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1.1.3 London

London is the capital of England and the United Kingdom. Its core area is 1,579 square km with a population of 7.2 million, administered by 32 Borough Councils as Greater London County. However as any visitor sees, it is an indeterminate area of around 12 million, taking into account the areas of the Home Counties that merge into the capital. This makes it exceptional if only for the reason that a quarter of the population of England is in this densely populated area. In 2004 a "metropolitan area" was defined by the Greater London local government that is not yet approved by central government, which incorporates an area that has a population of 18m.

The City of London or "Square Mile" is the financial centre of London, home to banks, brokers, insurers and legal and ac­counting firms. A second financial district is developing at Canary Wharf to the east of central London. This is much smaller than the City of London, but has equally prestigious occupants, including the glo­bal headquarters of HSBC Bank.

A street in the City right

There are four airports in London, Heathrow, London City Airport, Biggin Hill, and Northolt.

Of these, Heathrow is the city's princi­pal airport and is also a major international hub. It is currently the busiest international terminal in the world, and a fifth terminal is being built on the site, with a sixth being planned. In 2003 Heathrow was the busiest airport of Europe in terms of total passenger traffic, handling 53.8m passengers.

British Airways at Heathrow left

Other airports, such as London Gatwick Airport, London Luton Airport, and London Stansted Airport incorporate "London" into their name, but the towns where they are situated lie some distance from London.

There are 35 road, rail and foot bridges over the River Thames in London, 18 of them being major road bridges. The oldest is London Bridge, the first version being built about 2000 years ago. A series of London Bridges were then built, each wider and stronger until a major bridge was built by the engineer John Rennie for 2 million pounds, the equivalent of billions today and opened in 1831. It needed to be replaced in the 1960s and was sold for 2.5m USD to an American casino owner in 1968 and shipped to Arizona, where it now stands. It has always been believed that the proud new owner thought he was buying Tower Bridge. Nevertheless, Rennie's London Bridge today is the second most popular tourist attraction in Arizona after the Grand Canyon.

Tower Bridge itself is London's most dramatic river crossing and a world landmark. It is so called as it is very close to the Tower of London. Alternative de­signs were fiercely debated over for 8 years until work started on the present design in 1886. It took another 8 years to build and is a opening steel bridge with the steel end constructions each clad in a mock Victorian Gothic tower.

Tower Bridge right

London hosts several festivals, fairs and carnivals throughout the year. The most fa­mous is the Notting Hill Carnival, one of the world's largest carnivals. The carnival takes place over the August bank holiday weekend, and attracted almost 2 million people in 2004.

2 London policemen - "Bobbies" - at the carnival left

It has a distinctly Afro-Caribbean flavour, and highlights include a competi­tion between London's steel bands (modelled on the steel bands of Jamaica and the Caribbean) and a 5 km-long street parade with dancing to music.

Only having started in 1959, each year the parades and costumes are becoming more and more like the carnivals in Rio, although considerably more peaceful.

A dramatic costume in August 2004 right

London is full of historic buildings - one of the most in­teresting to visit is Westminster Abbey which is crammed full of the tombs of personalities from world history over the past thousand years.

Used for the coronation of almost every monarch since 1066, the Abbey has not only Kings, Queens and major political and religious figures buried there, but also a number of major literary and scientific figures, such as Chaucer, Dickens, Newton and Darwin.

The earlist chapel dates back to 616, al­though the main part of the Abbey was built in the Gothic style in 1245-1517. The two west towers, frequently photographed, were built by Sir Christopher Wren in the 18th century. The north entrance dating from the 13th century is shown left.

Less popular but also important is the Prime Meridian, the meridian (line of longitude) pass­ing through the Royal Greenwich Observatory, Greenwich, London; it is the meridian at which longitude is 0 degrees. It is sometimes referred to as the Greenwich Meridian.

The meridian was agreed upon in October 1884 when the British Empire was so impor­tant that two-thirds of the world's sea traffic used London as their reference point on maps. Greenwich Mean Time is also a reference point to this day.

The actual meridian point right

One of the central squares of London is Trafalgar Square where many Londoners greet the New Year. The National Gallery (of Art) is on the square and Leicester Square is very close by.

Nelson's Column left is in the centre of the square, sur­rounded by fountains and four huge bronze lions sculpted by Sir Edwin Landseer; the metal used is said to have been recycled from the cannons of the French fleet. The column is topped by a statue of Lord Nelson, the admiral who com­manded the British Fleet at Trafalgar.

Piccadilly Circus is a circular "square" or perhaps better, an area and traffic intersection, in the City of Westminster, near Soho and the main theatre district known as the "West End". It is re­nowned for its video display and neon signs in the northwestern corner and the Shaftesbury me­morial fountain topped by the statue of Eros, to the southwest.

Visitors from many countries regard Eros as being in the very centre of London and it is a popu­lar meeting place.

Picadilly Circus right

Britain is roughly equally divided on the question of whether there should still be a monarchy and a royal Head of State. The royals, their property and their as­sociated ceremonies are undeniably a major tourist attraction.

Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of the Queen and the largest "working" royal palace re­maining in the world. The palace was built for the Duke of Buckingham in 1703 but bought by George III in 1762 as a private residence.

A tourist's view of the palace left

Tourists (and residents) see the sights, but rarely notice that London sees them. In Britain there are about 4.5 million closed-circuit television (CCTV) cam-

eras, which record continually and are referred to in the event of crime or other such reason.

Approximately a third of these are in Greater London and it was estimated in 2003 that a person in London could be seen on 300 different cameras each day. A series of Privacy Acts have been passed although these concentrate on the exclu­sion of CCTV from "private" locations.

Right is shown a CCTV camera on the London Underground or "tube", prominently showing the famous logo.