Archive for September 25th, 2010

18.09.10  Walkabout through City of London….. Today (18th) I got to do one of my favourite things…..I went walkabout through London, and I am sure that by now you will have noticed I do this quite a lot. 🙂

London is a treasure trove of interesting buildings, parks, statues, unusual places and sometimes unexpected surprises!  I never tire of walking about the city and today was no exception.

Arthur Sullivan memorial in Victoria Gardens

I started my journey at Leicester Square…just coz I love it so much. I briefly explored the gardens and noticed that the square was unusually quiet….either that or I was unusually early 🙂  It was quite pleasant for a change – being able to walk around without being knocked off my feet. 

Leicester Square at 10:10 in the morning...better than 22:10 in the evening!

Then I meandered over past the Wappenbaum, past China Town and onto Piccadilly Circus where I managed to get a few photos of the fountain and Eros without a rainy background……did I mention that the day was splendid!!! 

a perfect autumn day

 Wonderful blue skies and crispy autumn weather.  I also managed to take wonderful photos of the 4 horse fountain and the golden girls above.

From there I walked back through Leicester Square past the London Hippodrome which has the most amazing carved chariot on the top of the building.  I then walked along Charing Cross Road to Trafalgar Square to see the robot display that was set up in the forecourt.

robots at Trafalgar Square

The sun was shining brightly and I got a fab photo of St Martin-in-the-fields Church.

St Martin-in-the-fields

I had decided to take a walk along Victoria Embankment, so making my way past Charing Cross Station I stopped briefly to admire the newly renovated Eleanor Cross and the facade of the hotel.  It had been my intention to walk along Villiers Street to the gardens but I stopped briefly to look at the Sanza shop in the Arches Shopping Arcade and for some reason the end of the tunnel beckoned enticing…..  I am quite unable to resist meandering through narrow lanes and around hidden corners to see what’s beyond. 
As I walked out the tunnel to my delight I noticed an intriguing pub ‘The Ship and Shovell’ a tiny little pub that has the unique distinction of being the only London Pub in two halves.

The Ship and Shovell..... a pub in two halves

Yes, indeed one half of the pub is on the opposite side of the narrow lane.

I exited into Crawford Street and while looking around I notice a plaque across the street on the wall.   Closer, I noted that it mentioned that ‘Heinrich Heiner’ lived at the house in 1827.  These plaques are of constant fascination to me and I am always delighted to discover them….it amazes me to know that famous people, whoever they may have been, had lived there.

Before leaving I turned to my left to photograph the houses on that side of the road, briefly annoyed that there was a great big blessed bunting attached to the railings. Complaining to myself about hanging bunting all over the place I walked closer to get a better angle…and bit my tongue! Not literally thankfully, but mentally.  The reason for the bunting was ‘Open House’. Yes it was one of the Open House venues which are open to the public this weekend every year in September…and to make it even better it was the house where Benjamin Franklin had lived!!! Whoo hoo.

inside Benjamin Franklin's house

Without any further ado, I stepped into the foyer and to my absolute luck a tour was just about to start…I tagged along immediately.  Although the house is largely unfurnished it offers a fascinating insight into the homes of Georgian days.  I wrote more about this in a separate blog on 3daysinlondon.info.  Needless to say, it was fascinating and I really enjoyed this glimpse into the past…a past of gas-lamps and dark alleyways, mystery and discovery.

After the tour I headed towards the embankment once again and as I strolled along to my delight I noticed another blue plaque further along….this one said that ‘Herman Melville’ author of Moby Dick lived here in 1849!!! OMGosh….  Then I walked back and along another narrow lane past The Sherlock Holmes’ restaurant.  Wonderful.

Sherlock Holmes Restaurant

Shortly I reached Whitehall Place and noticing that the park gates were open I decided to explore….I have never yet explored these gardens despite having walked past many, many times.   I stepped past a bank of the Barclay’s bicycles….they are everywhere 🙂 then walked through the gates and into a wonderful landscape…..the gardens are dotted with fascinating and fabulous statues and the flower beds are lovely.  The rear buildings of Whitehall, which stand tall and imposing but beautiful, tower over the gardens.

Whitehall Gardens

There a number of memorials to folk who have influenced the City of London and the United Kingdom in many ways as well as other aspects of the history.  I will blog on these folk separately as there are so many.  Reaching the end of the gardens I stepped out and into Horse Guards Avenue.   I was delighted to realise where I was now and walked along to the end of the avenue, past the Ministry of Defence which is massive and very imposing with two statues sitting atop a plinth on either side of the doors.

Ministry of Defence doors and statues...impressive

A short stroll brought me to Whitehall (the road) and across the way of course are the Horse-Guards.  I retraced my steps and found a lovely statue commemorating the Gurkha Soldiers and noting the various Campaigns they had fought in for the UK….I mused that Joanna Lumley had very good cause to fight for their right to stay in the UK.

list of Campaigns the Ghurkas fought in for the UK

I strolled along to admire the front of the buildings that line the gardens at the rear…they are impressive and very beautiful.  I then walked back and turning right into the 2nd half of the gardens I noticed amongst the usual statues one very beautiful statue that looked like an angel descending from the heavens.  On closer inspection I noted that it was a RAF Pilot descending on angel wings named ‘Fleet Air Arm’…..the memorial was inscribed with dozens of names….stunning. 

Fleet Air Arm

I then made my way towards Victoria Embankment just in time to listen to Big Ben chime the 12 noon. 🙂

I made my way over the opposite side of the road to have another look at the memorial to ‘The Battle of Britain’.  It really is very impressive….

memorial to The Battle of Britain... on the Victoria Embankment

Then meandering along I enjoyed my view of the London Eye, County Hall and the wonderful memorial in remembrance of the men and women of the Air-Forces who gave their lives in the 2 World Wars.  Finally reaching Hungerford Bridge I clambered up the steps for one of my favourite views of the river and the city.

what a beautiful view.....an amazing city 🙂

 Along the way I stopped to look at the memorial to Sir Joseph Bazalgette CB – the Engineer of the London Main Drainage System and of this Embankment! And on the other side of the bridge is a memorial to W.S. Gilbert Poet and Playwright ‘his foe was folly and his weapon wit’.  Cool.

By now it was almost 12:30 so I made my way into the Victoria Gardens and strolled along to admire the gardens.  These gardens are beautiful, also filled with wonderful statues and memorials: Robert Burns; the gate that marked the north bank of the river Thames before the construction of the Victoria Embankment in 1862;

this gateway marks the position of the north bank of the River Thames before the construction of the Victoria Embankment in 1862

a fascinating statue of a soldier in the uniform of the WWI mounted on a camel.  I forgot to have a look what the inscription was….  Also in the gardens is a beautiful memorial to Arthur Sullivan and to Robert Raikes ‘Founder of Sunday Schools in 1780.

I tarried for a while and enjoyed my sandwiches whilst listening to the chirping birds and murmur of brief conversations. The sun was beating down, warm and comforting.  After lunch I continued along through the park and noticed on my left the entrance to the Savoy Hotel.  Deciding to have a closer look I ventured along Savoy Place leading to the hotel and along the way I noticed a 2nd Open House….The Institution of Engineering and Technology, the beautiful Victorian building situated on  the site of the 13th Century Savoy Palace. Awesome.
I stepped through the doors into a lovely tall cool foyer, where I was told I could explore at will…which I did. First to the 3rd floor and the Riverside Room from where I had a marvellous view of the river and then into the Lecture Theatre; original panelling and carved cartouches from 1909, designed by W S Frith, as well as a beautiful ceiling feature.

beautiful ceiling of the Lecture Theatre at the EIF

Next stop the  library and archives; housing a world-class collection of digital and printed resources on all areas of engineering and technology.

From there I decided to explore the rear of the Savoy Hotel which looked rather beautiful, and to my delight and amazement I found a tiny chapel; The Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy in the square.

The Queen's Chapel of The Savoy

From here I continued uphill and found that I was now in The Strand, and as I walked along I passed Somerset House and since I had yet to visit…..decided to explore….the London fashion Week is being hosted in the forecourt and the number of totally amazing outfits boggled the mind. 

London Fashion Week

London Fashion Week - some seriously absurd outifts

 I noticed that the Inland Revenue has their home there (?); admired the fabulous fountain that faces the entrance,

Somerset House

lovely fountain in the courtyard of Somerset House

walked around the back to Seaman’s House…the carvings around the building are of a nautical nature and most amazing…I walked through the foyer of Seaman’s House to the patio at the back for a view of the river…lovely. Returning to The Strand I walked to the far end to explore a church I had so wanted to visit for ages…. St Mary Le Strand, one of 2 island churches on The Strand.

interior of St Mary le Strand

Wow…what a beautiful church….again I will blog on this separately. From there I meandered as I do and found amongst other treasures; the ghost station of Piccadilly RLY – Strand Station; now boarded up and just around the corner in Surrey Street another exit to the station, also boarded up.

a ghost station

And just a wee bit further on I noticed a mysterious tunnel-like entrance and a plaque on the wall… thank goodness they are so sensible in this country with all the plaques…stepping into this dark entrance – Surrey Steps, I walked along this exceptionally short street and down a dank, grubby set of stairs and into a very shabby lane to the right and there to my utter delight were the remains of a ‘Roman bath’ ….. awesome!!

a Roman bath

Another of the English Heritage sites and one of the Open House venues….not normally open to the public and usually viewed through a window we were able to step into the ancient past.

From here I made my way back downhill towards the embankment, passed the delightful ‘Norfolk Hotel’ with its wonderful facade and intricately carved entrance details,

beautiful detail on the pillars at the entrance to Norfolk House

and thence to Temple where I was to meet up with my daughter.  Since she had not yet arrived I meandered along Temple Place, passing Arundel House and to the corner where I stopped at Number 2 Temple Place to enquire of the 2 very smartly dressed gentlemen out front the gates, about the history.  Turns out #2 Temple Place was a  house built for the ‘Astor’s’ of the hotel chain, but they never actually lived in it.  It is now owned and managed by The Bulldog Trust and is used as a venue for weddings, important dinners and such like.  Very grand.

Number 2 Temple Place

Number 2 Temple Place...built as a residence for Wiliam Waldorf Astor 1895

From there I slipped through the metal bollards that guard the entrance to the lane heading uphill and into Temple. A short walk and up a long flight of steps into a short cul-de-sac uphill and past the Edgar Wallace Pub….a sad story.

As I neared the top of the lane I suddenly became aware of a beautiful building ahead of me… OMWord!!! The Royal Courts of Justice…..a most incredibly beautiful buildings, looking for all the world like a fairytale castle rising up on the crest of the hill.  My jaw practically dropped to the sidewalk in amazement….it is magnificent. 

The Royal Courts of Justice

 I sent CJ a text message to say hurry up….it’s one of the Open House venues!!! Yup, you got it….the courts were open to the public for our delight.
While  was waiting I explored the surrounding area and found the most delightful and beautiful St Clement of the Danes Royal Air Force Church. 

St Clement Danes Central Church of the RAF

An enormous memorial to ‘Gladstone’ stands on the forecourt and the interior of the church is magnificent.  A small church dedicated to St Clement has sat on the site dating prior to the 9th century.  When the settled Danes settled in the area the church became known as St Clement of the Danes.  I will go back at some stage to explore further and then blog in more detail about it.

Finally CJ arrived and we set off to explore this magnificent Royal Courts of Justice. (see blog)
After the fun and games of this particular visit, I then took her on a tour of Fleet Street and the areas I have explored for my itinerary. We visited the birth site of Samuel Pepys, St Bride’s Church, Fleet Place, Old Bailey, past St Sepulchre’s Church (another favourite of mine), past Cutler’s Hall, into Stationers Hall, along Ludgate Hill to St Paul’s and through Temple Bar into Paternoster Square. Along the way we stopped to admire the beautiful houses in Amen Court and the very modern steel spiral vents of Paternoster Square.

spiral vents at Paternoster Square

By now we were in the mood for a hot drink so stepped into Starbucks and treated ourselves to a drink and carrot cake…..sat on the benches surrounding the ‘pineapple’

the 'pineapple' in Paternoster Square and St Paul's Cathedral

and enjoyed our fabulous view of the Cathedral….listened to the 6 p.m. Bells while I regaled her with tales of the history of the square, St Paul’s and surrounds.  After coffee and having recovered our strength we explored the garden of St Paul’s and then to the bus-stop and home.

A marvellous day.

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