London – Part 1

The UK, and London, in particular, was on my must-do travel list for a long time, because of the rich history of the city going all the way back to Celtic and Roman times and because of how much cultural impact it had over the former British Empire and the Anglophone world. From London, I also day-tripped to Windsor, Oxford and the Cotswold villages.

This was a city where I genuinely felt overwhelmed because of how much there is to see and do. In fact, once there, I decided to extend my original plan of 6 days into 11 days, and had to book another return flight altogether. But it was 100% worth it.

Westminster and River Thames Cruise

I started with Westminster and took a river cruise on Thames. This gives you a good high-level run-down on the city and is a good place to start.

Due to rail strikes across certain underground lines, I saw many daily commuters take the cruise as it was faster than other options. I also saw that Uber capitalized on this and now, there is an Uber Boat running here too.

Here’s a trivia question. Who laid siege to London, and yet is honoured with a statue in the city here?

Answer: Boudica.

Boudica was a warrior-queen of a Britonnic tribe that led a rebellion against the Roman Empire. London (then known as Londinium) was an important Roman fortress and a seat of power after the Roman conquest of Britain. Boudica’s uprising and laying siege to the then Roman city of London earned her the honour of being a British national heroine.

London Charterhouse

[Warning: Image of skeleton farther down]

For history-buffs, the Charterhouse in London is a treasure trove. This property has lived through multiple chapters of history going back to medieval times and is still functioning today.

The earliest purpose of this site was discovered when people were digging the new Elizabeth line for the London Underground, and found a large number of skeletons underneath, with medical analysis confirming the presence of bubonic plague. This site started out as a plague pit in 1300s during the Black Death. Outside the walls of old London, here, the bodies of affected people were dumped to reduce the pandemic’s spread to others in the city. The Black Plague had killed one-third of the population of Europe.

The second chapter of this property begins when Carthusian monks from Chartreuse, France set up a cloister here (“Charterhouse” being a British mispronunciation of Chartreuse). A section of the courtyard and halls are still present, and one can still see the doors to rooms where hermits lived. Hermits were – by their vows – not allowed to leave the rooms, and hence, there was a hole in the wall by the door to place food and water in by outsiders.

Once King Henry VIII converted to the Protestant Sect of Christianity and dissolved the Catholic monasteries, the Charterhouse turned into a residential mansion for the royalty and the aristocracy. After the death of Mary (Queen of Scots), Queen Elizabeth I, held her first court here in this hall with her lords and knights, on her way to her formal coronation.

One can see in the pattern on the roof, how the symbol of the thistles in the four corners (A symbol of Scotland, and hence Mary) was replaced by lions (a symbol of Queen Elizabeth).

The next important chapter in the history of Charterhouse is when it was owned by Thomas Sutton, who was called “the wealthiest commoner in England.” He had made a lot of charitable institutions across the country.

The cloister of the monks were now turned into a boarding school for boys. In this very room, soccer had seen its earliest days, and rules like offside and penalty came from when the balls went outside these windows.

Today, the Charterhouse functions as a place of residence for senior/elderly people without family or fortune. The residents are called “Brothers” according to Thomas Sutton’s original will, and hence, now that the institution is opened up to women too, female members are called “Lady Brothers”. The dining hall for residents still have Tudor features from old times.

Church of St Bartholomew-the-Great

London is filled with many old and medieval churches which go back to thousands of years. My favourite one is St Bartholomew-the-Great. Founded in 1100s, it had heavy-set stones and pillars set in a late-Roman early-Gothic style, that gave me the feeling of walking through a cavern.

It is also where the American statesman Benjamin Franklin worked as a typesetter. And it has been featured in many famous movies including Four Weddings and a Funeral and Sherlock Holmes (2009).


The mews of London are narrow cobblestone alleyways away from main streets. They are pedestrian-only streets surrounded by pretty cottages, often hidden in plain sight.

Mews were originally for providing backdoor accesses to mansions and stables, frequented by servants and horses alone. But in later times, after the city motorized with modern roads for cars, wealthy people found strolling in mews to be a charming respite from that, and today, mew-properties are some of the most expensive ones, where owners can feel like they are in a quaint village, while still being in the heart of a metropolis.

Ruins of St. Dunstan’s Church

St. Dunstan-in-the-East was built in 1100 AD, but fell to ruins, first in the Great Fire of London, and then later during the Blitz (German air-attack during World War II). The city of London decided to transform its ruins by planting trees and allowing nature to take over.

Today it’s a beautiful park where one can quietly sip coffee or read a book, surrounded by gothic walls with the lush green vines growing on them, and is a quiet meditative area in the heart of the city.

Coming up

Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace and Windsor Castle

Museums, Markets and Foods

Oxford and Cotswolds.


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