Wandering around London in 72 hours (part I)
I arrived to London on Wednesday evening (11 May). I stayed at a hotel at Norfolk square, Paddington so naturally the first thing I did in the morning was to visit the Paddington bear at the Paddington railway station (platform 1). I didn’t realize until the last evening that there was another statue of Paddington bear at the Norfolk square’s garden. Have you seen the Paddington bear movie? I remember going to the cinema with my husband on a Sunday morning in December a few years ago. We were the only adults there without the kids. Oops! Of course, the movie was based on a series of books written by Michael Bond and illustrated by Peggy Fortnum and other artists. The first book was published back in 1958 but Paddington bear’s popularity is still very strong today.
After taking some photos of the Paddington bear I hurried to buy an oyster card and to get on the appropriate tube line in order to be on time for my free visit to Sky Garden at the so called Walkie Talkie skyscraper in the City. The views are superb; especially the view of the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge and the City but you can only see a glimpse of the London Eye and the top of the Big Ben in the distance. But more about that in a separate post.
I enjoyed the great views of London and a delicious berry smoothie and then I intended to find the London Stone in Cannon street. The streets were filled with business people rushing past me while I looked for the iconic but easily missed London Stone. And there it was, or rather it wasn’t. I peered hard through the railings but I couldn’t see anything. Where has it gone? I was at the right place but somehow the stone wasn’t there. Never mind, I had to go on and visit the Museum of London.
While I was walking down busy streets of City of London I was again amazed at the juxtaposition of old and new and slightly annoyed by the omnipresent cranes and all the building going on. London is constantly changing and if several years passed by between your two visits to London you can easily find yourself looking up at the newly finished skyscrapers. I quickly ducked in a church to cool down for a bit because it was very warm for London (and humid!). I was surprised to find a proper cafe in a church (St Mary’s Aldermary) that had really beautiful interior and stunning ceiling. Somehow the whole thing felt wrong. I mean, I’ve seen gift shops and cafes in a church before but they were at the back of the church but this cafe was right at the entrance and it just looked like this church wasn’t really used anymore for worship but that it was just another place for profit making. Slightly saddened by what I had seen I walked on in the direction of St Paul’s cathedral. During my first visit to London I climbed the steps of the cathedral all the way to the top and enjoyed beautiful views of London. Now I just went passed it and took several photos.
Then I entered another church with beautiful interior and unusual name (St Vedast alias Foster) on my way to the Museum of London. I’ve recently wrote about the best free museums in London and I’ve included the Museum of London on that list even though I haven’t visited it because I felt that it deserved its place on that list. And I wasn’t wrong! The museum showcases the history of London from the Roman period through the Medieval age and the Great Fire of 1666 all the way up to World War II and the present day. Once again, I will write more about it in a separate post.
Suffice to say, I found the London Stone in the Museum of London where it was temporarily placed due to renovation works going on at the shop above its usual place in the building’s wall in Cannon street. I came across several plaques on the walls of different modern buildings in the City of London commemorating a church or a building that once stood in that place but that was destroyed in the Great Fire. How interesting! I wanted to find St Bartholomew-the-Great church which is supposedly near the Museum of London but I just kept walking around the St Bartholomew’s hospital in circles until I asked some construction workers for directions. They told me that the church is under the scaffolding so I decided to give up on my search and to proceed in the direction of the Fleet street and the Royal Courts of Justice.
At this point I was rather hungry so I stopped for a quick lunch and then continued with my sightseeing plans. However, then I started to experience some tummy problems which put a cloud on the rest of the day. I did succeed in seeing almost everything I had planned for that day but being sick for hours wasn’t fun. Before that I walked in in St Dunstan-in-the-west church which was completely empty and peaceful.
Afterwards I came across the sign for the Temple church so I went under an archway and found myself in front of Da Vinci Code’s church (I’m sure you’ve heard about that book/movie). I had a quick peek inside from the doorway because the church was strictly speaking closed for the public at that time but I couldn’t resist throwing a quick glance. Soon I was in front of the majestic building of the Royal Courts of Justice. It looks like a kind of a castle-slash-church to me. Really gorgeous building. Once again, I peeked inside but I saw a no photos sign so I decided not to go in (general public can enter actually).
Of course, just across the street is the Twinings tea shop. But before I went in, I saw an entrance to Llyods’ bank that looked like Gringotts bank (the bank from the Harry Potter books/movies). I didn’t really drink much tea until my work experience in the UK. I only drank it when I was sick but now I drink it all the time. I drink green tea, herbal infusions, rooibos and of course the proper English tea. You can buy Twinings tea in Croatia too but just a few types and it’s a bit pricey. So, I abandoned all sense and went on a shopping spree in Twinings shop.
Just a quick confession: I have a thing for tea tin boxes. I bought the special edition Queen’s 90 birthday tea in a lovely blue tin box and some other ordinary tea boxes and then I also purchased individual tea bags (15) so I could have all different flavours. Bliss :). Also, I bought another huge tea tin box at the airport’s duty free shop when I was flying back home because I bought some cosmetics for friends and a perfume for myself and got 22% off on the next purchase so really I just had to buy something:a quick internal debate ensuited between some Cadbury chocolate, Walkers biscuits, Fortnum & Mason gorgeous tin box (biscuits) before I decided to buy some more tea. After my shopping spree in Twinings I got really sick and decided to sit for a while in a nearby church (St Clement Danes, the Royal Air Forces church). Again a church with stunning interior. After some rest I continued on foot towards the Trafalgar square.
I passed by the Somerset house and the King’s college before I needed to sit again. I first saw the Somerset house in December in 2009 when I was going to Madrid via London. There was an ice-skating ring and a huge Christmas tree. Then I walked by the luxurious Savoy hotel and the Charing cross station before I came to St Martin-in-the-Fields church across the Trafalgar square. Now, I read about that church on Travels and Tomes blog and on Hand luggage only blog so I wanted to go in and see the unusual East Window for myself. There was a quartet practicing for a recital that night so I sat for a bit and listened and admired the wonky looking window which undoubtedly represents a cross.
My plan was to go in the Cafe in the crypt (the church’s crypt) but since I was feeling sick I abandoned that plan and just sat in the church for a while. Then I joined the hustle and the bustle at the Trafalgar square and watched shortly the street performers. I missed the smallest police station which is also at one corner of the Trafalgar square but I thought I’d come back the next day and look for it (I didn’t; I read about in on A bit about Britain blog). I didn’t feel well enough to walk to Big Ben now (after all I was walking already all day long from the Sky garden to the Trafalgar square) so I just continued towards Piccadilly and soon after I returned to the hotel by underground.
But my day didn’t finish. I rested for a while and ate some yogurt to help my poor tummy and then I walked to Bayswater from my hotel. It was a short walk (only 15 mins). After all Paddington and Bayswater areas are next to each other. My best friend and I stayed in Bayswater during our fist trip to London so we grew sentimental about the whole neighbourhood and every time we visit London we try to pop in in our pub in Bayswater for a drink. I missed my best friend on this trip. I was sick the whole afternoon on the first day in London (no, I’m not pregnant just an annoying tummy issue) and the fact that I was in London alone without her to share in my excitement about London somehow made me sad.
My husband could have come with me on this trip but since he really isn’t into London that much I decided to go by myself. And it was a great decision actually. The next two days were utterly perfect (and I wasn’t sick anymore) so I’m very glad that I didn’t let others talk me out of going by myself. Of course, it would have been great if my best friend had come with me too but you see she’s got a very good excuse why she couldn’t join me:she’s recently had a baby:). So I’m an auntie Tanja now 🙂
p.s. more posts coming soon but bear with me since I’m currently extra busy and I’m off to another business trip to France next week! 🙂 but photos from my previous post can show you a bit what I did on the two other days in London
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