Even though I grew up in London and although I have been familiar with most of the City’s sights, I have not really ever seen it through the eyes of a tourist.
When I was young my dad made sure to take us to all the famous landmarks such as Nelson’s Column to be dive-bombed by pigeons [see photo below], and to visit places like the Tower of London, Windsor Castle, Henley-on-Thames to watch the Regatta, and of course to have fun at the fairs on Hampstead Heath – just to name a few.
My uncle Marcel, Me, my elder sister – Lesley, Dad and pigeons!! – 1957
Of course it’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy seeing all these things as I’m sure I did: particularly places like Madame Tussaud’s, the Planetarium, all of the museums in South Kensington – especially the Natural History museum.
It wasn’t just my dad who took me to see places of interest, my various schools had field trips here and there – such as the Imperial War Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum; and in later years as one began to appreciate the arts I began to visit the various art galleries, theatres, and the Royal Albert Hall.
London is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It is steeped in history [my favourite subject] and no matter which way you turn there is always something of interest.
It will always be very dear to my heart.
I love its parks, especially Hampstead Heath and around Kenwood House, Highgate, and Golders Hill Park – they are places of happy memories. I love its waterways, not just the Thames; but also its canals – particularly around Camden Lock.
And more happy memories at its various markets, such as Chapel Street, Notting Hill, Petty Coat Lane, and of course Camden.
Enjoying a pizza or ice cream at Marine Ices at Chalk Farm [http://www.marineices.co.uk/ when I was in primary school the owner’s son was in my year and many a time was spent there, even as young adults we would continue to support the café with our custom. And as young adults my friends and I would frequent the various pubs whether they offered rock bands or not. Some of our favourite haunts would include in Hampstead – The Spaniards Inn, The Bull and Bush, The Flask in Highgate, the Rising Sun in Mill Hill – until we got barred for being too rowdy, and many more I can’t even remember…
…For the last twenty-six years I have been living in Sydney and though the times I have returned to Europe on holidays during that time it has always been to catch up with family and friends.
This year however I decided I would spend at least one day visiting the city as a tourist. Having told my younger sister, Terry, my plans [as I was to be staying with her and her husband, Rudy, during my visit] long before I departed Australia she arranged that part of my tour would include a visit to Buckingham Palace.
Early on the morning of Friday 26th September 2014 Terry and I walked to Totteridge tube station and joined peak hour commuters on a trip to Green Park. It was an experience I had forgotten – as I used to be one of those commuters some forty years ago when I used to commute to Southwark to my first job at Conoco UK. It wasn’t a bad experience, as the tube trains in the capital are fast-moving and plentiful – every 4 minutes or so [unlike Sydney]. When we alighted at Green Park our first stop was for a coffee and pastry at a Pret a Manger café. We then walked across the park until we reached Buckingham Palace.
We entered the State Rooms and began our extremely well-organized tour. Having only seen the palace from outside so many times, I never dreamed I would be able to visit its interior. And although one is limited to the State Rooms and the garden only, the experience was well worth it. http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/visit/the-state-rooms-buckingham-palace Then of course, one had to visit the souvenir shop… Needlesstosay I did not walk out empty-handed [all I can say is Thank God for MasterCard].
When we left the Palace we walked to Victoria underground station for the next stop on our tour – Tower Hill. For in commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of World War One there is one of the most spectacular exhibitions ever seen around the entire moat of the Tower of London. Some 900,000 ceramic poppies are being installed – each representing a fallen soldier from that conflict. Each poppy was lovingly created and is being installed by an army of volunteers. It truly is a sight one will never forget. http://poppies.hrp.org.uk/
One of the things I have never done is walk across Tower Bridge. I have driven over it many times but never on foot; so as this was a day of doing things I hadn’t done before over the bridge we went. Half way across I stopped to take a snap of London’s tallest building – The Shard; below it the Thames and HMS Belfast added to its splendour.
Although overcast it didn’t rain – save for a light drizzle which didn’t dampen our resolve to carry on with our sightseeing. Our destination was to be St. Paul’s Cathedral as this was yet another landmark I had only ever seen from outside. Once across the bridge to the southern shore of the river we leisurely walked along the embankment taking in the sights. The view of Tower Bridge and the Tower of London were fabulous.
From here we walked past the Hay’s Galleria where at its centre is a structure which looks as though it could have been created by Jules Verne:
Then through a few back streets to emerge at Southwark Cathedral and across the road a beautiful replica of Sir Francis Drake’s Golden Hind and around the corner the Globe Theatre came into view.
By about now my legs were beginning to kill me and I couldn’t wait to reach our goal, but we still had to cross the Millennium Bridge. Half way across it I stopped. Apart from trying to catch my breath it was nice to view the river downstream to see the sights we had passed on our way thus far and photograph it. Nearby an artist was quietly creating some astounding little masterpieces of artwork depicting iconic London land marks. I was unable to resist a gorgeous painting of Big Ben [see below]. Having parted with £10 I was more than pleased with my purchase. So I then took a snap of the painter with the Tate Modern Art Gallery in the distance – it seemed apt. The building once housed the former Bankside Power Station.
It was time to move on as we were due to meet my brother-in-law, Rudy and my sister’s friend, Anita for lunch at St. Paul’s Cathedral. After an overcast morning it was amazing to turn around and see the Cathedral bathed in sunshine – it was as though some divine authority was making a point of highlighting this wondrous religious institution.
When I was told by Terry we were meeting them for lunch at a shopping mall my heart sank. It had been a glorious day so far, but the prospect of eating at a food hall surrounded by hundreds of people and perhaps noisy kids did not appeal. It was not to be. When we entered the One New Change shopping mall Anita directed us to a lift taking us to the roof and the Madison Restaurant café & bar. The views were breath-taking and the food was second-to-none. http://www.onenewchange.com/shops/madison-restaurant
We dined in comfort and amusing conversation until it was time to get started again. Of course we had to view some of the wares the shops and stalls the centre had on offer. Rudy found some delightful custard tarts and though he purchased four – one for each of us – we were too full from our meal so we declined, much to his delight as he tucked into the rest with gusto.
As we emerged back into daylight we headed for the Cathedral and Anita, who is a Blue Badge Tourist Guide [Blue Badge Tourist Guides are the official, professional tourist guides of the United Kingdom. They are recognized by tourist authorities throughout the United Kingdom and by Visit Britain as Britain’s official tourist guides] directed me to the best position to take a photo of St. Paul’s Cathedral. You can’t get better than this…
Once inside the building there was no need of the electronic tour guide as Anita pointed out all the best features with passion and first class knowledge. As much as I would have liked to have visited the Whispering Gallery my legs and stamina [lack of] voted against the climb. Instead, whilst Anita and Rudy took to the 500+ steps, Terry and I descended to the crypt where the café was located and waited for our intrepid adventurers, whilst sharing a pot of tea and some delightful pastries.
RLB – Tomewriter