Through the tunnel to the sights & sounds of London, England.
Updated: Sep 5, 2018
Leaving the Schengen countries of Europe is bittersweet but having only 90 days meant heading out to see other places I have never been.
The train from Paris to London was smooth, fast & enjoyable. Always keeping the passengers informed of speed and location via overhead monitors.
Complimentary lunch is served and it was pretty good.
The design of St. Pancras station is amazing. Once off the train I head for the main part of the station which is huge. Its really like a big mall complete with shops and a ton of places to eat.
New friend Velo was kind enough to take time out of his busy day to show my husband & I around his favorite parts of London. Heading out on foot from he & his wifes' home in East Finchley we walked to the nearest Metro station & boarded the Northern Line to downtown London. A quick 20 minute ride & we were in the heart of it all.
It was great to have a personal guide who knew some unique & very interesting information about London. There is so much to see & do in this area of London. Its easy to do a lap from the London Bridge to the Tower Bridge and back along the opposite side to the London Bridge.
I love the alleyways in London. Something about their quirkiness drew them to me and had I more time my curiosity would have explored all that could be found. Some have been given nicknames to go along with their interesting stories. There are alleys that are famous and well traveled & there are those less likely to be of interest to most tourists of which I am not. How fun would it be to discover the fascinating alleyways throughout the world.
Nathaniel Bentley, a local warehouse & shop owner, refused to bathe, clean his home or warehouse after his fiancee died on their wedding day. Supposedly. He lived out the rest of his life in filth and it is said he was given the nickname Dirty Dick (gaining almost celebrity status).
Round the corner from Bentleys warehouse was the Pub called Old Jerusalem in Bishopsgate. After Bentleys death William Barker, the pub owner, changed the name to reflect the nickname Dirty Dicks to capitalize on the legend of Bentley by re-creating the look of his warehouse inside the pub complete with cobwebs, dead cats and the like. Such a place it was and rumor has it that Charles Dickens was a frequent visitor to the pub using it as inspiration for his novels.
The current Dirty Dicks has little resemblance to the original creation but has a lovely pub atmosphere with great brews and delicious food. Its a fun place to take a break from your busy day. Check it out at: http://www.dirtydicks.co.uk
Middlesex Street which is just off the A10 Bishopsgate is a busy market area. During the day there are street vendors, food carts & local musicians playing. Retail shops line the sidewalks & there is much to explore.
Some pretty amazing wall art is in this part of London. I am impressed at how much is displayed on buildings throughout London.
If you've read my earlier posts you already know I am a fan of vintage & repurposing, and here I was not disappointed. Located in the Old Truman Brewery on Brick Lane is where I hit the mother load of vintage wear. I only wish that I had more time (yes I always need more time) to really scour the vendor booths. I literally got lost inside and had to have one of the vendors walk me back to the street entrance.
Just as I was thinking I should move on I came across what I found to be a kindred spirit in David A Mumford, designer of repurposed clothing. He takes pieces of this & that from various ready made vintage pieces or used clothing and re-makes them into his own creations. His unique interpretation of fashion is awesome & just quirky enough for me. The photos below are examples of some of my favorites. The dress with the red & white stripes is actually reversible...so cool. I hope to see a few of his designs in my closet next year.
Check out his website:
Watch his runway show:
In London during the World Cup it was only appropriate to watch a game at a pub with the locals.
HMS Belfast is the last remaining British warship from World War II. As historian Peter Ackroyd writes in Thames: The Biography, “It was estimated, at the end of the war, that approximately 15,000 high-explosive bombs, 350 parachute mines, 550 flying bombs and 240 rockets had fallen upon the Thames and dockland in the course of 1,400 raids. It may have been surmised that to destroy the Thames was, essentially, to destroy England; but the river, and the country, somehow survived.” Read more at https://www.airspacemag.com/daily-planet/whats-under-the-thames-8643154/#uxftrLbebjWwTQe5.99
People often mistake the Tower Bridge with the London Bridge. They are a short distance from each other and can be seen while standing on either bridge. The London Bridge is recently built & not at all similar to the Tower Bridge in design. The Tower Bridge also has a glass walkway on the 42 meters abover the Thames that you can pay to walk across. It must be beautiful but my fear of heights outweighed my desire to cross it. I did walk across the actual bridge part though & that was pretty cool.
Tower or London
The Tower of London, officially Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle located on the north bank of the River Thames and separated from the eastern edge of the City of London by a space know as Tower Hill. It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and was a much resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. The castle was used as a prison from 1100 until 1952 although that was not its primary purpose. A grand palace early in its history, it served as a royal residence. As a whole, the Tower is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. There were several phases of expansion in the 12th & 13th centuries under King Richard I, Henry III and Edward I. The general layout established by the late 13th century remains despite later activity on the site. *
Scale Model of the Tower...easy to see how the moat protected the interior of the grounds. The moat is no longer in use & the water has been drained. It would have been cool to see it with water in it. Interesting too that each of the towers have their own name.
Details of the Tower
Below are the Byward Towers which is the main entrance into the Tower of London.
Small section of the 'Queens' house on the left & cannon butts from different eras of the Towers history. Originally I believe there were nearly 114 canon type artillery that guarded the Tower.
The Tower was not only used as a residence for the royals but also to imprison certain public figures at the whim of whoever was the ruler at the time. This was during the 16th & 17th centuries. One such figure was Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII and the Queen of England at the time. King Henry wanted to father a legitimate male heir to the throne and since his first wife could not, he divorced her & married Anne in 1533. Anne & the King had 1 daughter the future queen Elizabeth I (she also was committed to the prison but later released). After a miscarriage & a stillbirth Anne lost favor with the King & he eventually had her committed to the Tower on the charge of adultery. She was later tried by the court, found guilty & beheaded on May 19, 1536, 17 days after arriving at the tower. Fascinating history lesson that came from visiting this place.
Find out more fascinating information about the Tower of London here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tower_of_London
Saint Pauls Cathedral
Kew Gardens were amazing the grounds of the gardens will take up most of the day but it is well worth a visit to see all the work this organization is doing to make it a wonderful attraction. There is also a gift shop & cafeteria. Kew Gardens is London's largest UNESCO World Heritage site.
Many of the plants are rare & some currently threatened by extinction.
King Williams Temple, Queen Charlottes Cottage, Japanese Tower Temple
I couldn't pass up the chance to see Buckingham Palace which really looked pretty ordinary on the outside other than the ornate & beautiful fences. But then, I didn't tour the interior which I have heard is beautiful. For a brief video of the palace interior go here: https://youtu.be/9MeqUPkVg2U
I'm not sure how long the guards are required to stand but it was a grueling hot & muggy day when I was here. These guys must have been roasting!
Just outside the front entrance gates to the palace I saw this beautiful statue.
The gates that surround the palace are beautiful and adorned with intricate details.
Not quite sure what this statue represents.
It was fun to watch as the horse & carriages practicing. Beautiful horses.
I loved all the fun statues that are scattered throughout the city. I couldn't resist having my picture taken with these two characters.
One piece of significant information passed on to us from Velo is that the Tate Modern Museum has the best public restrooms...that is once you find them (the toilets that is).
I'd say that pretty much sums up the first week in London. It is hard to put into words how interesting it is to see how people in other parts of the world live, how they differ and how they are the same.
Thanks again, Velo & Susanne for your generous hospitality. I hope you are someday able to visit me in Arizona. Or maybe we can meet up in Greece.