A Canadian in London
All of our first year law undergrads took part in an exercise in week one of their LLB where they escaped City and went to visit a number of buildings of significance in the local area, before tackling some research questions.
They were then asked to write a blog post inspired by their travels. 21 winners were selected from all those posts submitted – this is one of those – thanks to David Schueller.
About a week ago, I took on a challenge to locate and capture a photo of four places around London. Now, before I get into details I want to make it clear that this is my first time in England, never mind London, in my life. I have spent the past 21 years of my life living north of the beautiful city of Toronto, Canada. My day begun by trying to locate the Smithfield Market. After my phone gave me incorrect directions, I accidentally stumbled upon this immaculate location.
Because I decided to take on this expedition on a Sunday, the market was closed and very few people were to be seen. I began to think about what I had researched prior to leaving my home, and realized that I was standing in the area that Wat Tyler and William Wallace were executed back in the 1300s. Eerie feeling, but also interesting as I enjoy history which tends to be a little gory. Only the past, nothing current.
After walking around for around ten minutes, I left this area and began looking for Old Bailey. This too took a while to find as my phone guided me down major roads and not down walking paths. Once arriving at this building, I was astonished with the structure and initial appearance. Catching my eye right away was the gold plated Lady Justice atop the dome. Seeing this icon gave this building a much more ‘legal’ feel to it. This building was very interesting to look at because back home in Toronto, we do not have many buildings older than one hundred years. Also, Toronto’s streets are set up like a grid. Since London is not designed the same, it took even longer to find my way around the city. While I stood and admired the architecture, a walking tour group happened to stop behind me. I listened to the guide for a few minutes until heading off to my next location.
Navigating through a few bends and curves led me to Shoe Lane. Once arriving, I was honestly a little disappointed with what I saw. I was expecting to see a lot more than what was there. Thinking about the Thornton v Shoe Lane Parking case made the place a little more exciting, but nothing that would blow the socks off someone who does not know a thing about Shoe Lane. I snapped a few photos of the area and continued on my way. While exploring more foreign streets, a statue of John Wilkes came into sight. The first thing I thought was, “Wow. This guy was around and did his thing before Canada was even a country!” That is one thing that shook my mind. Most of these streets and buildings are older than the country I am from. Canada is still a baby!
Last but not least was to adventure my way over to the Old Sessions House. This building is also one I could look at for a while. The way it is built and the age of the place is fascinating. It is unfortunate that most tourists never see the old parts of London which are tucked away in small roads or courtyards. Two different elements became apparent as I walked around the corner. One of which relates to the buildings history. I quickly was reminded that whipping posts used to stand outside this location and that individuals were tortured right where I was standing. Again, eerie feeling, but interesting. The other element was the store alarm going off across the street. I did not know if I had stumbled into a rougher area of town or it was just ironic that a break-in alarm was going off beside a historic place of punishment.
This assignment was fun to complete. I wish every class did an ‘Out and About’ exercise. I was able to explore into areas unknown to tourists and see the true culture away from tourist activity. For an international student, this was a great way to learn my way around the area while learning some history. I enjoyed seeing buildings, streets, and parks that outdate Canada. The only tough aspect was navigation as I am used to grid street layouts where every block looks the same. Sure enough, this city is full of history. Some of which is known, and some which will never be discovered.