Kathryn and Ken's European Vacation

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Day 4: London
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United Kingdom


Travelodge Covent Gardens, London


Sunny with a high of 24C

Day 4: Friday, September 8, 2006     London England

Walk a Mile in My Shoes

Kathryn's dad has a cousin Joyce who lives in Ingatestone, Essex which is about one hour by train northeast of London.  Kathryn had been to London several times when she was teaching overseas and wanted to visit Joyce.  Because we had such a short time in London, she said I should stay and see more of the city and she would go to Ingatestone by herself.  That meant leaving me alone in London for the whole day by myself, which is a scary thought.  Now that we had seen the high points on the bus tour, I wanted to go back and see some of them close up.  My knees were feeling better and I did a lot of walking on this day.  This was major mistake number 2 regarding my knees.  At the bottom of the page is a thumbnail of a large map of central London.  I have marked the walking part of my tour with a black line.  It was a beautiful, sunny day for sight-seeing.

After a breakfast of cappuccino and croissants, I started the day walking about 1.5 km to Piccadilly Circus.  For many years, Piccadilly Circus - at the junction of five busy streets - has been a famous London Landmark. At its heart and backlit by colorful electric displays is a bronze fountain topped by a figure of a winged archer. The statue, is popularly called EROS, the pagan god of love, but it was in fact designed in the 19th century as a symbol of Christian charity - a monument to Lord Shaftesbury, a philanthropist. After seeing the size of Trafalgar Square yesterday, Piccadilly Circus was a disappointment - it is much smaller than its reputation.




Statue of Eros at Piccadilly Circus.

It was about 0.5 km walk to Trafalgar Square, which was created to celebrate Nelson's defeat of Napoleon at Trafalgar.  I spent a fair amount of time taking pictures here (see slide show at bottom of page for more photos).  I was really impressed with Trafalgar Square, which is bounded on three sides by St. Martin-in-the-Fields church, the National Gallery, which houses one of the world's richest collections of paintings, and Canada House, home of the Canadian High Commission in London.  The centrepiece of the Square is the 165 foot column, topped by a 17 foot statue of Britain's great naval hero, Admiral Horatio Nelson.  Around the base of the column are the four giant bronze lions by Landseer.  My Big Bus Company 24-hour pass was good until 11:00 am so I had planned to hop on the bus and take it to my next stop which was Harrods.  However it was such a beautiful day that I decided to walk

Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square

the roughly one km along Victoria Embankment along the Thames to Parliament, across Westminster Bridge and caught the bus at the London Aquarium which is just south of the London Eye.  If you look at the big map below, I caught the blue line bus at stop 51 and followed it past Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace, where the streets were packed with people heading to the Palace for the 11:00 am Changing of the Guard.  We continued on up to the Marble Arch, looped back through Grosvenor and Berkeley Squares, which is the ritzy section (the Hotel Ritz is close by) of London.

We then travelled along Knightsbridge and I got off at Harrods.  I'm not much of a shopper but Kathryn said I had to go in and I was truly impressed.  London's most famous and exclusive department store is more of an event than a shop.  This world-famous emporium began in 1849 as a small grocer's and the present terracotta building, which has 300 departments covering seven bustling floors, was built in 1905.  It is full of extraordinary things to buy - from wild animals, to pianos to children's racing cars - all at extraordinary prices.  No

Harrods Department Store

backpacks, no cutoffs, the doormen ensure that even the people are in the best taste - although I somehow got in my shorts and sleeveless shirt.  An Egyptian theme decorates the centre well and, as I was riding the escalator, there was a beautiful-voiced opera singer singing in one of the open balconies over-looking the escalators.  The food area is to die for - you can get almost anything.  I had a fresh salmon bunwich.

By the time I left Harrods, it was after 11:00 am and my Big Buss pass had expired but I had noticed that no one really checked the times, so I got back on the Bus, showed my ticket and off we went.  I got off shortly at the Victoria and Albert Museum.  I did not stay long as, much like the British Museum, it was filled with ancient objects stolen from other lands. 

Next door was the huge Science and Natural History Museums.  The Natural History Museum has over 70 million specimens and combines traditional displays with innovative, hands-on exhibits which are real kid pleasers.  Similarly, the Science Museum explores the fascinating world of science through centuries of scientific and technological development.  It also has displays on contemporary science and cutting-edge technologies.  I thoroughly enjoyed this museum but the visit was much too short.

Natural History Museum

I then started walking again - and actually stopped and gave someone directions to Hyde Park.  I passed Royal Albert Hall, crossed Kensington Road and arrived at the Albert Memorial in Kensington Gardens.  Prince Albert, the consort of Queen Victoria, died in 1861 to be mourned by his Queen thereafter for decades. This monument pays tribute to his interests and achievements.  The shrine proper is 175 feet high with a Gothic-revival spire

Prince Albert Memorial

decorated with angels. A gilded bronze statue of Prince Albert, more than 14 feet high, is seated within the enclosure. Below the stairways on each corner below the platform are marble allegorical groups representing the four continents: Europe, Africa, America, and Asia.

I then set out across Hyde Park, one of London's finest historic landscapes covering 142 hectares (350 acres). There is something for everyone in Hyde Park. With over 4,000 trees, a lake, a meadow, horse rides and more it is easy to forget you're in the middle of London. I crossed the bridge over Serpentine Lake, then angled toward the northeast corner of Hyde Park where I would find Speakers' Corner and the Marble Arch.  I walked about 2 km and it took me 25 minutes, strolling through the trees on this warm day. 

Serpentine Lake looking east

About halfway across, I could hear Lionel Ritchie blaring through loud speakers.  It turned out he was doing sound checks for a BBC concert in the park the next day. 

By this time, my knees were getting tired, so I jumped on the Underground at Marble Arch Station to St. Paul's Station.  After touring the area around St. Paul's, I walked another 2 km back along Ludgate Hill and Fleet Street.  Fleet Street was traditionally the home of the British press, up until the 1980s. Even though the last major British news office, Reuters, left in 2005, the street's name continues to be used as a synonym for the British national press.

It is now more associated with the Law and its courts and barristers' chambers, many of which are located in alleys off Fleet Street itself, almost all of the newspapers that formerly resided thereabouts having moved to Wapping and Canary Wharf.   There are lots of pubs along the street.  I stopped in at the Tipperary and the George, hoping to have a pint with the locals but they were mostly empty. Their business probably suffered when the press moved out but I'm sure the lawyers helped fill the void.

The Tipperary The George

Fleet Street changes to the Strand.  I walked along the Strand and arrived at Welling Street and the Wellington Pub.  By now I was tired and dying of thirst, so I stopped and had my first pint of English beer.  Covent Garden was just two blocks north, so I stopped at the Nag's Head Pub and had my second pint.  I then walked about 0.5 km west to Leicester Square to pick up tickets for the theatre for that evening.

The Wellington

It was about a 1 km walk back to the hotel where I had a much needed nap until Kathryn arrived home from Ingatestone.  After a quick change of clothes, we headed to St. Martin's Theatre to see The Mousetrap which has been running for 54 years and over 20 000 performances.  The play was a bit dated but how can you be in the Theatre District in London and not see Mousetrap. We were scrunched into balcony seats in this old-fashioned theatre and my knees froze up.  The theatre was not full and I managed to move to an aisle seat which helped a little.

"The Mousetrap"

It was such a beautiful evening that we decided to walk down to Covent Garden after the play.  There were tons of people out walking around and dining outside at night.  We stopped at an internet cafe and sent our first email home.  Then it was back to the hotel.  Kathryn convinced the bar to give us a bag of ice for my poor knees and then to bed for a much need sleep.  It had been a long day for Kenny.

This is large map of my tour today.  I have marked the part that I walked with a black line.  Click on the map for a larger image.

Click here for a slide show of Day 4 photos.

Day 5

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