Monday, November 29, 2010

London and a few favourite things- Guest Blog

In no particular order and restricted to just a few or else I'll have to write a guide book.

That London is comprised of two cities - the City of London (financial district) and the City of Westminster.

London's dense layout is fascinating. On a map, places appear to be far from each other, however, when you take the time to walk you find that this is not usually the case and the discoveries that you make as you walk can be pretty incredible. In London, like most cities in Europe it pays to explore and be adventurous, as long as you have an A-Z on you, or in this digital age an iPhone / Smartphone that you can use to discover where you are if you get lost.
Try this for size: Piccadilly (Circus) to Leicester Square to Trafalgar Square up to the Mall to Buckingham Palace, via Green Park / St James's Park, to Hyde Park Corner. Turning right you can head into Knightsbridge, continuing straight ahead takes you to Marble Arch and Oxford St. Turning right will lead you back to your starting point.

The greenery of the city! It's a bonus that a green space is never far away, whether it's a park (royal or not) or some sort of garden. Driving through Hyde Park in central London in the middle of winter one does not encounter a dead wasteland. When the temperatures begin to warm up, the spaces become covered with bodies in varying degrees of dress, or undress, as they soak up the rays, even during the week.
A few to put on the list
  • Green Park
  • St James's Park
  • Hyde Park
  • Kensington Gardens
  • Soho Square Park
  • St Paul's
  • Finsbury Circus
  • Fann Street Wildlife Garden
  • Battersea Park
  • Chelsea Physic Garden
The Thames runs through it. Having a waterway to walk along, sit by and have a drink on a warm day is splendiferous and of course is perfect running route. This means that it's possible to see rowers practicing and to take a boat rather than a train / tube / bus if you so feel inclined. The Thames forms the north south divide which is pretty useful to know.
Areas for consideration because they have markets, second hand bookstalls, markets, shopping areas and the like, either pretty much at the water's edge or a short walk away.
  • Southbank - for theatre, music, exhibitions, shopping, eating and drinking. Try the Hayward Gallery, BFI, Oxo Tower, Gabriel's Wharf, the London Eye.
  • Bankside - for the Globe Theatre and Tate Modern. Moving along to London Bridge and Burough Market (a wholesale and retail fruit and vegetable market.
  • Thames Embankment - North of the river, it extends from Battersea Bridge to Blackfriars Bridge. Walk past or visit the Houses of Parlaiment, Cleopatra's Needle, Victoria Tower Gardens and the Savoy (newly reopened).
  • Putney - in addition to being the home to a famous rowing club and being on the route of the Oxford v Cambridge boat rate, there is a wonderful and energising walk along the Putney bank to Richmond. More often than not you'll see rowers practicing in the morning. Be careful of the tide lapping over the banks during high tide.
  • Richmond-upon-Thames - for a boat trip to Hampton Court passing through locks or a walk to Kingston passing Ham House and Marble Hill House along the way. If you're lucky you'll see cows grazing in the pasture.
  • Kingston-upon-Thames - for walks and cycle routes to Hampton Court, Teddington and Richmond. Not to mention boat rides and picnicking, fishing and feeding the ducks in Canbury Gardens.
The variety of modes of public transportation, from buses and the tube to trains (overground and suburban or intercity), the dockland light railway (DLR) and the river boats of course. Oh and not to forget the most recent addition of Boris's bikes - bicycles which can be rented throughout central London. I love the fact that buses traverse residential areas as well, so no one is ever very far away from some form of public transport. We won't mention travelling during rush hour, please.
  • Buses - the famous red double-decker buses
  • Tube - be a mole and travel around the city using the incredibly connected underground lines.
  • Trains - see the light of day on an overground, suburban or intercity train. The latter connects you to any major (minor) city in England, Scotland and Wales.
  • DLR - a monorail system which runs through the docklands (in the east) to the city.
  • Riverboats - a vast array of commuter river boats with connections to and from central London to the east (Greenwich and Arsenal Woolwich) to the West (Hampton Court). It just takes some asking around to find out about them.
Culture Vulture! It's impossible not to mention the cultural activities and entertainment that this true melting pot of a city has to offer. Theatre, concerts, the ballet, street theatre, London Walks - meeting the tastes of everyone from the smallest child to the most elderly person. In the Summer it's not difficult to trip over some free cultural activity wherever you are in the city.
How about the fact that each borough and area is completely different, having its own feel and vibe which means that sometimes crossing the street takes you into a very different and unique ambiance not to mention accent.
  • Islington - located in the London burough of Islington, it is an inner-city district with unique restaurants and shops as well as being the location for Sadlers Wells theatre. A walk along Upper Street is a must.
  • Kensington & Chelsea - a very affluent area in London. It is home to exclusive antique shops, the Royal Albert Hall, the Natural History and Science Museums, Harrods and Portobello Road, as well as Chelsea Football Club.
  • Clapham - a vibrant, lively area with a village-like atmosphere located in south London. It includes the vast green space of Clapham Common. It is quite 'edgy' and a perfect place to find clubs which open late if you do feel like going dancing.
  • Putney - walking along Putney bridge proves wonderful views of the Thames to the east and to the west. In addition to St Mary's Church, site of the Putney Debates of 1647, there are several open spaces such as Putney Heath in which on can relax and enjoy birds singing / whistling.
  • Richmond - If you fancy seeing some deer when in London, heading out to Richmond Park (the largest royal park) is a must. Several hundred of the Queen's deer reside in Richmond Park. Take a wander around Richmond to locate the myriad of historic houses and of course Kew Gardens is one tube stop away.
  • Brixton - located in inner south London, a visit to Brixton is made to experience Brixton Market. The market is comprised of a wide range of ethnic based shops and European delicatessens. It has recently undergone a refurbishment which has resulted in all of the previously available shop spaces to be taken over and produced a long waiting list of businesses waiting to get in on the action. Note that it will now open on Sundays.
The architecture, historic buildings and locations go without saying. Did I mention the vast array of places to eat and drink?


1 comment :

  1. Thank you D, this is wonderful for anyone to use when visiting London! Packing my bags!


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