We were in London for a few days last week and when I tell anyone where we went they automatically think of the 3 Ss above. No we didn't do any of the above but we had a lovely time exploring our capital. There is so much more to it than shops and tourist attractions etc.
We set off on Wednesday by train to Waterloo where we met up with The Wanderer who had come to meet us to collect one of her rucksacks which we had been storing in our loft. She isn't content with a few days holiday in the UK like us but is off to Nepal on her own to do some serious trekking! Don't know where she gets it from and I don't want to think too much about it till she gets back safely! Having handed over the rucksack and had a brief chat over a coffee she set off for home (she was working from home that day and this was supposed to be her lunch break) and we, having purchased a sandwich and a drink, wandered to the South Bank where we enjoyed our lunch in the sunshine before walking over the bridge to Charing Cross to get the bus to Kensington where we were to stay..
Having settled into our room and had a cup of tea we decided to walk to Holland Park apparently considered one of the most romantic and peaceful parks of West London. Holland House was badly damaged in the war and only parts of it remain but it was lovely wandering round the park in the late afternoon sunshine - for hadn't we chosen well the weather during our stay was beautiful. I wanted to see the Kyoto Peace Garden which we'd read about.
It was lovely and so tranquil we quite forgot about the busy Kensington Road we had left only a few minutes earlier.
Having slept well - though the hotel we were staying in is only a short distance from the busy Kensington Road it was quiet and our room overlooked a pleasant residential street - we set off after breakfast to go to St Pauls Cathedral.
cafe where the board outside made us smile although we didn't have to pretend since everything actually was OKay! It is right opposite St Paul's and you can sit and enjoy a coffee or whatever whilst watching people going in and out of the cathedral.
Our walk was to take in some of the gardens in the City - a similar walk to one we had done back in May but I had no photos of any of the gardens since my computer threw a wobbly if you remember and all my pics which were on it were lost. The roses were still in bloom this October day and just look at that sky! There is something about the light in October which is different to that in the summer months and the sky seems to be a translucent blue not seen at any other time of year. Maybe it is because we know it cannot last long and we appreciate it more for that reason.
Whilst all the tourists were thronging at the front of the cathedral we wandered round to this lovely garden at the back not a soul in sight and the trees and shrubs acted as a baffle to the traffic noise too so it was really peaceful!
Postman's Park another quiet little garden just opposite what was the HQ of the General Post Office and this statue is of Rowland Hill who introduced the unified penny post.
Here we are at Bunhill Fields just outsided the City's square mile founded in the 1660s as a burial ground for non-conformists, radicals and dissenters amongst whose numbers lie Daniel Defoe, John Bunyan and William Blake. It is another quiet oasis of calm and was designated a Grade I park in 2011.
We crossed the road to this flower bedecked pub where we enjoyed a sandwich lunch with a glass of shandy each before.....
Quakers in use from 1661 to 1855. George Fox , one of the founders of the movement, was among those buried here.
... and more modern buildings. This one is the Heron Tower and currently one of the tallest skyscrapers in London - it was quite a strange feeling to stand looking up at it and I don't think I would like to go up in the lift to the top as it traveled so fast as seen through the glass tower at the right of the photo.
Cleary Garden once again constructed on what was a bomb site though the garden has a long history which you can find on the link.
Today's walk was to be in Marylebone and taken from one of our books called London's Hidden Walks Vol 2. So we got the bus to Marble Arch and started our walk from there. Marble Arch apparently stands on the site of the Medieval village of Tyburn and was London's main site for public exectutions for over 500 years. Thankfully nothing like that happens there now.
Portman Square a private residents only garden in the centre of the square.
Manchester Square which houses the Wallace Collection containing a wide variety of art works which is free to visit. We didn't go inside but it's on my list for another time.
The famous trimmings shop VV Rouleaux which drew me like a magnet and had I gone inside that might have been the end of the walk as I would have been like a kid in a sweetie shop!
Marylebone High Street is lined with cafes and individual shops and although not truly villagey being more like a market town it is hard to believe you are only minutes away from Oxford Street with its hoardes of people and traffic. We decided to have a coffee and some chouquettes in Paul. Memory Lane for us since we often used to take coffee in Paul in Limoges when we lived there and I once asked for some chouettes (owls!) and wondered why the waitress didn't know what I was talking about. I loved the decor, the books were not wallpaper as I had first thought but very effectively made from thin wood and if you check out the link you will not see the books in the pics so they must be fairly new to the cafe.
We passed a building which had been a Ragged School this would have been a slum area and the poorest children would have attended schools such as this. Now the area is very affluent and the school building here is now offices or somesuch.
We came to Mary-le-bone church shown here but to get a photo would have meant standing in the middle of the busy road so this is from a notice board and shows what the church would look like viewed from Regents Park York Gate and of course the view from the front of the church was towards Regents Park.
Just round the corner was where Dickens once lived and wrote some of his principal works and on the wall of the current building - an office block perhaps? - is this relief sculpted from stone showing Dickens and some of the characters from the novels.
Our route now took us towards Wimpole Street. Lots of houses like this one (I can't for the life of me remember whose this one was!) where many famous names had lived. Arthur Conan Doyle had briefly practised as an opthalmologist, Elizabeth Barret Browning until she eloped with Robert, Paul McCartney had lived as a lodger at the family home of his then girl friend Jane Asher and wrote Yesterday and I Want To Hold Your Hand whilst living here. On down to Wimpole Mews where Stephen Ward of the Profumo Affair scandal had lived and on to Harley Street home of London's medical profession since the 19th century and then to Portland Place a wide 18th century street said to be amongst the grandest in London and where is housed the Chines Embassy. Whilst we were walking along here a cavalcade of police on motor bikes and in cars accompanying a big black car headed past obviously going there somebody important no doubt.
Eric Gill a controversial figure (see the link).
Langham Hotel once the grandest establishment of its kind in London and patrons included Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, Napoleon III, Oscar Wilde, Noel Coward and the Emperor Haile Selassie before we turned down Portland Place with its Medical Society of London building founded in 1773 the oldest medical society in the UK.
Butcher of Culloden but a new statue has been errected and if you click on the photo below you will be able to read all about it!
We finished our day with dinner at Maggie Jones a quirky restaurant off Kensington High Street where we enjoyed an excellent meal before heading back to our hotel.
I will stop here and continue the second half of our trip on another post.