A city with a difference London was not built as a city in the same way as Paris or New York. It began life as a Roman fortification at a place where it was possible to cross the River Thames. A wall was built around the town for defence, but during the long period of peace which followed the Norman Conquest, people built outside the walls. This building continued over the years, especially to the west of the city. In 1665 there was a terrible plague in London, so many people left the city and escaped to the villages in the surrounding countryside. In 1666 the Great Fire of London ended the plague, but it also destroyed much of the city. Although people returned to live in the rebuilt city after the plague and the Great Fire, there were never again so many Londoners living in the city centre. These days not many people live in the city centre, London has spread further outwards into the country, including surrounding villages. Today the metropolis of Greater London covers some 610 square miles (1580sq. km.) and the suburbs of London continue even beyond this area. Some people even commute over 100 miles (over 150 km.) every day to work in London, while living far away from the city in the country or in other towns. The gradual growth of the city helps to explain the fact that London does not have just one centre, it has a number of centres, each with a distinct character: the financial and business centre called the City, the shopping and entertainment centre in the West End, the government centre in Westminster. Places like Highgate and Hampstead have kept their village-like character – they have their own newspapers and the famous Hampstead Heath is a reminder of country origins.Tradition The City does not refer to the whole of central London but rather to small area east of the centre, which includes the site of the original Roman town. It is an area with a long and exciting history, and it is proud of its independence and traditional role as a centre of trade and commerce. This tradition is focussed on the City’s Lord Mayor, whose official residence is the Mansion House. Once a year, in November, the Lord Mayor’s Show takes place. This is a colourful street parade in which the newly elected Lord Mayor travels in a golden coach, which is over 200 years old. In the evening a splendid meal is served in the Guildhall, to which the Prime Minister and members of the Government are invited.

Commerce and finance The City of London is one of major banking centres of the world and you can find the banks of many nations in the famous Threadneedle Street and the surrounding area. Here, too, you will find the Bank of England. Nearby is the Stock Exchange which is like a busy market, except that here not food but shares in commercial companies are bought and sold. A little further along in Leadenhall Street is Lloyds, the most famous insurance company in the world. During weekdays in the City you can see the City gents with their bowler hats, pin-striped suits and rolled umbrellas. This is the ‘uniform’ only of those men involved in banking and business in the City, and outside this small area you will probably not see anyone dressed like this.London Regional Transport The easiest way to travel around London is by a London Regional Transport bus or underground train. These run from the centre of the city right out into the countryside. British people queue up when waiting for a bus (and a lots of other things !). They get very annoyed with queue – jumpers – people who don’t wait their turn in the queue. The London Underground – or ‘tube’ – has nine lines. It’s very fast, and in Central London you’re never more than a few minutes’ walk away from a station.

Literature: Susan Sheerin Jonathan Seath Gillian White ,,Spotlight on Britain”