Answer the following questions. 1. Who is the Head of State?
1. Who is the Head of State? 2. Does the Queen rule the country? 3. Who does the real power in the country belong to? 4. How many chambers does the British Parliament have? What are they? 5. What can the chambers do? Are the members of these chambers elected? 6. How often do the British people elect the members of the House of Commons? How many do they elect? 7. What are the main political parties in Great Britain?
London is the capital of the UK; its political, financial, commercial, industrial, and cultural centre of Great Britain. London is one of the largest cities in the world and the largest city in Europe. Its population is about 9 million.
London is situated on both sides of the Thames River. There are 17 bridges that cross the river. It is one of the oldest and most interesting cities in the world. London offers visitors a great variety of places of interest. It's a dream city to everybody interested in English history and culture. You will never be tired of its streets, squares, buildings, palaces, museums and parks. It is said that if you are tired of London, you are tired of life. Fortunately, this rarely happens to those who come to this multinational city.
London was founded by the Romans in 43 AD. It was called Londinium. They built a town on the River Thames. In 61 AD the town was burnt down. Then Londinium was rebuilt by the Romans and surrounded by a wall. This wall is now called the City of London.
Sometimes there were fires in the city. On Saturday, 2nd September, 1666 the Great Fire of London took place. It started in the house of the king's baker, near London Bridge. The fire burnt for four days and destroyed 80% of the city. After the Great Fire people built a new city.
Traditionally London is divided into several parts. They are the City, Westminster, the West End and the East End. They are very different from each other and seem to different towns and epochs.
The heart of London is the City. It is the oldest part of London with narrow streets and pavements. The City is London's financial and business centre; it is also referred to as the "Square Mile" because of its area. Numerous banks, offices and firms are situated there, including the Bank of England, the Stock Exchange and the Old Bailey. Only a few thousand people live there, but in the day-time it is full of people: as about half a million people come to work there. There are some famous ancient buildings and interesting places in the City.
Perhaps the most striking of them is St. Paul's Cathedral, the greatest English churches. It is the largest Protestant Church in England. It was built in 17th century by Sir Christopher Wren. It was built since 1675 until 1708. It is crowned with a huge dome. Inside the dome there is the famous Whispering Gallery. There are many memorials in the Cathedral, including memorials to Wellington and Nelson. St. Paul's Cathedral is a beautiful building with many columns and towers. In one of its towers there is one of the largest bells in the world.
The Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror who conquered England in 1066. He was crowned at Westminster Abbey. The Tower of London was used as a fortress, a royal palace, a prison, a mint and the King's Zoo. Now it is a museum where we can see the Crown Jewels, the finest precious stones of the nation and a fine collection of armour, exhibited in the Keep.
The Imperial State Crown is one of the Crown Jewels in the Jewel House in the Tower of London. It has 3000 stones in it: diamonds, red rubies, blue sapphires and beautiful pearls. The queen wears it on state occasions.
The most beautiful building of the Tower is the White Tower. It was built in the 11th century by William the Conqueror to protect the city. The Tower is guarded by “Beefeaters”, the “Yeomen Guards”. A lot of ancient traditions and customs are carefully kept in the Tower. For example, changing of the guard and taking care of the ravens in the Tower. The legend says: till the ravens are alive England will be rich.
Westminster is the historical and governmental part of London. There you can see Westminster Abbey, Westminster Palace or the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace.
Westminster Abbey has more historic associations than any other building in Britain. It is situated opposite the Houses of Parliament. It is one of the most famous and beautiful churches in London. It was founded by Edward the Confessor in 1050. Nearly all English kings and queens have been crowned here. It is also the burial place of many of England's monarchs and other leading figures. Many outstanding statesmen, scientists, writers, poets and painters are buried here: Newton, Darwin, Chaucer, Longfellow, Dickens, Milton, Tennyson, Kipling, etc.
There is also the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior, a touching symbol of the nation’s grief.
Across the road from Westminster Abbey is Westminster Palace, or the Houses of Parliament, the seat of the British Parliament. It's a very beautiful building with two towers. The Houses of Parliament is a symbol of London. The Clock Tower of the Houses of Parliament is famous for its big bell, known as "Big Ben". Big Ben is really the bell which strikes every quarter of an hour. The clock «Big Ben» came into service in 1859. Big Ben is named after Sir Benjamin Hall, the first Commissioner of Works.
Buckingham Palace is the official residence of the Queen. It was built in the 18th century. Tourists can see the everyday ceremony called “the Changing of the Guard”. Every day a new guard of 30 guardsmen marches to the palace and takes the place of the “old guard”. It lasts about 30 minutes.
The best-known streets here are Whitehall with important Government offices, Downing Street, the London residence of Prime Minister and the Place where the Cabinet meets, Fleet Street where most newspapers have their offices, Harley Street where the highest paid doctors live, and some others.
The West End is the richest and most beautiful part of London. It is the symbol of wealth, luxury and goods of high quality. The best hotels, shops, restaurants, clubs cinemas, theatres, concert halls and many museums are situated there. English aristocracy lives in this region. There are splendid houses and lovely gardens belonging to wealthy people. One of the busiest streets in the West End is Oxford Street. There are many various shops in it which attract customers from different countries of the world. Tourists are likely to pass most of their time in the West End.
Piccadilly Circus is a very busy place. It is busy day and night. People come here to the shops in the day time, and at night they come for a night out. They can eat in one of the restaurants in the West End near Piccadilly Circus. They can get food from different countries in West End restaurants.
Trafalgar Square is the centre of London. It is the most beautiful square in London. It is usually full of visitors feeding the pigeons and looking at the statues and fountains. In the middle of the square there is a tall column. It is a monument to Admiral Nelson. This monument was erected to commemorate Nelson's victory in the battle of Trafalgar in 1805. He defeated the French and Spanish fleets. Four bronze lions look at the square from the monument. There are two beautiful fountains in the square. They are in front of the National Gallery.
London can boast of its magnificent museums, such as the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the Tate Gallery, the British Museum, the Museum of Moving Image, Madame Tussaud’s Museum, the Museum of British Transport and many others.
The National Gallery contains a great collection of paintings by British, Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch and other famous artists.
Not far away is the British Museum – the biggest museum in London. It was founded in 1753. It contains a priceless collection of ancient manuscripts, coins, sculptures and is famous for its library.
Madam Tussaud’s Museum is the most popular and talked about wax museum in the world. The museum is situated in Marylebone Road, not far from the street which is famous as the home of the first great detective, Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. There are several halls at Madam Tussaud’s. The famous Waxworks Museum has the models of famous people from pop stars to prime ministers, displays of battles and a Chamber of Horrors.
The Tate Gallery is one of the well-known galleries in London. Henry Tate was a sugar manufacturer. He was fond of paintings and collected many pictures.
It is in the West End where the University of London is centred with Bloomsbury as London’s student quarter. In the West End there are wide streets with beautiful houses and many parks, gardens and squares.
The Natural Museumis situated in Kensington and is one of London's greatest museums. There is a huge collection of animals and plants, including a quarter of a million butterflies, a blue whale and the famous dinosaur skeletons. There is a cafeteria, a gift shop, and a book shop.
The East End is an industrial district of London and the place where the working people live. There are a lot of factories, workshops and docks there. The East End is populated by working class families. Formerly unattractive in appearance, the East End of London is now changing because of the introduction of new industries and very expensive housing.
London has many big parks, full of trees, flowers and grass. Hyde Park with its Speaker’s Corner is the London's largest and most fashionable park. It was once a royal hunting forest. There are restaurants and bars at each end of the Serpentine. Here you may hire a boat. In the middle of Hyde Park you will think that you are in the country, miles away.
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