I’m originally from London so I know the city pretty much back to front.
Nowadays though I tend to see it more as a tourist and probably enjoy a lot more of the sights than I ever would if I lived there. Usually when I fly transatlantic to London, the flight pattern follows the western parts of the city and picks up the Thames just around the airport area close to Windsor, Eton, and Runnymede where the Magna Carta was signed in 1215. Sometimes, if you sit in a holding pattern low enough, you get a wonderful tour of the city center before making final landing.
But the other day the flight pattern coming from another European city was decidedly different.
This time, flying over London took us full along the Thames from the eastern stretches of outer London all the way through the center.
It was a sight to behold. We passed over the mouth of the Thames where Dover sole fish farms ply their trade and eels are caught for the English delicacy of…horror upon horrors, jellied eels.
Literally we seemed to trace the old docklands which had been replaced by brand new developments around Canary Wharf, past The O2, and over the Emirates gondola before we started to get into the new city development – the skyscrapers with funky names like the Gherkin, the Shard, and the Walkie Talkie. This was the new London and we were flying above it at around 20,000 feet. The pilot seemed to be enjoying the view as much as we did and he made a couple of announcements pointing to the developments on the river below.
It was strange to see old London squeezed in between the skyscrapers and the ancient river below. There was the tiny-looking Tower of London and the omnipresent Tower Bridge, London’s iconic and still used drawbridge. Everybody in the plane, whatever side you were looking at, had a treat to behold. St. Paul’s Cathedral was on the right, the Tate Modern on the left, and the London Eye straight ahead…did I miss 12th century Southwark Cathedral in the middle of it all? We passed Westminster, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, and Lambeth Palace, just a stone’s throw from where I grew up, and still we kept on following the Thames.
As we started to run out of sights, the plane banked slightly and we caught a glimpse of Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace.
I couldn’t help but wonder if there was a better or more impressive city to fly into than London. I don’t think so.