London + Summer= So much to see and do even the mad hatter would would enjoy his time here.
Updated: Feb 2, 2019
In summer, in London, there is no lack of local events going on at any given time. The hard part is trying to decide what your priority is. Do you want to visit only tourist sights or do you want to venture off the beaten path & challenge yourself to find some fun local venues. How much time will you be in London? Make every day count and realize that sometimes its ok to just hang out with no plan at all.
I stayed at Airbnb https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/12996637 in Stepney Green during my second week in London. It was close to the underground & bus lines making it a great base camp. I loved having a lift (elevator) which is not the norm in Europe. I would stay here again should I return to London.
My first stop was Canary Wharf where I wandered around the walkways and river front in the evening. This is a beautiful place to watch a sunset and is a short walk from my apartment.
View from the river walkways around Canary Wharf as the sun sets to the west. The weather was hot & humid which is unusual for London. Local business owners continually apologized. I would smile & let them know that I live in the desert of Arizona and I am use to the heat...the humidity on the other hand was a different matter. My habit of carrying my own thermal water bottle made a huge difference.
The ship below is an option for tourists who want to view the city sights from the water. Seems like it would be fun to cruise the river on it. Do you see the moon just to the left of the ship? I was pleasantly surprise as it was not intentional but rather luck that I captured it when taking the picture.
Dinner on the waterfront at Zizzi on Canary Wharf. A chain restaurant with pretty decent food & excellent wine choices. For whatever reason, I have a difficult time eating out at restaurants when I travel. Admittedly I am a 'picky' eater, preferring the use of organic ingredients. It can be hard to find in many places but at least in most of Europe the use of pesticides and other harmful chemicals is minimal so organic is not a huge issue here.
Wood fired pizza & wine for dinner on the River Thames watching the sun set.
Continuing along the waterfront paths led me to some interesting historic remnants of the past. One of the interesting buildings was this tall brick building called an accumulator tower used between 1869 & the 1920's to regulate pressure in the hydraulic system that worked the cranes, lock gates, capstans and swing bridges on this dock.
Pressurized water was forced through pipes to machinery around the docks by a steam engine in the tower. Inside the tower is a cast iron cylinder. Surrounding it are the remains of a wrought-iron case that held 80 tons of gravel. This weight bore down on a ram inside the cylinder.
The steam engine pumped water into the cylinder, raising the weight. When dock machinery was started, the cylinder dropped, forcing water back into the system under pressure.
When the machinery was stopped, pressurized water from the engines drove the weight back up again.
Lambeth area near Brixton district is an up & coming part of London. It's an eclectic, high energy area that boasts local businesses of all kinds.
One of the newer concepts is Impact HUB Brixton. They believe that large-scale social change, innovative solutions, and world-altering ideas stem from collaboration, connectivity, and community. That the dreamers, makers, creators, freelancers and entrepreneurs of the world need a place to call home, to connect to others, to collaborate and be part of something bigger.
Powered by a shared workspace, peer-to-peer learning and a wide-range of events, Impact Hub Brixton is home to a creative space where meaningful conversations and tangible impact go hand-in-hand.
To find out more about Impact Hub go here: https://brixton.impacthub.net
The photo's below are of an area in the Brixton district where just a few years ago there was a vacant lot. The property uses old shipping containers to create individual spaces for local artists, shop owners and food venues. What a great idea. There is something similar to this in downtown Phoenix, AZ near where I live.
Art work displayed on the walls of brick buildings is a great way to display the work of local artists. I seem to be drawn to the eclectic & unusual and this part of town did not disappoint me.
Brixton Village is a covered outdoor shopping center where small business owners are the norm. Its a great place to grab a coffee or a bite to eat. There are also a variety of local shops with fun & unique items. I am also a people watcher and this was a great place for spotting local residents.
was on my way to Kensington Palace, so of course, I had to take a look. Although I didn't go inside (almost $30 to get in) I had a wonderful time looking at the outside architecture.
It has an interesting history, as well as having many important and famous people interned (since 1906 only ashes) within Westminster Abbey, including Kings, Queens & Statesmen, Charles Dickens, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Robert Browning, Stephen Hawkins.
*Westminster Abbey has been the site of a monastery since the 8th century but it was the Anglo-Saxon monarch Edward the Confessor who rebuilt it into the Abbey that is the basis of the structure today.
Upon Edward's death in 1066, he became the first of a long line of monarchs to be buried there; a tradition that continued into the 19th century when it was superseded by St. Georges's Chapel at Windsor Castle. The spouse of the ruling monarch or royal consort, was often buried in the Abbey alongside them.
Another tradition, which has continued up until the present day, began with William the Conqueror, who on Christmas Day 1066 became the first monarch to be crowned at the Abbey. *from genealogyinEngland.com.
The Abbey also is home to the Westminster Abbey Choir School, Library & Research, Westminster Abbey Institute and is also open for educational experiences to schools, universities, community groups and youth groups from the UK and overseas.
For more information on Westminster Abbey: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westminster_Abbey
For more information on who is buried at Westminster Abbey:
The building below is called The Sanctuary & sits next to Westminister Abbey. The large arch in the center of the building allows access to the open space that in in the center of the building. I'm not sure what it was originally built for, but there are an array of offices in the building (including the Faculty Office of the Archbishop of Canterbury).
The archways and details of The Sanctuary building are beautiful.
Hyde Park to Kensington Palace
Walking from Hyde Park to the Kensington Palace allows enjoyment of the enormous greenway in the city. This is the largest of the four royal parks in London. For more information: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyde_Park,_London
As I wandered through Hyde Park I found Princess Diana's Memorial Fountain. I admired her as a woman and mother and was very saddened when she died. Her memorial had a calming energy to me.
*The design aims to reflect Diana's life, water flows from the highest point in two directions as it cascades, swirls and bubbles before meeting in a calm pool at the bottom. The water is constantly being refreshed and is drawn from London's water table.
The Memorial also symbolises Diana's quality and openness. There are three bridges where you can cross the water and go right to the heart of the fountain. *https://www.royalparks.org.uk
Diana Memorial Playground
*Located next to her Kensington Palace home, the playground is a fitting tribute for a Princess who loved the innocence of childhood.
The design has created an area where less able and able-bodied children can play together and seeks to provide for the physical, creative, social and educational development of children. Inspired by the stories of Peter Pan, the playground encourages children to explore and follow their imaginations, learning whilst they play. * https://www.royalparks.org.uk
This pyramid shaped floating barge rises 20 meters above the water surface of Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park and is the creation of Bulgarian artist Christo.
He took no commission for this project which will remain on the lake until 2013.
A few more pictures to scroll through from my walk to Kensington Palace.
Kensington Palace Gardens
The statue below of Queen Victoria was designed by her daughter Princess Louise (Duchess of Argyll) in 1893.
Queen Victoria was born at Kensington Palace and grew up there, under the strict supervision of Sir John Conroy, until summoned from her bed in 1837 to become queen at the age of 18. Wow!!! I am learning so much history while on this trip and am fascinated by it all.
A portion of the palace is open to the public, with multiple exhibit spaces.
The side in this picture is actually the side of the palace where you can enjoy shopping at the gift shop or have a bite to eat at Orangery Café.
You can check out the 16th-century King's Staircase and Queen Mary's State Apartments. There is also an exhibition (Victoria Revealed) where you can learn more about Queen Victoria.
If you are into fashion, the collection of dresses worn by Princess Diana is in the exhibition Diana: Her Fashion Story.
Along Kensington Palace Gardens and Palace Green this street hosts other countries foreign ambassadors & is home to some of the wealthiest people in the world.
I didn't realize pictures were not allowed & a security guard for one of the homes shouted out the rule. Whoops.
You can find out more information on the homes along this street by checking out this 2010 article in the London Evening Standard: https://www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/the-secrets-of-londons-25-billion-street-6479143.html
Wowza is all I can say.
Selfridges, Notting Hill, Harrod's & more
I watched the PBS mini-series called Mr. Selfridge and was immediately interested in learning about the true history of the man behind it all. A bitter sweet ending to a fascinating true story of a self-made man who had it all, yet eventually died in poverty. I was excited once I knew I would be in London long enough to visit this glorious store. I wasn't disappointed.
To find out more about the history of this famous store check out: http://london-tourist-guide.s3-website-eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/What-is-the-history-of-selfridges-department-store-london.html
Selfridges was having a huge sale the day I was there. I saw some cool shoes which even when marked down 70% were still way over my budget.
A huge outdoor shopping area that is closed off to cars, making it a relaxing place to spend the day.
I loved this store in Covent Gardens. Everything was whimsical & cheery. The picture on the left is a handbag.
Performing artists take their turn doing what they do best while trying to earn some cash.
The group on this video seemed to be having a fun time of it. Street musicians everywhere in major European cities. There are some pretty talented people out there. I loved it.
The Great, the Amazing Harrods Department Store.
I knew I was in for a treat when entering as I was handed a map of the store's department locations. Even with the map I lost my way more than once. The store is not laid out like a typical department store. Rather, it rambles from this to that making no real sense to me. Nonetheless, I had to explore.
I overheard many interesting conversations while wandering around the different departments. My favorite was in the 'Luxury Linen' department. A young lady, most likely in her 30's, was looking at some beautifully made throw pillows with her husband (assuming) when the store clerk wandered over to her and asked "aren't they gorgeous?" "Yes," the lady replied "they are lovely, simply lovely." They chatted it up for a few minutes and then the store clerk asked if she would be interested in anything else. Not skipping a beat, the young lady said (with slight attitude) "well yes, I want it all". Meaning an entire set of pillows, sheets, duvet, etc. Having looked at the exact same items a few minutes earlier (and quickly moving on to the next display) I can say with certainty her purchase would total nearly $10,000! The gentleman did not speak the entire time but did pull out his credit card and handed it to the clerk. I didn't get a picture of the luxury linen department but I did get a few others.
On the ground floor you can find the gourmet food, pastry & dessert area. On the opposite side of the floor is the designer handbag section (with entry gates & guards) and the perfume counters.
Then onto shoes and handbags. Notice the 'Made to Order' Jimmy Choo photo. None of these could I afford and couldn't wear even if I could. I'll stay with my flats thank you. I usually shop at re-sale shops for most of my clothes but it's fun to look at what is out in the mainstream stores as well. I have been known to find some great bargains at consignment stores thanks to others that tire of their purchases & offer them up to shoppers like myself.
I spied this cute wallet in a sale bin thinking it would be a cute gift for one of my granddaughters....that is until I turned the price tag over. I will have to be on the look out for it at a re-sale shop.
Walking through Piccadilly Circus I spied this bagpiper & couldn't resist a short video of his piping to keep as a reminder. I know a few people that play @scotty Adrian Todd-Whitney and Scott Axworthy and I hope they enjoy this. Seems everywhere I go in London there is music playing in the streets. I love every bit of it.
The play is a big hit and I would have loved to have seen it while in London.. I watched all the movies and would have liked to have seen the play while here. There is only so much time in a day and priorities had to be continually monitored. As it was, even with a list of where I wanted to go & what I wanted to see, there is still enough things I didn't get to see or do that a return trip may be in order.
I'm a lover of gardens. Gardens of any kind. I love plants. Plants of any kind.
Standing or sitting quietly allows me to see more than just the big picture. There are many surprises to be found in the garden or in life for that matter. Seems if I am still and I open my eyes magic happens.
Even in the middle of the city, in places with limited outdoor space, gardners live. They grow the food that feeds their soul and brings them joy. These two gardens were on the street of the Airbnb I stayed at. I had a chance to meet one of the owners and we had a nice conversation about gardening.
The movie - Julia Roberts. Hugh Grant. The romance. I saw the movie (more than once). I just had to see the 'real' Notting Hill. It wasn't far from Kennsington Palace & I wasn't disappointed. It is a beautiful part of London with quaint row houses, busy shops and a vibrant community. Shops, pubs, parks & people. This is Notting Hill. I had a great time checking out all the antique shops in the area. The shop owners had so many stories to tell about where things came from and the history that went along with them.
Places in and around Notting Hill. So many fun and interesting things to see in this part of London.
Random photos while in London
The two smoking ladies drew my attention and the bike in a window brought back fond memories of my cycling days!
Pret A Manger is a chain store that makes & sells quality, healthy take-away food. The stores are all over London and they were one of my 'go to' places for lunch. I would buy my lunch, head to a park somewhere along my route and enjoy "people watching" while I ate. I kept my food budget to under $25 a day most of my entire trip throughout Europe. Staying at short-term rental properties helped in that I had kitchen privileges so I would eat breakfast before I left each day & dinner was usually simple & easy.
Amazing architecture simply everywhere I went including the church in the picture below.
So many beautiful statues in the city. This one of William Shakespeare gave me pause. It was a very hot & muggy day by London standards and this statue had a water feature around the outside of the pond at the bottom. The water would shoot up rhythmically and it was fun watching the young children playing in the water to stay cool.
In a city so old it's hard to imagine how they thought to put the rail lines underground. This entrance/exit has been modernized to include escalators. Even for those that didn't take the stairs, there was the option to walk on the moving stairways. In Europe it is proper to stand to the right so that others can walk past. This is a common courtesy that almost all of the people adhere to. Courtesy to others is very common in Europe. I think our country could take a lesson from Europe on this.
This is the end of my London journey. I enjoyed my time here, didn't get to see all that I had wanted to see and saw things that I hadn't anticipated seeing. I am now off to York-by car. Should be exciting. Stay tuned.