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London - 2014

 We arrived at our hotel about 3.30 - it was bright and comfortable and as we later discovered very quiet so we were able to sleep all night without disturbance which was a first for us when staying in a city! 

 Having unpacked we decided to take a walk through Kensington Gardens to the Albert Hall where I thought we could have a cup of tea having enjoyed my visit there with a friend which I wrote about here but sadly it was closed for refurbishment!  We had our cup of tea back at the hotel in our room instead before heading out to find somewhere for dinner.

Day 2

 We had enjoyed our walks round Paris so much we had decided to try doing the same thing in London and this time there were dozens of walks to choose from with London Walks but this particular afternoon we chose one within easy walking distance of our hotel which seemed a good one to do so as to learn a little more about the area where we were staying.  It proved most interesting and was called Old Kensington and according to the programmeThis one's special. It's rarely the first – or even the second or third – walk people go on, but when they do get round to taking it, they often say it's the one they liked the most. And no wonder, because Royal Kensington is London at its best – picturesque, stimulating, and full of character. Its parts are as delightful as London can provide: everything from warmly handsome old Kensington Palace (home to the late Diana, Princess of Wales) to Kensington Gardens (all meadows, shaded walks, bowers, and flower gardens, it might be the grounds of a stately home in some rural shire) to cobbled little soigne lanes and mews, girt with pretty cottages and charming old shops...

This photo shows a balustrade which is shaped the way it is because apparently ladies in their bustles would like to stand on the little balcony and if it wasn't wide enough the back of their skirts would be tipped up against the wall (not very decorous!) but since space was taxed rather than making the balcony wider the railings were bowed outwards to accommodate the wide wired shape of the skirts!

The little grassed square of what would originally have been a separate village and not as now part of London itself.  There would also normally have been a one and a half acre garden included in the walk but this day it was closed although we must go back sometime to see it for ourselves. There are three themed gardens sprawling over 1.5 acres including fully grown oaks and fruit trees, growing in just 1.5m of soil, and a flowing stream stocked with fish and wildlife. The gardens at The Roof Gardens are spectacular and best of all, they're open to the public to visit free of charge.  So I am guessing well worth a visit!

Thackeray's house.

Daffodils in the churchyard at St Mary Abbots parish church in Kensington

The Blue coat school next to the church St Mary Kensington - seems it was a Ragged School originally but now is the chosen school for children of the well heeled including apparently Mr Cameron's children!  Talk about rags to riches eh?  See the little statues of both a boy and a girl on their little pedestals?

The walk ended at Kensington Palace - love the gates!

A statue of Queen Victoria as you've never (or rarely) seen her.  Here she is shown as a young slim woman and not the rather austere plump matron we usually think of.

It was bitterly cold and we were glad, when we'd said goodbye to the guide, to go inside the Orangery restaurant for a warming cuppa and some cake - this was the toilet sign which I thought rather clever!

Warmed by our tea we had a wander round the gardens...

... I imagine these would look good later in the year as they were lovely even now.  From here it was but a short walk back to our hotel.

Day 3

We decided to walk through Kensington Gardens as it was not yet 9.30 and we wouldn't have been able to use our bus passes till then - past the Albert Memorial - the iron work is fabulous isn't it.

We passed this little lodge with the garden looking neat and pretty - stopped to speak with one of the gardeners who was happy to have a short chat - who said Londoners never speak and keep themselves to themselves?!

By then it was gone 9.30 and when the bus came we were lucky enough to get a Heritage one - what a trip down memory lane this was!

Here it is after we had alighted at Trafalgar Square

and here is one of the most recent design....
...and the in between one too!

Photo of St Pauls taken from the bus - weird angle but I had to hold the camera slightly behind me!

Here's where we were headed for the second of our chosen walks - this time round the City for a walk called Hidden London -

This walk is the distillation of a brilliant guide's many years' experience probing the hidden places and forgotten nooks of the world's most elusive city. Exploring parts of London that few people know exist – up creeping lanes, round out-of-the-way corners, past secret islands of green – Shaughan's at his inimitable best. As the New York Times put it, the walk is "a highly entertaining...blend of historical commentary and bizarre anecdote laced wild mildly scurrilous gossip about past and present celebrities and defunct royals." In such places and with such a guide, the past becomes our present. 

Lots of interesting facts and fascinating places but I must admit I can't remember all of them!  It's not possible to make notes and there are no handouts nor tapes due to copyright after all why should the guide do all the research only for somebody else to copy his ideas.  So it was interesting at the time but I do have rather a lot of photos I can't remember of what!

This is the London Stone something you'd walk past without a second look but whose story is fascinating.

Can you see in this window Dick Whittington and his cat bottom left?  There were many facts and interesting asides about him and indeed all the many different Livery Companies all of which are listed in order of precedence (can't remember quit how one gets placed) if you scroll down the link you will see them all listed and their order.  Seems Merchant Taylors and Skinners have long since disputed their precedence and so as a solution as to where they came it was decided to change them round each year but sometimes nobody could remember which should be sixth and which seventh giving rise to the phrase "at sixes and sevens"!

Garden belonging to one of the Livery Companies

The Church of St James Garlickhythe which caught my attention because of the scallop shell above the door which is the emblem of St James and a symbol of the Route de Compestala which my French friend and her husband are walking in stages.  I remember seeing the shells in Paris too on the Musee de Cluny in my post here.

Here is the clock with St James atop.  As you can see it was by now mid-day!

An intriguing sculpture which gives a reflection of the whole of St Pauls.  Sadly construction work going on all round it though which rather spoiled the photo.

We finished up in a little square here near the house of Dr Samuel Johnson - it is open to the public but we didn't go inside - maybe another time.

There was also a little statue of his famous cat Hodge in the square and apparently people leave coins in the empty oyster shells for homeless people to pick up.

By now it was lunchtime and we made our way back to Trafalgar Square where we decided to have lunch in the Crypt of St Martins in the Fields which was excellent though very busy.

After lunch we returned to John Lewis on Oxford Street to purchase the computer only to find they didn't have one in stock!  However there were several at their other store Peter Jones in Sloane Square so we made our way there instead and having had a cup of tea and a scone we made our way back to the hotel before going out for dinner for the last time.  Now since I wasn't going to bring the computer away but to leave it to be set up for me I did rather wonder why it couldn't have been dealt with without our needing to go across to Sloane Square but with bus passes it cost nothing and we had nothing else to do so I guess it didn't really matter.

Day 4

Detail on blog post but here are some more photos:

 Green Park

 Across the road to St James Park Buckingham Palace behind us

 St James Park.

Horseguards Parade which we crossed to come out onto Whitehall..

 Big Ben

On our way back through the Park to get the bus back to the hotel.

As Dr Johnson said "When a man is tired of London he is tired of life for there is in London all that life can afford" - how true!


  1. Great! I totally agree with Dr Johnson.

  2. I've been to London many times but never been on a guided tour before, but now it's a must!! Thank you for a lovely tour, x


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