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Saturday, 9 August 2014

To Quote Samuel Johnson....

"when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."

I must say I have to agree with him and I never tire of the place - there is always something new to discover or see.  I went there again yesterday to meet up with a couple of friends - we had planned to go to the Courtauld Gallery to see an exhibition of Prints called Breugel to Freud.

However when we met up under the clock at Waterloo one of the friends suggested we walk along the South Bank to the Tower of London and take a look at the Poppies there.  So since the main reason for our meeting was to get together and to exchange news and gossip we were all happy to agree.

We wandered along towards the OXO Tower Wharf where we stopped to have a look at a small exhibition of black and white photographs called 65 by Colin O'Brien. Billed as "a nostalgic look back at life spanning a period of 65 years"  It was a real trip down Memory Lane I can tell you!  The photographs were wonderful and the thing I noticed was just how dirty and run-down some places were back in the late 40s and 50s and although I didn't live near London or even go there till much later I did live near Liverpool in the 40's and early 50's which was much the same of course. 

Having had our fill of memories we set off again and passed this strangely painted ship - explanation as to why it was painted thus were on a board ..

If you enlarge this photo by clicking on it you will be able to read what it says.

Here we passed the Globe Theatre or the third reconstruction of Shakespeare's original at least.

Nearby we came upon this bench one of 50 Book Benches to be seen in the city.   As the web site says, "Trails of benches shaped as open books, decorated by professional illustrators and local artists, will appear for the public to enjoy. It will be a unique opportunity to explore the capital’s literary connections, to enjoy art from some of the country’s top artists and to celebrate reading for enjoyment."  What fun to follow one or more of the trails and to take a breather on one of these decorated benches here and there eh?  The benches are to be auctioned at the end of the summer and the money raised will go to the National Literacy Trust which is dedicated to raising literacy levels in the UK.  Can you imagine not being literate?  Nor can I but many are and anything which helps must surely be a good thing.

We soon passed this wonderful reflective building and I just loved the reflections all wavy and slightly distorted.

By now we were in need of refreshment so we stopped just by the Clink - which we didn't venture into! - for a drink.  I chose an iced peach tea with fresh mint and absolutely delicious and refreshing it was too.  I don't know if it was made with peach flavoured tea or just normal tea as it had pieces of fresh peach along with the mint in it but I mean to try it out at home as it was so refreshing!

Suitable refreshed we continued to the Borough Market who says the English don't do markets and how wonderful the French ones are?!!  This one is superb and I could have wandered round for hours.  That building you can see above the railway line which runs above part of the market is the Shard said to be a "Beacon For London".

Just look at those cheeses - I guess/hope they were wired in some way so as to prevent them all rolling onto the ground!

And look at all these different breads.  The stall holder asked if we'd like to try any and I wanted to try all of them!!

Just alongside all the hustle and bustle of the market is Southwark Cathedral  which again would have been worth looking round but we didn't.

Another of the Book Benches - not sure which Trail we were on though!

Past the Tower of London and on towards the Bridge.....

.....which we crossed. 

By now it was about 2.00 pm and we were hungry so we took a detour towards St Katherines Dock which we had visited once before back in the winter.  We had lunch looking across the water to the Royal Barge.

Lunch over we made our way on towards the Tower passing this pub, The Dickens Inn, on the way.  Could be Switzerland couldn't it?

We reached the Tower and here were the poppies we had come to see - a major art installation called Bloodswept Lands and Seas of Red  It was amazing and sobering to see all the ceramic poppies which spilled over the road and into the moat.

Here the volunteers are installing the poppies all 888,246 of them each representing a British fatality (I belive that includes the Commonwealth dead too).  It was heart wrenching and sobering to see all those poppies and to realise the true scale of the number of dead, each poppy in that huge spread representing someone's son or husband, another family scarred forever and that only on "our side" not counting the opponents' dead.  Will we never learn though?  Wars are still taking place people are dying and being killed - why oh why is it that we cannot live peaceably together I wonder?

We wondered what the significance of the shape was and whether there was some sort of design there and this morning I read in the weekend newspaper that there is and that "the poppies will gradually join up around the 16-acre moat in gently co-ordinated swathes. ''Only at the end – on Armistice Day on November 11 – will we fill in the edges of the moat, and make a neat finish.’’ At this point, the installation’s coup de theatre will be revealed: from above, the ancient White Tower, built by William the Conqueror, will be encircled by a sea of crimson red, its round black roof marking the heart of the world’s most dramatic poppy. 

To lighten the tone we also saw this lovely sculpture made from wire netting - bet that was hard on the hands.   The bird on lioness number one's nose is real and just landed there as we watched.  These are part of an exhibition called The Royal Beasts apparently.
We then caught a bus - not any old bus but a Routemaster Heritage Bus  No 15 which took us to the Strand from where we walked to Somerset House and on the way we came across a sign saying Roman Baths so of course we decided to go and see what this was all about - well the Roman Bath was situated in this narrow street in the building on the right and if you knelt on the ground and peered through the semicirular window you could just make out what looked like a stone pool inside.  This morning one of the friends e-mailed me with this link saying we'd been conned!  It wasn't Roman at all but quite new, being late 17th century!!  Oh well some you win and some you lose!

I had bought a book at the Tate when I went last week which was called Quiet London in which it mentioned the courtyard cafe at the Courtauld Gallery so we went into the building in search of the tea shop and came upon another exhibition this time called Time Tattoo Art at Somerset House - you can't say we aren't eclectic in our tastes can you?!!  We didn't find the cafe we were looking for but we did find a tea room and had a cup of tea and ordered a rather large pain au raisin which we divided into 3!  Tea over we walked across the courtyard - the one which is frozen in winter to form an ice rink but which yesterday was in the process of being set up for Film4 Summer Screen and came to the Courtauld Gallery just 5 hours after we'd met up to go there!!!  Of course by now there wasn't really time to see the prints properly as we had trains to catch so we decided to give it a miss this time and to plan another visit to London to see it later along with the Denis Severs House we'd wanted to visit back in the winter and found closed!

Back at the station just across the river we said our goodbyes and got our respective trains home.  The threatened rain and wind which had been forecast hadn't materialised and although not a blue skies and sunshine kind of day it was warm and dry.  Though we are told to expect the wind and rain tonight as the remnants of Hurricane Bertha are due to hit the south west.  Batten down the hatches then and indoor games for all tomorrow.

I do love London and never leave it without thinking of the next visit when I might have time to see some of the things I didn't get to see this time!  Hope you have enjoyed coming with me and found something new along the way?


  1. What a very busy day! It must have been quite an experience to see the poppies. They look as thought they are floating, such a wonderful idea.

  2. You at so lucky Jane that London is within easy travelling distance.
    I would love to see those poppies.
    V x

  3. Such lovely photographs. Thank you for these - I really felt I was there [I should love to see the poppies and sit on the gruffalo bench] Summer blessings xx

  4. I did almost exactly the same route as you on Thursday of this week! Did you see the fountains outside the Festival Hall? I loved all th benches, it was the riverside trail you were on, and the poppies are just amazing and poignant and beautiful aren't they. If I go back to London in Oct/Nov I'll definitely go back to see them again. Glad you enjoyed your day :-)

  5. I have often thought of that quote, when I was growing up in West London. I never went near the city centre and probably never will. Glastonbury is quite big enough for me LOL
    But I did enjoy your photos very much!

  6. Bet you were tired after all that. I would be dozing on the train home and miss my station !!
    Love these trips with you and hope to get back to London one day to see some of these places myself. Till then I look forward to your next trip !

  7. What a magical and poignant day out.

  8. A wonderful day out, thank you for taking us on your walk. Those poppies are very dramatic and poignant. I too wish we could all live at peace with each other.

  9. what a lovely post, thanks for sharing

  10. Oh I love, love, love London, haven't been for ages though. It looks like you had another wonderful trip there. I just showed the eldest boy the book benches, now he is desperate to go too! CJ xx

  11. The poppies must have been a moving sight. And you had a lovely walk to get to them, there's so much to see in London.

  12. What a brilliant walk you took us on. I havn't been to London for a while but next time I do I shall read through your blog and note down all these interesting places you find. You would make a terrific travel guide! Those poppies are amazing, very moving, but unfortunately still lost on some people!

  13. Good grief you managed to pack a lot into one day! When my son was small my parents and I sometimes treated him to a day out in London but travel there is so expensive now. How I would love to visit the Tower of London while the poppies are there. A friend told me she has bought one of the poppies and I'm very tempted too. A little extravagant but a worthy cause. Thanks for letting us accompany you on your day out.

  14. I am amazed at what you packed into a day Jane but it's a reminder how close everything is in London if you plan it well. I would love to see those poppies at the Tower. Trying to get there seems like a major undertaking for us. How I envy you that ease of access but at a comfortable enough distance to make it a really good day out.

  15. What a lot you fitted in to one visit! Would love to see those poppies, so moving. C x

  16. Born in inner London and able to see St Pauls's cathedral from the kitchen window upstairs in my Mum's house and now living in outer London - I get to know what is going on just coming to your blog jane! I rarely go 'into town' despite Liverpool Street station being a 20 minute train journey from my home. I really must get my act together and go and visit all the lovely places you mention. One day...................x

  17. I did enjoy this post. Thank you for taking us with you. I hardly ever get to London these days and I do miss seeing all the exhibitions and such.

  18. what a great way to spend the day, my son wants to visit soon, there is so much to see, we will need a week !


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