You don't need a passport. You needn't buy an airline ticket or board a ship. But you can still visit historic St. Paul's Cathedral, stroll down Piccadilly, or amble along a scenic footpath by the River Thames-- and never leave North America.
Just a short drive from the US border is the charming city of London -- Canadian London, that is.
Although London, Ontario, was named after the famous city in the Old World, it is a fascinating city in its own right, founded on land which used to be inhabited by Attiwandrian Indian tribes. The French fur trader LaSalle traveled this part of Ontario in 1679. In 1792 Governor Simcoe was sent to Canada from England, and he declared the site at the forks of the River Thames to be known as London.
London is modern, sparklingly clean, boasting many new hotels, restaurants, and nightclubs. Yet from the air, it does not look like a city at all; it looks like a gigantic forest.
Londoners enjoy and visitors exclaim over the beauty of the thousands of trees gracing the streets and parks. Virtually every street in London is adorned with the living beauty of trees.
The River Thames meanders delightfully through many parts of London, and the city has created special cycling and walking pathways.
Historians at the London Public Library on Queens Avenue have prepared colorful walking tours of the ciyt which will take you back in time and reveal much fascinating history.
The Cathedral Walk includes St. Paul's Cathefral and St. Peter's Basilica. One of London's major industies grew out of the popularity of Victorian stained glass. Notice the exceptionally fine examples in the churches and houses along the Cathedral Walk.
In downtown London off Market Lane is colorful Covent Garden Market. At a site where farm wagons once congregated there are now fleets of trucks that bring fresh farm produce to the many market stalls. Wander from stall to stall and you will encounter many ethnic specialities. Cheeses come from every country in the world as well as the famous Canadian cheddar from neighboring cheese producers. The friendly stall holders will cut and let you sample and taste right there. At Covent Garden Market you can buy crusty home-made bread, smoked sausage, and spicy salami, local maple syrup in shiny glass jars, or molded into intriguing shapes.
Saturday morning is a wonderful time to visit because many farm wives bring in their own specialties. Sample some crisp, homemade oatmeal cookies or try a gingery molasses loaf. Take home a jar of tiny pickled ears of corn. No more than two inches long -- they are delicious! Many of the stall holders are also market gardeners and grow their own produce. You can still buy yellow plums, greengages, or gooseberries, or old-time favorites like Russet apples or Kings at Covent Garden Market.
Covent Garden Market was named after its English namesake. Its history goes back to 1845 when merchants donated land behind their stores for a market site. before he left his birthplace to work in Paris, France, the distinguished Canadian painter Paul Peel used the market square as his inspiration for a well-known painting. His work, showing the original marketplace is now a part of the London Art Gallery collection housed in the new gallery due to be opened on May 3. This unique building, which has a commanding view of the forks of the River Thames, was designed by internationally known architect Raymond Moriyama. The gallery collection features the work of many artists who were born in London and also the work of many who still reside here. Behind the Art Gallery is Ridout Street where many old homes have been lovingly restored. One gracious old home is now a bank.
Also on Ridout Street is London's oldest house -- Eldon House. It was built in 1832 by the Harris family and deeded to the city. It is furnished in the Victorian style and the house itself is set in 11 acres of landscaped gardens.
London, Ontario, probably has the oldest natural park in the world contained within its city limits. Sifton Botanical Bog is over 10,000 years old and contains many rare wild plants. "Leave only footprints -- take only photographs" is the rule. It is a true bog consisting of a floating mass of sphagnum which in places is 60 feet deep. There is a board wald over the brilliant green bog moss to protect the delicate environment.
London has oer 70 different parks within its city limits. Sprinbank Park is the largest and most famous. It covers 350 acres. The extensive flower beds provide a succession of bloom throughout the year--while other parts of this park have been left in a natural state.
Don't miss the area known as Storybook Gardens. The entrance is through a fairy-tale castle complete with turrets and a moat. Live animals, fish, and birds can all be seen in nursery-rhyme settings. There is a contact area where childrn may feed the inhabitants of Old Macdonald's Farm and every afternoon the sea loins delight the crowd with their antics at feeding time.
You can take a ride on an old-time river boat down the Thames, paddle your own canoe, or watch youngsters as they gleefully ride a miniature train. Surely the last place in North America where you can ride a train for a nickel?
London has more shopping area per capita than any other city in Canada. Many Americans come to London to browse through its antique shops or obtain many hard-to-find items in its unusual boutiques. Visitors from the United States find many British and European imports at bargain prices, including cashmere sweaters and fine leather from England, china, crystal and jewelry from the Continent. You can also buy many handcrafted Canadian gifts such as Eskimo carvings and prints, Indian bead work, apple-head dolls and hand weaving.
The Visitors and Convention Services of London will send you a map, suggest tours, and locate accommodations. The address is PO Box 5035, London, Ontario, Canada N6A4L9.