The Road Ahead : October 2010
TRAVEL OFFER: This month Trafalgar and Insight will be launching their 2011 programs for UK and European escorted coach tours, with some great earlybird savings. RACQ members will receive the best value, expert knowledge from our award winning consultants, latest deals and special member offers. For bookings contact RACQ Travel on 1300 888 449 or email travel@racq. com.au. See page 65 for Information Session dates. PHOTOS, PREVIOUS PAGE: ST PAUL'S CATHEDERAL. ABOVE FROM LEFT: GREEN PARK IN SPRINGTIME, WALLACE COLLECTION. NEXT PAGE: FRENCH FLOWER STALL IN NORMANDY. THE ROAD AHEAD OCT/NOV 2010 26 TRAVEL DEPARTURE INTERNATIONAL is tired of London, he is tired of life." How many times have you heard that old truism? But those words ring as true today as ever. This is where Shakespeare's plays were first staged. This is where Charles Dickens discovered Oliver, Fagin and Mr Micawber and other unforgettable characters. London too is where you'll find Abbey Road and Carnaby Street as well as Mayfair, Pall Mall and all the other names on the Monopoly board. Fashion, rock music, live theatre, global markets ... this is where it's at. Anywhere else you can find smarter hotels for less, lower travel costs, more price-competitive shopping -- and better weather. Yet London remains one of the world's most popular destinations. Take a look at the people queuing to enter the Tower of London on a grey day in early January -- they call this the off-season? Most visitors love British pageantry: Buckingham Palace remains a favourite with its Trooping of the Colours and during the summer the State Rooms can be toured. The Tower of London is a magnificent pile of turrets and battlements on the banks of the Thames, much more than a notorious prison and repository of the Crown Jewels. Built nearly 1000 years ago by William the Conqueror, it housed the seat of government, including the royal mint, the treasury, the ordnance store and a palace. From the Tower, head westwards into the City. Although challenged by a new-age landmark dubbed The Gherkin (more properly the 30 St Mary Axe), Christopher Wren's masterpiece, St Paul's Cathedral, retains its rightful place at the hub of the city of London. Paths and lanes lead eventually to the Monument, the stone column topped by its golden flame in Wren's allusion to the Great Fire. Further west lays Westminster with the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, the world's best-loved clock. London's cultural attractions are equally compelling. Many major museums and galleries offer free entry to their permanent displays. Catch the National Portrait Gallery at Trafalgar Square, which recently exhibited celebrity portraits by Terry O'Neill: the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in their early years. The Tate Modern, a former power station reborn as a cutting-edge gallery of modern art, has set London on its ear. The museum layout is undeniably inspired, with sofas positioned to invite contemplation of views over the Thames. The galleries, arranged thematically, blend acknowledged genius -- Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock -- with the simply inscrutable. The Victoria & Albert and the British Museum also demand mention, but there are many absorbing smaller galleries and collections: the Courtauld Institute at Somerset House on The Strand, the Wallace Collection in Mayfair, Kenwood House, beside Hampstead Heath, Sir John Soane's Museum in Lincoln's Inn Fields.