I love London. I went there with family in 2004 and had the time of my life, and am going back with a friend for the Olympics next summer. I was only 13 when I was there so I can't even remember all that much, but something about the city burrowed itself into my heart and is drawing me back like a magnet. Hearing the news of the riots going on over there hit me like a ton of bricks. I can't believe that people are burning and looting such an amazing place. It's truly tragic.
I have complete faith, though, that the city will pick itself up and carry on. We can't let these riots get in the way of seeing London for what it truly is, so here's a reminder of the great stuff.
I'm a sucker for old buildings and cities steeped in history, and to a nerd like me, it doesn't get much better than London. They have the Globe Theater, the original of which was built by Shakespeare's play company; they have the Tower of London, where criminals were beheaded and disgraced figures were held prisoner; they (sort of) have Oxford University, the oldest English-speaking university in the world. And on and on and on.
2. The iconic monuments
If you think Big Ben is beautiful in photos, I promise you, they do it no justice. It's the most breathtaking building, and looks simply majestic set against a gray sky (so the less than stellar weather has its advantages!). Tower Bridge is unlike anything I've ever seen, before or since, as is the London Eye, the biggest Ferris wheel in the world. There's Buckingham Palace, the prime meridian, Trafalgar Square... again, and on and on and on.
3. Pop culture
Double decker buses! Red telephone booths! The Buckingham Palace guards! Police officers called bobbies! Abbey Road! Platform 9 3/4! These things are completely iconic on TV, in movies, etc., and I dare you not to take a touristy picture with and/or at them.
4. Famous Londoners
Shakespeare, Chaucer, Darwin, Dickens, Churchill, Franklin. Paul McCartney, Johnny Depp, Leona Lewis, George Michael, Elton John, Hugh Grant, Jude Law. Basically the entire cast of Harry Potter. Need I continue?
Art in museums and art made on the sidewalk. Performances in famous theaters and performances on the streets. Covent Garden, Camden, Portobello, and Greenwich Markets. London never just feels like a concrete jungle, cold and impersonal. It's definitely alive and breathing. I cannot wait to go back, as an adult as opposed to a kid, and sink my teeth into everything it has to offer.
6. The people and their spirit
There may have been three nights of riots (here's hoping the police nip it in the bud before the fourth), but kick-ass Londoners aren't curling into the fetal position and giving up. There's a Clean Up London Twitter account that's been posting cleanup times and locations, organizing volunteers, and listing necessary supplies. According to their tweets and photos, people are showing up in droves, and I'm sure many more (including me) are there in spirit.
You rock, London! You're in our thoughts!