Tag Archives: London

Icons of London

As I travel away from London I feel like a wrap up post of London iconic images might be fun. Of course one of the most iconic is the phone booth, amazingly still in use.

Then there is the mailbox. This one surprised me since I thought that ‘franking’ went out in the early 20th century.

Staying with the red theme, the double decker bus must be included, although some are now shrinkwrapped with advertising as we see all over America.

And of course, the Beefeater guard.

Abandoning the red theme, Big Ben immediately comes to mind.

and of course Westminster Abbey.

and speaking of religious edifices, don’t forget St Paul’s cathedral

and then the Globe theater

There are so many sites, I could keep this up endlessly but I think that I will wrap this up with one image that reflects the London of yore and a final image that reflects London of today. you may have to look closely at the contemporary image to catch it.

The old ( tower of London)

And the new ( from Trafalgar square)

Hint — the traffic signals.

Oh yes, my favorite beer from the trip was BrewDog Punk IPA

My last day in London

I’ve really enjoyed my 2 weeks here even if I do miss my pooch. I set out today with a mood of melancholy but totally enjoyed myself. It was one of my favorite days as it was all about serendipity and leisure. 

I spent the first part of the morning repacking for my travels tomorrow, thus making. my wanders guilt free. I decided to take the #94 bus instead of the Underground not wanting to miss a moment of London on my last day. I had thought to go to Picadilly Circus on it but jumped off a bit earlier to take a peek at Hamley’s toy store.

It was all that they claimed. 5, or was it 6, floors of playthings. Baby toys, arts and crafts, board games, a whole floor of pink toys, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and legos, legos legos. The Royal family made from legos.

I think parents that bring their children in there and escape without going broke are very fortunate indeed. I wandered along and As I looked to the side I discovered that I was again near China Town. 

That didn’t quite fit my mood for the day so I wandered on. There was a whole store of legos across the street but I felt that Hamley’s had filled my interest for that day.  Having skipped breakfast, my eye was caught by the display in the window of the Caffe Concerto. Checking the menu on display, I saw the word omelette and knew I had found my lunch spot. A spinach and gruyere omelette, served with salad and toast and a cup of coffee were just what I needed.

Impossible to leave a cafe like this without desert I rounded my meal with Belgian chocolate gelato. I was now good to go.

My wanders took me through this delightful pocket park with a statue of Shakespeare. The current temperature was quite cool, but I could easily imagine a warm day with children darting and squealing in the water.

I continued to stroll, heading down whatever street took my interest. I peered into windows of antique sellers. This small area had shops with first editions of both old and new books, old coins and military medals. I paused to look through stacks of old prints of the illustrations from Alice in Wonderland and Winnie the pooh.

Further wandering led me to see a church that I felt was very familiar but took me a bit to place…. St Martins in the Fields. For lovers of classical music this name should be quite familiar. They have quite a few recordings.

A sign out front indicated a cafe and shop in the crypt of the church. I went in to explore.  It definitely had a crypt like feel to it except pleasant. The museum shop was filled with beautiful items to explore.

The church faces out onto Trafalgar square so I next spent some time there looking on chalk drawings and watching street performers. Even though it was a Monday, not a weekend, there was plenty to enjoy. I loved the relaxed feel of it all and it wasn’t overly crowded which was a blessing to me.

I sadly decided that it was time to point my feet at least vaguely back in the direction of Hyde Park and my hotel. I came upon the Parade Grounds where a hand had been rehearsing in preparation for the Queen’s birthday. I watched them march away partially entranced by the sound of all of those marching feet. Of course there were policemen condoning off the area but once the performers were gone, I watched one of them reward his police dog with a bit of play time.

Awwwww – I do miss my Kelly-girl.

From here I walked up to Hyde Park Corner and said my farewells to the park by taking the path along the Serpentine from end to end.

Dinner at a pub on BaysWater near Lancaster Gate called the Swan rounded out my last day in London.

Sunday is Museum Day – take 2

Its once again Sunday, so time to pick a museum. This time I chose the Victoria and Albert museum.

I looked at the map when I went in and saw reference to several rooms labeled “Cast Court”.  What the neck??? I went into the first of these and my mouth hung open… look at all these sculptures….

All these fakes… They were rooms full of casts of sculptures from all over the world. No need to go to Rome to see Michaelangelo’s Moses, a cast of it is right here. Michaelangelo’s David? Also here.

Of course, there were many real sculptures there as well, but not from the classical era. This is a bust of Albert Einstein from 1933 when he was living in a refugee camp in Britain having just escaped from Nazi Germany.

 There were textile exhibits, furniture, China and artifacts from many countries mostly dating from the years of the British Empire.

oh yes and some very modern exhibits

The rest of the day I spent idling about.

Avery, Lacock and Bath

Hurrah for Rabbies! I learned to enjoy their small group tours in Scotland and this one was made to order for me…. standing stones, quaint village and Roman ruins. I made it to the meeting point on time (in fact,way early) to meet my guide James and Hugo, the only other person on the tour. One of the nice thing about Rabbies is that the tour goes on even if you are the only one on it. He provided lots of intersting facts about London as we wended our way out of the city…. the Duke of Westminster owns over 300 acres within London, you may buy a house on his property but you still will pay him a lease for the land. One of my favorite entertaining bits was as we passed a pub called the 3 Kings with a painting of said kings above the door. He challenged us to name the 3…. I guessed that one was Henry VIII, but really we passed the pub too fast to really study the picture. Anyway, it turned out the one painted. the middle of the sign was Elvis! I got a better look on the return trip and was able to see the likeness. Another nice thing about Rabbie’s tours is that the 16 passenger buses are small enough to take the smaller roads, so it wasn’t too long before we did just that. 

we started to see houses with thatched roofs and James explained about how they were made. surprisingly ( to me at least ) a properly maintained thatch roof might last 60 years!

Our first photo op was the White Horse of Cherhill.

 The image is made by scraping down to a layer of chalk under the grass. In the foreground of the picture that is a field of rapeseed in bloom, also called canola. After another photo stop for a good view we arrived in Avery. 

Avery is a small village surrounded by a large circle of standing stones. These stones were from local sandstone so are much more eroded than those at Stonehenge and some are now quite small. Some are also missing altogether, most probably used in the building of the village itself. Unlike Stonehenge you can walk through the fields and touch the stones. Many of the missing stones have been replaced with markers.

After walking through the fields, we got back on the bus and headed for Lacock. Lacock is a quaint village that has been used in Jane Austen films and the inside of the Abbey was used to film some of the corridor scenes in Harry Potter. We did not have a lot of time here so I wandered the village instead of the Abbey.

I did get an outside photo of the abbey.

Then it was time to move on to Bath and the Roman baths at the sacred spring.

This is probably the view most folks associate with the baths … if, in fact, they associate anything at all. The Roman buildings and baths were buried for many centuries until they were rediscoverd in the 18th century and then heralded as a healing spa. In addition to the baths, of which there are many within the structure, there was also a temple to Sulis Minerva. The below is from the roof of the temple with a video overlay showing what is believed to be missing.

The baths were supplied by a natural hot spring and there were some rooms meant for swimming and others for soaking. There was also a cold plunge bath as well.

I really enjoy Roman ruins so I spent a lot of time here. when I finally did exit, I set out to find the Jane Austen centre. I checked a map but still managed to take the long way around. I finally arrived at this corner and discovered I was within a few blocks. 

I enjoyed my walk and the surroundings but found that getting sidetracked has not left me with enough time for the guided tour at the center and they did not permit self guided. I started walking back and came across this likely site:

A bar specializing in local Bath Ales. I did have time for that. Some more interesting views and then it was time to return to London.

Many thanks to our Rabbies driver and my touring companion, Hugo. I had a great time and the 3 of us enjoyed interesting conversation during the drive in addition to all the interesting facts and stories provided by James.


Rabbies tours … http://www.rabbies.com


After getting lost, again, I carefully checked out the tube map and decided that Greenwich was the next stop for me. I do love maritime museums and old clipper ships.

The Cutty Sark. The old ship in dry dock and elevated 3 meters has a museum built around its keel. I paid my fee and went inside to see the hold. Boy, could it hold a boatload….. I mean, boy could it hold a lot of tea! There were lots of hands on displays meant for children and of course I played with most. I did bypass the rocking seats designed to share the shipboard motion since I have had occasion to experience a tad of mal de mer. As interesting as the belowdecks were, its the deck that alwaysholds the most interest.

From there I explored the grounds of the Royal Naval College.

Before heading over to the maritime museum. The British did have a rather large maritime impact (understatement!) so they had some fascinating history to explore. I stayed there until closing at 5. I could not return to home base until I had hiked up the hill to see the display around the Prime Meridian. 

Oh no, the gates closed at 5!!! Surely they have a marker outside of the museum area! sigh…. they did. It was in a small gated enclosure but it was not locked.

My right foot is east of the prime meridian my left is west. – towards home.

Also on display were the standards for various old English measures of distance8

I didn’t make it to the deer park but after getting lost yesterday, I wasn’t anxious to repeat the performance. Besides I need to be up early tomorrow for my trip to Bath.

Royalty and Lost Again

Although I have wandered through Kensington gardens several times this trip, I realized that I had yet to visit the Palace and the Palace Gardens. There was no entrance fee to the gardens so I started there. As you can see from the photo, they are gorgeous. Unfortunately for me the public was restricted to the upper walkway around the edge . There was a plaque indicating that this had been a favorite spot of Princess Diana which set me to wondering how often did she actually get to enjoy the gardens and how unlikely she would have been able to visit them on the south of the moment like I had just done. It would have to have been planned with guards to clear the space and so on.

After rounding the corner I found myself at the beginning of a walkway that was edged with 6 foot high hedges. I was compelled to follow it. At the end I was near to the Orangery. While I debated whether to go in there or to return to the Palace entrance, a helicopter with a royal seal came in to land in the adjacent field.

 Folks were running over and lining a railing next to the field, so what could I do but join them. Several cars drove out onto the field and 6 guards on motorcycles covered the area while Princess Anne and hubby, Vice Admiral Laurence loaded there luggage and took off.  So nice of them to grant me a view of Royalty for my visit even if she is only 12th in line. 

After that excitement, I went ahead and bought my tickets for the Palace and enjoyed several hours of wandering state rooms and the special exhibit of many of Princess Diana’s wardrobe. According to a plaque, when she first met Prince Charles she only had 1 change of clothes and was always borrowing from her friends. She apparently worked closely with a number of designers to develop a style suited to herself and her position.

After leaving the Palace, I realized that the entrance from Kensington gardens is actually the back side, so I walked around to the front side. Not only were there a million “no photo” signs, the fence surrounding the front is covered with a black mesh that cannot be seen through. Huge mansions lined the other side of the street – also with “no photo” signs. These turned out to be more embassies. I followed along the street until I got to the BaysWater entrance where I discovered that the roadway in to that neighborhood was gated and guarded. I felt a tad intimidated but glad I had the chance to view it. Since I was back on Bayswater, I did grab a photo of the gate and guardhouse.

Lunch was definitely in order by this time so I continued walking west and then turned down a likely street and ended up at the Mall Tavern. I gave in to the urge for a burger and beer. The waiter brought me a sampling of 3 beers and once we worked through that process I had a very satisfying meal while I perused my guide book for my next adventures.

My guide book was no help as it contained nothing west of Kensington Park. I did have a map that my hotel had provided me so I opened it up and perused the area North and West of my current location. aha! Portobello Road. Isn’t that where Paddington bear spent his days? I now had a destination.  I headed off enjoying the day and my walk turning down streets of interest but keeping my heading north and west. I reached the Portobello without mishap and gazed down the street of antique and tea shops thinking fondly of the Paddington bear stories.

I wandered in and out of little shops feeling a bit bohemian and thoroughly enjoying myself until it was time to leave. At this point my luck ran out. I was sure I was on the correct street going the correct way so I enjoyed my walk and the kids being let out from school when I realized that I had no idea where I was and had not seen a handy corner map in a very long while and no underground stops. I finally found a bus stop with a map and saw it had a stop with a label to change there for the Underground. The bus ride went forever! I eventually found the Underground and had a pretty long ride to get back to my home base but arrive I did with just enough time for a quick wash and back into the city as I had a ticket to see An American in Paris. The musical was wonderful. When I got back to the hotel much later I pulled out my map and realized my mistake on my travels, and oh if only I had boarded that bus on the other side of the street….!

This, that & Westminster Abbey

A true rainy day. I started out on a run to Victoria Station. I’m going on a tour to Bath on Saturday and needed to see where I needed to be to catch my bus. True to this visit, I exited Victoria Station on the exact opposite side from the one that I needed but the spot that I needed was less than three blocks away from the station. Now if only I get up on time. I have never adjusted to UK time …. I have been staying up late and sleeping late daily.

I was on Buckingham Palace road so I followed it along until I reached the more familiar area close to the Palace. I thought that I might go to the House Guards museum but it was closed due to a special event. Further wandering left me facing Westminster Abbey. It was cold and misty but it looked like the line was moving along so I joined in.

It was incredible! So very, very many tombs with vast monuments, effigies and stone memorials. Kings and Queens of yore and even Oliver Cromwell was buried there for 2 years; before they dug him up so he could be beheaded for treason. Photogrophy was not allowed so I cannot share the beauty and of course it is very difficult to convey the sense of age that looking at the tomb of Richard III gave me. I spent several hours here before realizing I had not yet eaten today and it was mid afternoon so I went in search of food.

After eating at a pub near Westminister station, I aborted my plans for meandering as it was pouring down rain so I went to the station and headed for home base. It was not raining there so I wandered shops and then made an early day of it.

It’s all about the Parks

If you wake up in London and the sky is blue, there is only one thing to do … head for the park(s).  Fortunately my hotel just happens to be close to the Lancaster Gate of Kensington Park. What a treat for me. I entered the gate which is next to the Italian Gardens and strolled along the NE side of the Serpentine. Much of the area next to the water has been left wild to provide nesting grounds for the ducks and other fowls. I saw a swan on her nest but as soon as focused my camera, she tucked her head under her wing. Lucky me I found another a ways down that was not as shy.

It was definitely a bird watchers paradise. This little fellow was so not shy that as soon as the camera clicked he flew right into my face.

When my stroll along the Serpentine reached a bridge and a map, I discovered that the famous statue of Peter Pan was on the other side of the water. I looped around and strolled around enjoying the greenery and the birds. I even saw green parrots ?! I eventually wended my way to the statue.

It’s quite a nice statue and well worth walking around as there is more to see on the base in the back. I admired it from all sides before approaching the water again and watching the ducks.  When it was time to move on I chose to spend some time in the adjacent Hyde Park and set out on a path that appeared to traverse the park in a diagonal. The middle appears to be barely used at least during a weekday in early May. The paths are well maintained but the grassy areas are left with a natural look.

When I got closer to the edges of the park, everything had a more manicured appearance and there were more people, playing fields and even an ice cream truck … a converted Rolls Royce Phantom!

Now, I know that both Wellington and Achilles were war heroes but I was surprised to see a statue of Achilles as a monument to Wellington but then again why not – they were both war heroes.

A stop at the oldest Hard Rock cafe for lunch was next … grilled chicken & arugula salad with some good music on the side hit the spot before resuming my journey through London’s parks.

Now I thought Achilles to honor Wellington odd, but this one of a naked man with a sword to commemorate the machine gun corps of WW I seems even odder.

Green Park is lovely and there are quite a few memorials including another memorial to Wellington – this time a statue of him on his horse. After Green Park, I walked through St James Park. Isn’t this a peaceful scene?

And who doesn’t love baby ducks?

After St James, I ran out of what had essentially been contiguous parks. Instead I found myself facing the Horse Guards parade grounds. Nothing was happening there at that time so I crossed over and went through an arch to be held up by a review. The guard on the right was inspecting the guards on the left. 

When the inspection was complete the policeman let us cross the square. I was relatively close to the Thames by this time and headed that way. Before I reached the river, I discovered that I had blundered into Whitehall which is a street but also a generalized name for the center of government. Since this was “park day”, I was delighted to find a small Whitehall Park.

I continued on along the river until I reached an area called the Victoria Embankment which also had a park which I seem to have failed to photograph. I did stop at the parks cafe and enjoy a cup of coffee while I sat and watched the world go by.

it was time then to cross the river. I crossed using the Golden Jubilee footbridge. I enjoyed a leisurely stroll (as I had been doing all day). I listened to street performers and watched the river cruise ships out on the Thames. 

Surprisingly I discovered it was time to dine if I wanted to eat before going to the play at the Globe. The Swan restaurant is adjacent to the Globe so I joined the throng and asked for a place to sit. It was packed, so they put me at a table for 4, where a couple was already seated. Normally I enjoy this arrangement but not this time … the woman was calling off her wedding to the man sitting across from her! I just kept my head down and tried not to listen. They left before my food was delivered and the next couple were celebrating a birthday and I felt easier.

Then it was time for the show! The Globe has 3 areas to watch the play. The “groundlings” stand in the pit and hope it doesnt’ rain … see picture below

The lower gallery, where I was, has long backless benches with seat numbers on them. It is customary to rent cushions for these seats. I also rented a seat back …. sort of a wooden stadium seat and put my cushion on that. Fortunately, the lower gallery is covered by the upper gallery so I didn’t have to worry about rain.  As you can see from the photo, my seat had a good view of the stage. The play was Nell Gwynn. The play is based on the life of the real Nell Gwynn who was an actress and the mistress of King Charles II. It is a lighthearted play and was very well done  and it did not rain!

Before the journey back to my hotel, I got this final photo for the day from area in front of the Globe looking across the river to St Paul’s.

Tube stop – St Pancras

I liked the way that the tube stop adventures worked out, so this time I chose St Pancras station. This must be the spot for trains to go through the chunnel as I saw platforms with signs for trains to Paris and Brussels and last I heard England is an island. I had seen a photo of the building my guide book but was unprepared for the immensity of the building. This is a view of part of the front.

  • It keeps going in all directions and contains not only a train station but lots of shops and a hotel which is supposed to house the worlds longest champagne bar. I did not check it out. I was distracted by the fact that across the street was Kings Cross Station. If that does not ring any bells, then you will not care that after a careful search I found platform 9 3/4 and a couple of kids returning to Hogwarts.

Actually it was not at all hard to find as there is a Harry Potter store right next to it. Kings Cross Station looks very different than St Pancras station

After picture taking it was still raining so an indoor venue was in order. I stepped up to the handy corner map and discovered that the British Library was close by. I didn’t want to read but they have a collection of original and first editions on display. Again cameras were not allowed, but I saw a Gutenberg bible, an original copy of the Magna Carta as well as the lyrics to a Hards Day Night on the back of an envelope. And what I thought was a bit of a hypocritical letter from Queen Victoria opposing the suffragette movement… excuse me, didn’t she have all the rights women were fighting for and then some!? (oops, my soap box is showing).

The rain had not stopped so I left the library and had a great lunch at the Oz cafe before I hopped a bus to Regents Park. The rain. had stopped by then so I began my neighborhood stroll. I walked past the Sherlock Holmes museum but decided that I was more interested in walking than standing in line.

Truly it looked more like another souvenir shop than museum.  The handy street corner maps as well as some other signs indicated that I was headed towards the Lord’s Cricket Ground and what could be more British than that? It was a pleasant meander and eventually I arrived.

I was kind of hoping to see a venue where I could see a pick-up game but this was the major cricket stadium for London. I’m glad I didn’t wait for next Sunday for this walk as signs let me know that London would be playing Ireland on that day. Cricket might not have the fan following of soccer but I would imagine anything pitting London against Ireland would be well attended. 

Shortly past the cricket stadium, I took a right on my wander and after a ways found myself on a familiarily named street and location.

I got my photo and then explored the shop located under the studio which was full of Beatles and other Abbey Road souvenirs. This wasn’t high on my list before I arrived, but I’m really glad that I got there. It is a connection with my past. 

From here I continued my wander, mostly through a residential area with more beautiful streets and homey looking churches.

Soon after a reached an Underground station and took that as a sign that it was time to return to the hotel and freshen up…. and most importantly, unload a day pack that seems to get heavier with every block. How much can a guide book, 3 maps, a camera, an umbrella and a spare usb battery weigh?

A bit later I headed back over to Queensway looking for Italian food. I picked one out of the several on the street and ordered the lamb cutlets with salad and polenta. It was quite good. I followed that with an indulgence of some decadent tiramasou and coffee.  

Another great day in London.

Sunday is Museum Day

I’m not quite sure  how I came to believe it, but Sunday feels like it is Museum Day and so I set off to the British Museum, along with a gazillion of my closest friends. I took the Underground to Tottenham Court rd and then consulted the signs directing me to my destination and arrived without issue.

For some reason that I cannot explain, the folks manning the front gates decided that the line in front was long enough and told us to walk around and enter through the back entrance. Of course it’s a big place and the line o. the back side was short so I very likely got in at exactly the same time as I would have standing in line at the front. Oh well, better exercise and fresh air this way. I immediately headed for the coat room to unload my coat and day pack keeping only my wallet and my phone. I have been to enough museums to know that unless you have a child with you, unloadi g unnecessary items is essential to my enjoyment of the museum. I might have had a debate with myself about my camera but as it turns out that point was moot. Don’t laugh at me Monica, but as usual I forgot to charge my camera so it was merely dead weight. I’m not really fond of taking photos in a museum and really pretty much in there can also be seen in a guide book or on line. I was pretty amused by the picture taking of some of the visitors. I saw more than one visitor walking at a relatively steady pace through rooms with phone or camera in video mode without actually looking at the things they were capturing to disk. Not to get on my soapbox, but the point of a museum it is to get a close up personal view of the artifacts.

Predictably, the most famous exhibits were worth the visit. Up close and personal to the Rosetta stone, the Elgin marbles, and Egyptian mummies! I walked through what I felt to be acres of Roman, Greek and other ancient cultures. All of it totally absorbing. I had a brief lunch break where I had a tasty chicken tart seasoned with spices from India before resuming my museum experience.

I’m not sure how an exhibit of clocks got mixed into ancient culture exhibits but I thoroughly enjoyed it and was almost startled to find myself back into artifacts from 300-1100 AD.

By all means, do not miss the British Museum!!!! 4 hours turned out to be my limit for the day. I browsed the gift shop and after deciding that I didn’t really need a replica of the Rosetta stone in my living room, I collected my coat and bag and left the building and started to meander my way. I had no real destination in mind but decided to point my feet in the direction of Piccadilly. What a great choice that was! The neighborhoods were fascinating.

I found a quaint spot and had “creme tea” which includes tea and a scone with clotted creme and jam. I knew I would need to do this at least once on the trip. It was actually quite good. I almost wished I had not eaten when I saw this next place.

 yumm .. I resisted and continued on my walk to start running into lots of theaters, like this one…

Pretty elaborate display, but should draw some crowds. 

I eventually made it to Piccadilly circus which is sort of like the theater district . That is the area where the theaters for both of the plays that I have attended during this trip can be found. I spent some time wandering, watching street performers and shopping before heading back to the hotel.

It was raining and I was tired so after cleaning up, I headed back to the bar and had a Caesar salad before calling it a day.