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Layered Londinium

I have cycled through the “City of London” many a time. The “City” refers to the financial centre hugging the north bank of the Thames between Tower Hill and Fleet Street. It is a weird region, teeming self-importantly during the week and eerily still at the weekend.

During my time traversing its thoroughfares and alleys I never once truly realized the layers of the past poking through the modern architecture typified by the two greats that proliferate in the area: Norman Foster and Richard Rogers. I decided to go on a walking tour of this part of the city to find out more.

We headed out for three hours on a windy, blustery morn, as the grey streets revealed themselves layer by layer, with the help of our expert archaeologist-schooled guide. The Roman city and the medieval city poke through in the most surprising ways; at the walls of an underground car-park for instance, there is an excavated Roman Wall where pigeons sleep lazily inside holes and minis whizz by into London’s tightly wound lanes. The past reveals itself in street names such as Jewry Lane (where the Jewish community resettled after their expulsion) or Crutched Friars (from the friars of the 13th century).

It now seems like there is a constant battle in London to build the tallest edifice to tower triumphantly over the City; the Gherkin was perhaps one of the most polarising of recent additions, but love it or hate it, it has now become a symbol of the area. There is much construction happening in the City and it seems to be constantly evolving, however the old and the historic play an even greater part as these structures are preserved and stand in marvellous contrast to their more modern brothers. It is great to find yourself in the former narrow pathways of London’s first coffee shops, and then emerge from this tiny time-warp to be confronted by gleaming metal. One of the most apparent absences of the City (apart from the people on a Saturday) is the omission of greenery. There is little in the way of landscape architecture going on, which creates a weird austerity but also a severely beautiful, clean and clear sense of purpose: no time for idle loitering here.

London seems to be increasingly frenetic, what with the Royal Wedding on the horizon and the 2012 Olympics transforming the East of London. But take a weekend walk in this part of one of the world’s greatest metropolises, and it can feel like yours alone for a few hours.

Anton Lynch is Trufflepig’s newest trip planner, now back in his homeland expanding our Euro bureau. If you’re looking for an urban discovery adventure, get in touch with him.

A weird austerity but also a severely beautiful, clean and clear sense of purpose: no time for idle loitering here.