New architectural feats in London, Olympics might distract first-time visitors

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London is often associated with fish and chips, red phone booths, quaint taxi cabs and Monty Python references.

But in just a matter of months, London will host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. New architectural features such as the Aquatics Centre and the Olympic Stadium are under construction. These will soon attract plenty of tourists eager to decorate their Facebook pages in pictures from across the pond. But don’t let those distract from other historical wonders London has to offer. There are the obvious few, such as Big Ben or Buckingham Palace. Take a stroll down the lane, and there’s a London most tourists don’t know about.

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A worker inspects a pole at London's Olympic Park on Monday, March 19, 2012. Those responsible for the British capital's network of fiber optic cables, phone masts and wifi hotspots say they're bracing for a data deluge as the games get underway. (AP Photo/Raphael Satter)
Anna-Cajsa Gipson, a BYU graduate from Enumclaw, Wash., said the simple things in London make it the city what it is.

“In America, you just don’t have an old abbey,” Gipson said.

Gipson has family in London and has visited frequently. In addition to the old abbeys and period architecture, her and her three daughters’ biggest highlight from their trips to London is the little-known Princess Diana Playground in Hyde Park. The playground features a replica wooden pirate ship, teepees and is complete with guards.

“It’s the most interesting playground you’ve ever seen,” Gipson said.

She is excited about the attention the Olympics have garnered for the city and even the new Aquatics Centre. Some of Gipson’s favorite events are the swimming events. However, she recommends to not forget why you’re in the cloudy city.

“Plan your priorities,” Gipson said. “There’s something there for everyone.”

Missy Johnson, a recent BYU graduate from Sandy, said in addition to priorities, don’t get overwhelmed by what others say should be done. Johnson went with her family several years ago and didn’t understand the hype of places such as Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. She said it was overpriced and not a lot of fun, except for children. She preferred the lesser-known journeys, like the London by Night tours. She and her family also did a tour on foot about Jack the Ripper. They followed his trail, heard several theories and stopped at assumed murder locations.

She said it was difficult to navigate the Tube, better known as the London Metro. There are plenty of lines with many destinations along the way. Her brother, Owen Johnson, a senior studying physics, said a day can go from good to bad simply based on transportation.

“The metro system is a good system, but there are tons of different lines,” Johnson said. “Before you leave your hotel each morning, make sure you know how you’re going to get where you want to go.”

The Olympics will probably overshadow any theater performances, but if the opportunity presents itself, the Globe Theater is a popular piece of history. This is where Shakespeare’s performances came to life. Missy Johnson said she was a little surprised when she visited.

“It was smaller than I anticipated, yet more intimate,” Johnson said.

The Olympics herald athletic aptitude and this year, architectural antiquities rarely seen in other places will underline the brilliance of the venue. And if planned well, you may be more than a typical tourist of London.

“Be willing to explore,” Missy Johnson said. “Go down alleys, and down nooks and crannies.”

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