Wandering in London, Part 3


I’ve been busy  . . .

June 15, 2011

Today I was feeling all historical again, so I went to Fleet Street where the history of London peeks from every corner.  Fleet Street was once London’s center for journalism, banking, and a number of pubs, but today its a busy street filled with lawyers, bankers, and tourists.  The highlights for me were the memorial of Temple Bar, Number 1 Fleet Street (Dickens used this bank as the model for Tellsons’s in A Tale of Two Cities), Prince Henry’s room (from the 17th century and its still there!), Hoare’s Bank, and Mitre Tavern.  In addition, it was really interesting to see how Londoners hold onto the past even thought the present keeps pushing towards the future.  Old signs and storefronts remain in place even when something new takes over.  For example, there might be a deli or a salon inhabiting a building but the sign for a newspaper from bygone days remains firmly in place.

Off the main road there was just as much to explore.  On one of those sidetreets, Fetter Lane, I got one of my favorite pictures so far:

During my first trip to London, the tour guide (back when I went with tours instead of on my own) took the group to a church that still bore the damage from the German blitz during WWII. My pictures from that trip did not turn out well and I’ve always wanted another chance.  During my next two trips I searched for this church, but never found it.  This time, however, a little bit of wandering and an extra dose of luck brought me back to St. Clement Danes.  Not only do I have some great pictures to add to my lessons on WWII for my students, but I gained even more respect for a city that wears its wounds with pride and reverence.

Before I left for London I read a blog that outlined the five best places to write in London and she had mentioned the Royal Festival Hall.  I was close enough to that very spot, so I headed towards The Strand and then crossed the Thames at Waterloo Bridge. According to the blog, the fourth floor was a good spot and she was right!  Large windows offered a great view of the river and despite the number of people occupying the other tables it was remarkably quiet.  I started a new short story and simply enjoyed the ambience of creativity.  Just to shake things up I went exploring and found another great spot on the 5th floor, the Balcony Terrace.  Not only do you get a great view of London, but you can also hear the goings on down on the embankment.  More detailed posts on the South Bank are forthcoming.  There are a number of reasons why I keep walking along that side of the river, so stay tuned!

June 16, 2011

With rain threatening and me on my last pair of dry shoes, I opted to stay indoors and do another museum day.  The National Gallery at Trafalgar Square seemed like the perfect way to spend the day . . . and it was!  I visited just about every exhibition hall, but I naturally hovered over my favorite artists.  I sat and admired Leonardo da Vinci’s The Virgin on the Rocks and then learned all about Britain’s most famous painters including J.M.W. Turner.  From there I bumped into Rembrandt, Vermeer, and Peter Paul Rubens.  My heart, however, belongs to the Impressionists, so the bulk of the day was given to Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Cezanne, Degas, and Pissarro.  Each of their works inspired a number of ideas for characters I hope will populate a story or two in the future.  In particular, Pissarro spoke the loudest with his painting The Boulevard Montmarte at Night.

After the museum, I wandered through the side streets around Trafalgar and eventually ended up at huge bookstore, Waterstones.  I don’t know why, but I always manage to find a bookstore wherever I go.  And no matter how much I try to resist, I always have to go inside!  This is probably the third or fourth Waterstones I’ve been through already, but in this particular store I noticed their catch phrase.  As a burgeoning writer, I found it to be a fantastic source of inspiration . . .  “Feel Every Word.”

Click for much more . . .

Continue reading


Wandering in London, Part I


June 8, 2011

With my husband safely dropped off at the train station, I found myself alone and wondering how to fill my day.  I decided to cross Hyde Park and make an attmept to find a coffee shop and bookstore I remember visiting six years ago. So, I made my way to the High Street Kensington station on a vague hunch that a little ways down the road I’d find what I was looking for.  It’s been a long time since I last tread this stretch of sidewalk and much has changed.  Large new stores and redecorated facades have given this place a first class makeover (never mind that it was beautiful prior to the work!).   I was just about to give up when I spotted the familiar signs for both coffee and books, side-by-side just as I recalled.  Over the next three hours I enjoyed a hot cup of coffee and perused the latest paperbacks.  Here’s to retracing old footsteps!

June 9, 2011

I spent the morning on a walk through Mayfair guided by a book I bought a few months ago.  It took me through the main trendy streets and lead me into hidden causeways away from crowds and traffic.  At one point, I found myself in a park reportedly used by KGB spies during the Cold War as a communication locale.  The park was actually so beautiful, I decided to sit and read for a little while along with a few other locals.

Above: Mount Street Park. Nope, I won’t tell which bench was (supposedly) used to convey secret messages of espionage.

The end of the walk left me at the tip of Green Park, so I opted to go for a stroll through the oak lined paths of this smaller cousin of Hyde Park.  I picked a bench that allowed me a glimpse of Buckingham Palace, but kept me far enough away to avoid all the hoopla that usually surrounds the Queen’s home.  On my right, a group of locals worked hard on their soccer game while a school field trip commenced on my left.  To my delight, no one gave me the “Oh God, you’re a tourist” look.  As long as I don’t speak, I suppose I blend right in.

June 10, 2011

Not every day can be perfect, there always has to be a rough one in the mix.  I woke up to frigid temperatures and it didn’t warm up for the whole day!  The plan was to go to the Tate Modern Museum and everything seemed to head in that direction while I was on the Tube.  No problems, no delays.  Things went downhill when I emerged street-level and found myself in a cold, torrential rain.  I decided to tough it out and walk very quickly towards the Tate, but of course they closed off the sidewalk due to construction.  I tried to find another way, but ended up getting utterly lost.  And it was still pouring rain.  I gave up after about 40 minutes and after I was soaked to the bone.

I went back to my room and worked on getting dry and warm.  The day got better once I headed down to what I now call my Starbucks to get a cup of coffee and catch up online.  A hot mocha fixes everything and so does a couple hours of writing.

June 11, 2011

I caught a little chill from the previous day, so I decided to stay out of the main city and just relax for the day.  The last thing I wanted was a cold!  Saturday in Muswell Hill turned out to be a very nice way to use up some time.  I spent the morning and early afternoon camped out at Starbucks, where I wrote and wrote as though there were a million words swirling around in my head.  After my computer battery died, I walked through the high street and visited all the local shops.  I didn’t buy anything, but it was fun to see what was for sale.

Above: Muswell Hill Broadway.  Art for Arts Sake is easily one of the most fun stores I’ve ever been to – lots of fun and creative craft projects.

By early evening, I sat in front of my bedroom window took my time reading the newspaper and snacking on chocolate butter biscuits, which were absolutely divine (I will be devoting an entire post to delicious junk food I’ve been noshing on since I got to London!).  Good thing I walk an average of 5 miles a day or all the snack experimentation would spell bad news for fitting into my clothes.

Part 2 coming soon . . .

c.b. 2011