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Access London 10e
By Richard Saul Wurman
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Richard Saul Wurman
All right reserved.
A provincial settlement on the edge of the civilized world; a trading district dominated by merchants and aldermen; a royal stronghold; a center of politics, power, and culture . . . London has had almost as many faces as it has years of history. England's capital and Britain's seat of government has evolved over the centuries from an area covering just 677 acres into a vast 620-square-mile metropolis along the north and south banks of the River Thames, home to seven million citizens. Indeed, London is not one but several cities coexisting in the same space. Look up at Big Ben on a bright autumn morning or stroll along the Embankment on a warm summer evening at sunset and you'll find the London of film sets, complete with red double-decker buses, chunky black cabs, and umbrella-toting politicians. Look closer and catch a glimpse of local London, comprising 32 highly individual boroughs, each with its own mayor and council, not to mention its own special quirks and charms. An elegant town-house atmosphere permeates Mayfair, for example, whereas the literary legacy of Virginia Woolt's era clings to Bloomsbury. To the east, finance still dominates the original City, or Corporation, of London; meanwhile, law and politics rule sober Westminster. Of course, there is also historic London, seat of cathedrals and kings. The city was established roughly 2,000 years ago,first as a Celtic settlement, then as Londinium, a lonely Roman outpost that eventually grew into the hub of an empire extending around the globe. The city is a survivor, having weathered the brazier of history: Queen Boadicea of the Celts burned the city to the ground in AD 61, but within a few years it had risen from the ashes; the Great Plague swept through in 1665, followed by the Great Fire of 1666, but neither disaster nor the 20th-century Blitz, centuries later, could annihilate the city's collective soul or the souls of its inhabitants past and present. Famous ghosts from every epoch cohabit here-in just one day you may happen upon Henry VIII or Anne Boleyn in the Tower of London, William Shakespeare in Southwark, and Charles Dickens in Tavistock Square. Even modern redevelopment plans have failed to tarnish London's grandeur: St. Paul's Cathedral retains its majesty, despite the cheerless and now derelict glass-andsteel structures that crowd it on Paternoster Square.
But no city thrives on its past alone. Modern London stands tall, in the space-age Lloyd's of London Building, in the high-tech Docklands developments, and in the best of contemporary art and theater, as well as in the fast-food joints that have cropped up on various corners. Modern British describes the inventive, eclectic cooking of a new generation of chefs who base their dishes on British ingredients but draw on the best of international food and flavor combinations, using such seasonings as lemongrass, coriander, and white truffle oil and pairing quail with foie gras and wild mushrooms or monkfish with herb risotto and tomato confit. Trendy restaurants are booming, and the fashion scene is rated the most exciting in the world by international designers who have opened their flagship stores here. But to be honest, London also possesses a dark side, with an undercurrent of racial tension in the East End; a class system that produces its own special problems, including stereotypes perpetuated by something as simple as an accent or dialect; the homeless, who huddle under railway bridges; and, of course, crime. The infamous pea-soup fogs have disappeared, but they've been replaced by noxious exhaust fumes and grime-mostly from cars jamming narrow streets and alleyways never meant to cope with modern-day traffic . . .
Excerpted from Access London 10e by Richard Saul Wurman Copyright © 2006 by Richard Saul Wurman. Excerpted by permission.
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