We spent a couple of days in London this week, something we’d not done since my birthday last year. We must have walked miles and miles over the two days we were there, and as always, we made lots of interesting discoveries. We stayed at the New Linden Hotel in Bayswater (chosen on account of its reasonable proximity to Paddington, as we got the train down this time), where we had this lovely leafy view from our window.
This was the view looking in the other direction. I just love the rows of chimney pots, which made me think of Mary Poppins.
After we’d left our bag at the hotel we set out to get some lunch. With so much choice in London, we decided to play it safe and go to eat somewhere that came recommended – Bubbledogs in Fitzrovia, which I’ll cover in a separate post. The advantage of this was that it meant we ventured into an area we hadn’t explored before, which meant a few lovely discoveries like this pretty little side street with its old-fashioned gas lamp. We saw several charming streets like these, where the owners had put loads of potted plants by their front doors.
From there we went to Chinatown and enjoyed its lively atmosphere. We stopped at a bakery and watched them making delicious-looking little cream cakes in the shape of fish, which we’d definitely have tried had we not just had a big lunch!
After that it was time to head to the Palace Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue, where we had tickets to see the new Harry Potter play. The play is (unnecessarily, I thought) in two parts, a total of over 5.5 hours spread across two evenings. I must admit, we weren’t bowled over by it (though we were seemingly in the minority – maybe we’ve been spoiled by having the RSC on our doorstep?), not helped by it being so stiflingly hot in the theatre and with so little leg room that it was physically an incredibly uncomfortable experience sitting through so many hours of it, but there were some fairly cool magic effects, at least.
Next morning, after a lie-in and mediocre hotel breakfast, we headed out for some more exploring. I couldn’t resist a classic London townhouse shot, complete with red telephone box and double decker.
Our first port of call was the Science Museum, which we walked through Kensington Gardens to get to. It was stuffed with interesting things, of course, but there was one thing I just had to photograph – the original Rocket locomotive! Wow!
From there, we made our way across the road to the V&A. I had no idea that the Science Museum, V&A and Natural History Museum were all next to each other, but it’s very convenient that they are. The queue for the latter was big, but we got straight into the V&A, where there was one exhibit in particular that I really wanted to see. This is an amazing replica of Trajan’s Column in Rome, and because it’s split in two like this, and viewed from a raised gallery, you can see more of the frieze, in more detail, than you can when you view the original in situ. It was rather marvellous.
We hopped on a Tube from there to Blackfriars, from which we made the short walk for lunch at the Happenstance, which I’ll write about in another post. The view of St Paul’s at the top of Ludgate Hill never gets old.
After a rather boozy lunch, we had a nice wander down Fleet Street and went around Dr Johnson’s House – which, again, shall be the subject of its own post. After that, we stopped for a restorative pint of coke at the nearby Ye Olde Cock Tavern to wait for the rain to stop before recommencing our explorations. A good rule of thumb when exploring central London is that if you see a narrow street that doesn’t have many people on it, it’s probably worth a look. Just such a lane led us to a rather tranquil area dominated by Middle Temple Hall, one of the four Inns of Court. It’s quite Oxford Collegey, and we particularly liked the lantern over the archway.
There are some lovely gardens round there, reserved for use by the Hall, but we were able to admire some of the flowers from the other side of the railings. I thought this was a giant thistle, but someone on Instagram informed me that it is in fact an artichoke in full flower! Isn’t it magnificent?
The whole area has quite an old-world feel, a bit like the set of Mary Poppins, with its lovely old pavements and gas lamps and railings.
We even saw some wisteria, the new shoots of which were in flower.
I would imagine that this view has changed very little for a good two or three hundred years.
From there it was down to the river for a slow walk round to Whitehall and Trafalgar Square. Our feet were pretty much killing us by that point, so regular stops for photos were required.
I thought this was an amazing relic of the past, and it seemed quite astonishing that it’s still there, on the street, rather than in a museum or otherwise sadly consigned to the dustbin of history.
We went on that boat briefly, thinking there was a free exhibition on it, but apparently that doesn’t start til the 31st!
Yet more unexpected things on the banks of the river – this time a pair of ancient Egyptian sphinxes and an obelisk (the latter not pictured). Quite an unexpected juxtaposition of historical periods here between ancient Egypt, Big Ben and the London Eye.
I’m not sure what this building is (it’s in Whitehall) but I loved the turret!
And the final picture of this post is of Horseguards Parade bathed in the late afternoon light. It’s amazing how many historic places are hidden away wherever you go in London. It really is a great city, but I’m still always glad to get back home to our country cottage and clean air!