As I said in my previous post, I organised a day of marathon sightseeing in London. I planned a rather long itinerary and I was excited to go on this little adventure. Yes, adventure. A one-day marathon sightseeing on a Saturday in London (read “when everyone is out and about”) is an adventure, believe me. But I was so excited to go out, take pictures and have fun! Everyone ready?
The train from Charlton Station took me to London Bridge and when I got out of the station, I was greeted by The Shard. For a massive tower of glass, it’s not too ugly, if you ask me.
As I crossed London Bridge, I came across an old double-decker. You know me and my love for all things vintage.
I had to visit the neighbourhood around the Bank underground station quite a few times, while running errands for work and somehow I thought of Mary Poppins and Mr Banks. Don’t I have funny references popping up in my mind? I also remembered this famous song and wanted to pass by the stairs of St Paul’s Cathedral, where the lady was feeding the birds. It’s one of my favourite scenes. Does that make me sound silly?
What I really love while visiting a city is to notice its architecture and what I really enjoyed in London is to see the mix between old and modern architecture. It’s not something specific to London, you get to see this in many other cities but in London, it’s like it fits, like it was meant to be this way. The old Bank building next to a glass building doesn’t seem disturbing or shocking at all.
Then I went to the Guildhall Art Gallery to visit a stunning and witty exhibition called Victoriana: The Art of Revival, which I will talk about in the next post. Since it was free entrance for the permanent exhibition, I decided to take a look and I was very proud to have discovered a hidden jewel in London! Guildhall Art Gallery is rather small but it’s definitely worth visiting! You won’t be disappointed at all. There was one particular painting I was keen on seeing: La Ghirlandata (1873) by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, a Pre-Raphaelite artist, who was actually born in England. This painting was on the cover of one of my Jane Austen novels but it’s cooler to see the original!
This is a painting by Sir George Hayter, Queen Victoria seated on the Throne in the House of Lords (1838). Princess Victoria became Queen in 1837 when she was 18 years old. That same year, she was entertained at Guildhall and then, she decided to present her portrait to the City.
Another surprise came up: London’s Roman Amphitheatre, the city’s only Roman amphitheatre.
The remains from Roman Britain were true to the initial setting and other items were carefully displayed. I loved the interactivity in this room and the will to recreate the atmosphere of that era, especially with the fluorescent silhouettes and the sounds of gladiatorial games.
After stepping out from the Gallery with a huge smile on my face, I headed down towards St Paul’s Cathedral. Gotta keep my promise to the lady feeding the birds, don’t I?
These trees painted in blue were a beautiful surprise. At the beginning I thought it was just a London extravagance but I was too intrigued so I checked it up online. When in doubt, Google is the best. It turns out the blue trees were an initiative by Trees For Cities, a tree planting charity in the UK who celebrated their 20th birthday this year. They wanted to deliver community engagement activities as part of the City of London Festival. Apparently, the aim is to make people stop and notice these trees “which are so often taken for granted” (read more about this here). The trees were painted by Konstantin Dimopoulos, an artist I haven’t heard of but I’d like to read more about him!
I was rather disappointed because I couldn’t take a decent picture of the Cathedral’s stairs as there were too many people. One particular tourist was thinking it was his given right to monopolise the whole space for a picture. So I gave up.
Then, I made my way through Fleet Street, which used to be the house of the British national newspapers until the 1980s. Along the way, I stopped to admire the contrast between old and modern architecture again.
You wouldn’t believe what my next stop was: can you guess from this picture?
Clue: lots and lots and lots of tea!
The Twinings Shop, which is Britain’s first known tea room. It was opened at No. 216 Strand in 1706 and for a tea-a-holic such as myself, I had to stop and browse through, right? Oh and they have coffee and hot chocolate too, which is never a bad idea. I could have bought the entire shop of course but ended up buying two boxes instead, which seemed reasonable enough. I bought the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Tea Blend (faaancy) and the Pomegranate White Tea. Both were an inspired choice! Oh and I got two or three samples. Who doesn’t love samples?!
This day was getting better and better: I made my way through Kingsway then all the way to Tottenham Court Road. In a hidden little street, I found this little marvel: a saxophone shop! Ever since I have discovered jazz, I wanted to give it a try and play the saxophone… maybe another day?
I finally jumped on the tube and headed home with my head full of the beautiful memories I’ve made that day, my camera full of the captured sights and my ears full of the city’s sounds.
So, I hope you enjoyed this! I know this may not seem like a marathon because it doesn’t look as if I rushed though London to see absolutely everything. I definitely took my time to enjoy every sight and it was definitely worth planning it in advance. In order words, thank you Google Maps and Wunderlist! And thank you again London for always saving a surprise or two for me!