' explores London as the divided city and the wealth disparity between the rich and poor, best described in many of Charles Dicken's novels, and finally the 'World History' gallery looks at modern London as a 'global city.'
Speaking of Dickens, as it will be 200th anniversary of his birth next year, the Museum of London commissioned a special exhibition to celebrate the life and works of Charles Dickens and his deep connection to the great city of London. Unfortunately, the exhibition wasn't open when I visited a few weeks ago, but it now open to the public until June 2012. There is also the Charles Dickens Museum on Doughty Street in Holborn, one of his former residence and home to several of his original manuscripts. Of course, you can also also retrace the steps of Dickens's London and have a pint at the atmospheric Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub once frequented by Dickens.
To fully appreciate the grand scale and city planning of London, it is worth visiting The London Eye. It offers a unique perspective of London: a panoramic view. My friend gave us complimentary tickets awhile back when he was visiting London on his way to India. On a beautiful crisp morning, Keenan and I joined the queue with a gazillion tourist to ride The London Eye. 443 feet tall with the 32 capsules representing London's 32 boroughs, the wheel moves quite slow, at .6 mph, so the complete revolution is approximately 30 minutes, just enough time to snap photos of the iconic Big Ben and Parliament, Somerset House, and the new Shard building in the Southbank, without getting bored.
With my new point-and-shoot Canon SX220 in tow (love Black Friday sales), I snapped a few photos of the Occupy Movement at St. Paul's Cathedral below.