With regard do my London trip, initially I said that I wouldn’t try to hard to check off things on lists and, instead, simply walk around. Well, it looks like I’m not capable to do this when visiting a completely new place that’s totally worth discovering. So, naturally, I ended up running from place to place, to see as much as I could. I tried to organize my days around certain areas so things would run more smoothly.
Day one. I did a bit of exploration of my neighbourhood, Little Venice. Beautiful and quiet residential area that, as the name suggests lies next to a canal. With the subsequent floating houses, ducks and swans and relaxing atmosphere. Reminded me of Amsterdam, Burges, or, as the name suggests, Venice.
From Little Venice I walked towards Camden Town, where I had a concert to attend at the Roundhouse. I passed by Madame Tussaud, that I hadn’t the slightest intention to visit because I’m not interested in wax characters, then through St Regent’s Park, great green relaxation space. Camden Town is a sort of urban bazaar, with crazy colourful buildings, all sorts of street artists, markets that sell everythin from food, to clothes, to antiques and all kinds of eye catching wonders. As you cross the bridge across the canal, on the left side, under the train crossing, is Stables Market. A labyrinth with no apparent end filled with second hand shops, leather products boutiques and a tone of food stands of all nations, with vendors that urge and entice you to taste there merchandise. Ideally, here, you need to have lots of time and not be completely starving because you can go crazy making up your mind about what looks better and what to try first. Prices vary from 2,5 pounds for a slice of pizza, to 5 pounds for a Chinese mix and 10 pounds for a nice looking burger.
Day two. I hoped on the tube to Trafalgar Square, where I didn’t spend much time because I had to get to Buckingham Palace in time to see the changing of the guards. Walked down Whitehall Street, pass the famous 10 Downing Street, all the way to Parliament Square, where I had a short and fast encounter with Big Ben, because I had to get to Buckingham Palace in time to see the changing of the guards. Then through St James’s Park, where if you’re careful and come prepared with some nuts or almonds you can befriend the very sociable local squirrels. When I finally reached Buckingham Palace, of course all the good spots were already taken so I didn’t see much from the famous changing of the guards. What I can say is the little I saw didn’t impress me half as much as the similar experience I had in Stockholm.
After that, since a nasty little, I imagine typical London, rain had started, I returned to Trafalgar Square, where I though I could find just the perfect cover inside the National Gallery. As I said, all the art your heart desires, tax free. I must admit I scanned the works on display pretty fast, but what I saw I liked.
I then made a quick stop in Leicester Square, and imagined how I would have been all stary eyed had I been there say, for example, the night The Revenant premiered, when Leonardo di Caprio and Tom Hardy made an appearance there. Then I snapped out of it and moved along and well I did since I discovered the nice little ensemble of streets called Seven Dials. Full of little shops and chic restaurants, with an atmosphere that reminded me a little of Las Letras neighbourhood in Madrid. One stone’s throw away is Covent Garden, that is to say more shops and restaurants. In case you didn’t have enough to choose from. In the evening I had to be across the river for a concert at the Sounthbank Center, so I made my way over Waterloo Bridge, discovering that when the London wind blows, it blows fiercely. Especially on the bridge. But it’s worth the walk given the great view it offers both ways and sides.
Day three. The only totally sunny day was absolutely gorgeous. And since I had decided that if I get some proper sun I’d do my thing and go to the seaside, I acted accordingly. So, after a short stop at St. Pancras train station, the kind of vast and airy place I always appreciate, I took of for Brighton, where I spent a wonderful half day. Upon my return I ended up in London Bridge train station. Which I had no idea, but soon discovered is set right at the base of the Shard. Which is huuuuge. Tallest building in London. I probably spent a good quarter of an hour staring at it in awe, before making my way to Borough Market. Like Camden Market, it’s a market, under a bridge, offering all sorts on enticing, varied and impossible to select and choose from food.
On the southern side of the Thames, from Lambeth Bridge to Tower Bridge lies The Queen’ s Walk. I only strolled down the last part of it, from London Bridge to Tower Bridge, where I made my way to the other side, only briefly gazing at the glass floor tower that I would have loved to climb, but had no time to because I had a precise target. Since it was probably the only certain sunny day, I wanted to see the sunset from up high. So after admiring the urban landscape from the bridge I continued my journey on the opposite side, pass the Tower of London, stopping to rest for 10 minutes at St. Dunstan in the East Church garden, a little green oasis set in between the couple of standing walls of a former church. I then presented myself with great excitement on 20 Fenchurch Street, to see the sunset from the Sky Garden. It was only then that I found out with grave dissapointment that, although you do not have to pay to access the wonderful space, you do have to book in advance. Like two weeks in advance. And since I hadn’t done that, I was left with the intention. I did have a backup plan, at a slightly lower altitude, so I made a run for it and got to One New Change rooftop terrace, just in time to see the last rays of sun fade away. With St. Paul’s Cathedral as a backdrop. Which was just fine and pretty.
Day four. After a couple of bus trips, I had started to orient myself way better in the great London space. So I left on foot from my neighbourhood, strolling down Edgware Road, a pretty mixed area with Arabic feel, halal shops, falafel restaurants and women who would only let you catch a glimpse of their eyes, from behind their dark burqas. I then reached the famous Marble Arch, gateway to Hyde Park, and went on down Oxford Road, the paradise of frantic shoppers. First thing I found was an infinite Primark, and then many other shops, including the famous Selfridges, vast and luxurious mall, where I feasted my eyes upon the likes of Tiffany and Chanel. After all the window shopping I moved along, straight ahead, pass Oxford Circus and Tottenham Court Road, all the way to the British Museum, where I got a chance to rest my tired feed and admire some mummies, stones and statues, and especially the impressive glass ceiling of the central atrium. Since it was my last night in town and I wanted to get one last look of the nocturnal riverside scenery, I went down to Embankment and walked the Golden Jubilee Bridges, which are basically to modern pedestrian bridges, that look pretty spectacular. Initially, I wanted to reach Westminster and Big Ben but a harsh wind was blowing and a cold rain was falling, so I called it a night early.
Day five. My last day in London was completely chaotic weather wise. There was sun, storm, wind, clouds, sun, wind, rain, sun, hail and wind again. Oddly enough, it wasn’t til the end of my trip that I got to see the places London is probably most know for. Parliament Square, Westminster Abbey, Westminster Palace, Big Ben. It was Easter Sunday and everything was closed, so I could admire the ornate towers and battlements against the backdrop of blue sky and fluffy white clouds chased by the wind. I crossed Westminster Bridge and cautiously approached London Eye, the most impressive Ferris wheel I’ve ever seen. I didn’t really have time to test it though, because I had other places to get to. So I made my way back across the bridge and towards Victoria Station, where I got just in time to hide from the abrupt and angry storm that has just started. On my way out I made a quick stop at Westminster Cathedral (yes, there’s and abbey, a cathedral and God knows what else), which is very close by and then I took a bus to Nothin Hill. I somehow miscalculated my hours and didn’t have sufficient time to enjoy this wonderful place, with hilly streets and houses of colourful doors. I only got to spend like 5 minutes on Portobello Road, an eclectic rainbow wonder, because I had a bus to the airport to catch and I must say I greatly regretted not planning my schedule differently. And that was about it for me and my first London trip.
There was clearly more to see and do, but that’s just another reason to get back to the crazy city. Especially since I know got the hang of it.