Say London and most people think London “across the pond” in England. This London is in Ontario. The Ontario in Canada, not the one in Southern California.
London International Airport (YXU) is about 6 miles (9.3 km) northeast of the city in the middle of a peninsula sandwiched between Lake Huron on the north and Lake Erie on the south and by Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair and Detroit rivers on the west. London is half-way between Detroit, 120 miles (194 km) to the southwest and Toronto to the northeast.
It takes 20 minutes to drive between the airport and downtown London in normal traffic. The airport is accessed from other parts of southern Ontario off Highway 401, exiting at Veteran’s Memorial Parkway and going north about 6 miles (10 km) to Oxford Street where you turn right to go to the terminal area.
Metropolitan London’s population is about 550,000. Another 580,000 people are in the adjacent Kitchener-Waterloo metro area about 70 miles (113 km) to the northeast.
London is home to the University of Western Ontario, or Western University as it calls itself, and Fanshawe College. Between the two they have more than 50,000 students making for a college-town vibe in parts of the city. Beyond that, London has become a center for medical research, technology and financial industries. Surrounded mostly by plains and some of the most fertile farm land in Canada, agribusinesses and manufacturing have long played important roles in London’s economy.
So how did there come to be a London in Canada?
It goes back to 1791 when Britain’s Parliament created the colony of Upper Canada (now Ontario) separating it from French-speaking Lower Canada (Québec), and appointed Army General John Graves Simcoe as lieutenant governor responsible for establishing a “superior, more happy, and more polished form of government” modeled after British law for about 7,500 loyalists who had fled to the area during the American Revolution. Simcoe determined Upper Canada’s capital at the southeast end of the province (what is now Niagara-on-the-Lake) was an unsuitable location, being across the Niagara River from the United States and one of its arsenals. Simcoe selected the new site farther west to be the colony’s new permanent capital, naming it London to honor the seat of government for the Kingdom of Great Britain. (He also named a river at the site, the Thames.) In the meantime, he had the capital moved temporarily to Toronto (which he renamed York but in 1834 the name reverted back to Toronto, a derivation of the Mohawk word tkaronto, meaning “where there are trees standing in the water”). Simcoe returned to England in 1796 for health reasons and later resigned his position in Canada. By the time London was officially founded in 1826, the decision had been made to keep the capital where it was. The temporary location became permanent.
Renovated in 2003, the YXU airport terminal is a sleek modern building with all facilities on the ground floor. There are four gates with jet bridges and additional space for airlines to ground board from the tarmac.
Concessions in the terminal include On the Fly, a quick-service restaurant in the departures area that is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner featuring both made-to-order and pre-packaged items as well as a bar. On the Fly also has duty-free items for sale for international travelers. In the pre-security area there is a Marketplace featuring grab-and-go items to eat and a retail shop.
Ground transportation options at the London airport terminal include an official airport taxi and limousine provider and on-site car rental companies. Uber operates in the London area, including at the airport. The city’s public transit system, London Transit, serves the airport. Intercity bus service is available from the airport on Sarnia Transit which departs two to three times per day on a 2½-hour route to Sarnia on Lake Huron, with five stops along the way. All ground transportation options are available curbside outside the terminal.
Flair Airlines passengers arrive London International Airport at the D and E gates using the pathway shown in green on the terminal diagram. For departing flights, Flair starts online check-in 24 hours before scheduled departure and opens its airport check-in counter three hours before departure. All check-in for international flights ends one hour before departure.
Known as the Forest City for the thickets of greenery surrounding the city and its neighborhoods of tree-lined streets and lush parks, all of which become white in winter. The change in seasons doesn’t dampen the hospitality or the drive to go outdoors. In winter there’s skating in Storybook Gardens and tobogganing in a park that transitions to tubing in the summer. There’s a young, hip vibe in London, due in large part to its two large universities.
Information about planning a trip is at Tourism London.
After serving in World War I as a doctor, Sir Frederick Banting returned to Canada hoping to establish a medical practice in Toronto but found the city already had too many doctors. He moved to London where he bought a house at 442 Adelaide Street North in June 1920. Once again the efforts to establish his practice didn’t fare well. He went to work for the University of Western Ontario where while researching for a lecture on the pancreas Banting began to think about what made the organ dysfunctional. At 2 a.m. October 31, 1920, he awoke and jotted a note to himself about pancreatic production of the hormone insulin and how it could be manipulated to produce insulin that could prolong the lives of Type 1 diabetics. The following Spring Banting returned to Toronto where he was able to continue experiments to confirm his theory. On January 23, 1922, an insulin injection almost immediately normalized blood sugar levels in a nearly dying 13-year-old boy. Word of the success spread quickly. The following year Banting was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine.
Banting’s London house was acquired by what is now known as Diabetes Canada and opened as a museum in 1984. Visitors can now tour the Banting House National Historic Site and see the room where he practiced medicine and the bedroom where he came to his theory in the middle of the night.
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