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One of the pleasures of London is strolling down its high streets, popping into the odd coffee shop, your sole purpose being to earwig. Few things are as gratifying as tuning into that multi-lingual audio channel of this old yet young city, listening to myriad tongues of its zillions of tourists in July, peppered by the staccato and wonderfully resolute Cockney accent.
When the sun’s shining, there’s nowhere else like London as you wander aimlessly along with changing tides of people of every kind and description… “suits” pacing briskly, backpackers looking wildly about for their hostels, workmen winding each other up with double entendres, cyclists, runners, Hassidic Jews, giggling girls headed for the pub, furtive addicts. And if you’re where I was recently, Kings Cross, an interesting smattering of working girls – some clearly in the transition from boy to girl – mixed in with bright-eyed athletes arriving at St Pancras station for the Olympic Games.
You might even suspend disbelief and wonder whether the recession over here isn’t just an extravagant media spin, because right now London is pumping.
The Olympic Games follows hot on the heels of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and the city is also milking the honour of being crowned the “World’s Best Destination” this year by travellers.
The downside is there’s queues at every Starbucks, and the Tube stations are sausage machining a number of humans around the clock. But it would be churlish to complain. It’s all part of the buzz.
The reason I was here was to see what, aside from our athletes participating in the Olympic Games, SA’s party trick is. It’s to be found, it turns out, inside one of the busiest tourist attractions in the city, the Tower of London’s Jewel House, in the form of our own Cullinan diamonds. One is set in the Sovereign’s Sceptre and other is the centrepiece of the Imperial State Crown.
With hundreds of thousands of tourists pouring into the Tower of London – 2 500 on a quiet day the Tower guard told me – that’s
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