August 17 – September 1, 2016
I’m sure I have previously flown over the Thames Estuary on the southeast coast of England, but I have never been in a position to see it. The weather was wonderfully clear as we flew from Frankfurt, over Belgium and on to England. It was fascinating to follow our progress far below.
As we flew further west toward Heathrow, I recognized more and more landmarks and then St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle and Eton came into view. We used to live just 10 miles/16 km away, so this is all very familiar.
We took an Uber (much cheaper than the Heathrow Express) to our Airbnb which was located where Bayswater, Lancaster Gate and Paddington come together. A great location and very central. Our flat was on a quiet street, on the 4th floor of the 3rd building to the right.
The high price got us just one room with a table, two chairs, one armchair and a kitchen in the corner. Oh, and a closet and a small bathroom! It became our home for the next 2 weeks.
We became quite creative; in the morning we rolled up the duvet and it became a backrest to our new ‘sofa’! On my side of the bed, the suitcase served as my bedside table.
The Gardens were just 5 mins away, so we often cut through when walking to various destinations.
I learned to love this Henry Moore sculpture. Depending on the time of day, it took on new forms when draped in differing light.
The Arch by Henry Moore, facing Kensington Palace in the distance.
Around another corner of the park, we came across a gathering of people, some of them standing like statues. Then we noticed why……
they were feeding green Ring-necked Parakeets
I later found out that there is concern that they may push out the native birds.
The Serpentine River that runs through the Park.
HOUSES OF PARLIAMENT
One of the first things on our agenda was to take a tour of the Houses of Parliament. The Members were on vacation, so we had access to the whole building.
Unfortunately St Stephen’s Hall was the last place where cameras were allowed. Our personal guide was extremely informative and gave us a real history lesson in the foundations of democracy, as well as the reason behind many strange and seemingly outdated practices.
A fascinating and interactive sculpture that is linked to the tide in the river Thames.
We had also booked the Afternoon Tea, but we had time to kill so we wandered around for a while.
If the weather had been nice, the glass doors would have been opened to the terrace.
The sandwiches and little cakes were delectable, and the scones with jam and clotted cream rounded off the experience nicely.
A former market area in central London, Covent Garden continues to be a bustling and lively place to browse small shops, restaurants, antique stalls and watch a variety of performers.
Oh dear, I think they found me!
Our good friends Lou & Daniel met us there. We go back to the 60s when we were all students at Newbold College.
While Lou and I wandered around the stalls and shops,
Daniel and Jouko were watching the performance.
Later we wandered down to the river,
and took time for a quick picture (Lou’s mother and my mother were friends back in their youth – before they married!).
What a gorgeous evening!
Too soon it was time to return home, so we followed Daniel through the back streets; he knows them so well.
Then I was back in familiar surroundings in Oxford Circus with the Liberty department store in the corner.
River Cruise to Greenwich
So far we were having wonderful weather. It was time to take advantage of it and experience a river cruise.
Cleopatra’s Needle on the Embankment – a very interesting link.
The pedestrian Millennium Bridge and the Tate Modern Art Museum.
The new modern buildings are from left to right, 20 Fenchurch Street – or the “Walki Talki”, the Leadenhall Building – or the “grater” and 30 St Mary Axe – or the “Gherkin”.
Along the way we had some hitch-hikers.
So interesting to see Tower Bridge from this angle.
A view of the old and new.
The East End has certainly become very trendy.
These old converted warehouses now cost a fortune. The Shard dominating the skyline on the south side of the river.
I love this picture of the white-washed church against the dark London Transport Power Station in the background.
The old Royal Naval College, Greenwich.
On our first Sunday, wanting a traditional Sunday lunch of Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding, we went up to Hampstead Heath. The pub was right on the edge of the Heath, so after lunch we decided to walk through it.
One can get panoramic glimpses of the city from certain elevated areas on the Heath.
London’s parks are magnificent. They are like oasis in the heart of a city that is constantly on the move.
Very well maintained and popular, too.
Once on the other side of the park we tried to find a bus to take us to Kings Cross or St Pancras from where we could pick up the tube, but we never managed to find the right one, so we kept on walking. Fortunately it was all down hill. Then we came across the Regent Canal.
We thoroughly enjoyed meandering along the canal, watching the house boats going up and down it.
Eventually we came across Granary Square which has been converted into new apartments blocks, restaurants and bars. Some of the best experiences in life are those that are unplanned! We figured out that by the time we got back to our digs, we had walked at least 6-7 miles. Oh, and probably walked off the Sunday Roast!
TUBE ART WORK.
The London Underground, or the Tube as it is usually referred to, works so well. Although fairly pricey, it is efficient, clean and I’m so glad that the old Art Deco tile work is being well maintained.
Glad to see that there was also new art work – depicting history.
The early morning view from our one-room apartment.
It was thrilling to be back and to explore it’s streets, parks, historical buildings. However it is changing, along with the rest of the world.
After doing some shopping on Oxford Street, which is an exercise in dodging and dancing between obstacles,
….we ventured down Regents Street. Expectation!
On an adjourning street, window decorations in Fortnum and Mason,
and then Piccadilly Circus. So reassuring to know that Cupid was still there!
But I was eager to visit my ‘home’ from 1969 – 1972, University College Hospital, where I had done my nurse’s training. I had heard of the new, modern hospital that had been built next to the old “Harry Potter” style building.
Ah, memories; of my first injection, of nursing friends and of patients, of “battle axes” and young residents. MEMORIES! This former entrance now leads to research labs.
All that remains of the entrance to the old Nurse’s Home, which is now the entrance to the Oncology Hospital.
And this is now the new entrance to UCH.
So glad to know that my Alma Mater is thriving and making a major contribution to life of the city.
We were not far from Regent’s Park, one of London’s smaller parks. Since the weather was turning brighter, we walked there and meandered around.
I had asked Lou to recommend a market to visit. She suggested the Borough Market and she was spot on; a fascinating & thriving place where one can find fresh, specialized produce in the heart of London.
Swiss cheeses. Figs from Turkey. Everything one could want!
After exploring the market, we wandered around the surrounding area and came across Southwark Cathedral (this link shows it’s link to William Shakespeare) and decided to take a look. Here it is flanked by the Shard. We never went up the Shard because it costs quite a bit and I am afraid of heights, so I preferred to remain on terre ferme.
Another famous connection with Southwark Cathedral is John Harvard, who gave his name to Harvard University in Mass. The above picture is not very good, but it shows a window in the Harvard Chapel in the Cathedral.
We then began to meander back down the Thames and came across the Globe Theater.
I knew that it was the 400th year anniversary of Shakespeare’s death and had actually looked on line for tickets. But then I remembered that Jouko had said that he did not like the theater, so I dropped it. Well, what do you know? When he sees all the hoop-la and that it is celebrating the 400th anniversary of his death – he wants to attend a play! Within 15 mins of having this conversation, we were inside, having bought cheap tickets to see MacBeth!
I never thought that I could stand in one place like that for 2 hours, but we did!
Another unexpected, great experience.
Then we walked along the Millennium Bridge and back to the City and the tube ‘home’.
One of the prime attractions on our things-to-do list was to visit the Natural History Museum. But we had not reckoned with the fact that schools were still on holiday and the lines seemed to be endless.
So we went into the neighboring Victoria and Albert Museum.
After looking around for a while, it was time to have a cuppa tea. They have this lovely tea room, where someone was playing the piano while we sipped our tea. So civilized!
Since we were not far, we decided to have a look at Harrods again.
Always a thrill to visit the food halls, even if you don’t or “can’t” buy anything.
We walked back via the Royal Albert Hall and had a close look for the first time ever at…..
…….the Albert Memorial. It is really very impressive.
We walked back through Kensington Gardens again.
Vauxhall Bridge, opened in 1906, this Pomeroy Bronze figure represents Architecture. She holds a miniature of St Paul’s Cathedral.
Since we enjoyed our first Thames Cruise so much, we decided to take another, this time in the opposite direction and go west to Richmond. Our friends Lou & Daniel would meet us there.
These folk were obviously following the commentary of the guide – and I was looking in the opposite direction, at the Riverside in Vauxhall.
oh, oh Jouko, watch out!
We passed under some magnificent bridges, many built over 100 yrs ago. Here the Albert Bridge opened in 1873.
The Battersea Railway Bridge – 1890.
Mortlake Anglin & Alpha Boat Club, Chiswick.
Isleworth Village, Hounslow.
Some of the many house boats moored along the river.
Coming in to dock in Richmond.
We spent the rest of the afternoon at a cafe, sitting outside under the trees ……
…until it was time to say farewell once again.
On our last day, we still managed to fit in a few places we had not seen.
We walked from Trafalgar Square and the British Museum…
…to Horse Guard’s Parade.
On through St Jame’s Park, with a peak of Buckingham Palace.
Ah, the sun has come out again – Hyde Park.
At last we came to Kensington Palace. This is where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate live with their family.
Part of the Palace Gardens.
In front of the Palace is this large circular pond. The clouds were building up, so it was time to head back and to start packing.