London — Magic and Tragic

London oozes culture from the cracks of its pavements.  History and liberty abound; yet, perhaps London stands alone as the place in the world that unveils the highest level of the opposing states of regal and raunch.

In some parts of the city, you can feel aristocracy in the air, which I find to be a pleasurable thing.  I don’t need anyone to give me a concerning smile and a hearty chat, but can simply enjoy a sense of refinement and elegance skipping around on the grey streets in the better parts of town.  And, if you are lucky enough to know of some obscure inner circle restaurants in London and cost is not much of a concern, your culinary needs will be more than satisfied.

Other places in London can be abrasive and untidy to the point of having to dodge waste on the streets and an obvious presence of groups of people who appear emotionally numbed, perhaps by financial woes, too much alcohol, logistical problems, and a general feeling of the weight of life.  In this state of existence, there becomes an acceptance of too many cupcakes, an abandonment of civility, and a lost-count of glasses of wine or bottles of beer consumed, as if people are grasping to own little moments where they are able to put down their guard and forget about their worries.

But on this day, there is an oblivion to the dichotomy of London as I decide to board one of those prettily glaring candy-apple-red double-decker buses running through the heart of the city, and today I become a full-fledged admitted-tourist.

During the double-decker bus tour, I attempt to take photos that give a unique perspective to some of the more common sites of the city and in the end, I feel that I have found pretty good results.

A man reading the morning paper on the front steps of London Bridge Hospital Building.

Old couple walking down the street together

The next day, I attended the Changing of the Guard Ceremony at Buckingham palace, and felt like I was crammed inside a box of overloaded toothpicks, barely able to move or see anything more than a 60 second segment of the ceremony in motion.

If I could do it again, I would roam around Buckingham Palace before the ceremony, watch a few minutes of the fanfare, and then leave and watch a youtube on “changing of the guards” at my leisure. 

The crowd making their way toward Buckingham Palace, awaiting the beginning of the ceremony.

More people rush to gather around the main gate.

–Most people are feeling a little stress because there seems to be no good place to stand.

The parade segment of the ceremony starts, and because I am standing at the gate, I can see nothing but human bodies in front of me.

So I turn to photograph the lady standing directly before me at the gate…clearly not happy.

Finally we see the Changing of the Guard Ceremony, and although there is a partial view, there is an air of satisfaction.

45 thoughts on “London — Magic and Tragic

  1. Nice read, the thing with London is to live it. I have been there from past 4years now but never became part of the city because I love nature. I see what you have experienced but there is something in this city still like the other great cities of the world like Paris, Vienna, Munich and other EU big cities – they have just been there and dumped by the growing masquerades of masses from all over the word.

  2. Thanks for the tour and the lovely photos. I visit London 2 or 3 times a year, and all I do, is grab as much as I can of the amazing culture on offer: The Tate Modern, Gagosian, The Portrait gallery (I saw Lucian Fruid’s exhibition – an experience I will not forget). In the evenings I see a lot of theater (the War Horse was amazing!). London for me is an injection of culture… I can say very little about London’s cuisine, soccer or anything else…

  3. A beautiful, insightful and evocative post as always. I love your photos; in all it reminds me of our family trip to London/the UK years ago. So well-said that culture oozes from the cracks in the pavement!

  4. This is a nice article. I work in the city, although thankfully live 60 miles North in Cambridgeshire. It is really interesting to read someone else’s perspective or what to me is the norm.

    • I am grateful for your reply and confirmation that my perception is at least somewhat in sync with reality. Thank you for taking the time to respond. It means a great deal to hear about London from the sometimes marvelous and sometimes maddening front lines. ~Sonya

  5. This is a wonderful post. I love your language, “and a general feeling of the weight of life. … too many cupcakes, … as if people are grasping to own little moments…” Very well done and great photos, especially of London Bridge.

  6. I’ve never been to Europe, but these examples give me the impression that London is the sort of fascinating place where you can turn in any direction and see something photogenic. Love the pics!

  7. I grew up not far from there, but was unable to spend much time there, unfortunately – but I always loved being there. I haven’t been back there since 1990. It almost seems like a different life.

  8. Oh let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London, I’ll show you something that’ll make you understand…

    A nice account of my home city but very much from a tourist perspective – this is not real London, this is the London designed to encourage visitors to buy stupid souvenirs from tacky-stands. See all this by all means but it is meaning-less, go somewhere like Notting Hill Gate or Camden Town for a true experience of how lovely the people are, where you can go into a bar and drink with real down-to-earth people without being charged a fortune. Where there is more choice of places to eat than MacDonalds, Aberdeen Angus Steak House, or some over-inflated pasta, burger, pizza franchise pretending to offer home-cooked traditional food. Get out of London even, see Cornwall or North Wales… or Brighton!

    For any potential visitors to London, a friend of mine offers some fantastic value tours – http://www.facebook.com/SeeMyLondonTours

    Having said all that, these are really nice photographs and a good account of a visit from a particular angle :-)

  9. Thanks for some great photos. London has a unique character, of course, but some things that you notice about the affluent sections in contrast with the less affluent areas are to be experienced in every city of the world. The results of poverty and want is never very nice to look at.

  10. Stunning and very striking photograph’s Sonya, you’ve captured the essence of classical London extremely well. Your written narrative which accompanied your photo’s was superb, thank you for this post. Best regards, SN.

  11. This is the second time l am posting this comment .The first one it didn’t go through.Superb article and pictures.Despite being in London few times ,l still want to visit that magnificent Lady.My respect and regards.jalal

  12. Hi! Firstly thanks for liking the last post on my blog (I just started it just 6 weeks ago so any tips would be great!). I used to live in London so this brings back memories of the grey skies and crowds. I like the real and rawness of your photography (the london eye shot from the back streets is amazing!) and you have a nice narrative style to your story telling. You have inspired me to write a post of my trip to Jakarta and the extreme divide of rich and poor that I saw. Love your blog!

    http://annielka.wordpress.com

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