The human being is curious by nature. I do not harbor even the slightest doubt about it. In short, we are all curious to a greater or lesser extent and this blog about the city of London aims to satisfy, even if only a little, this human need. London is the capital of England and the United Kingdom.
Located on the banks of the River Thames in the southeast of the island of Great Britain, its establishment dates back more than two millennia ago, was founded around the year 43 by the Romans with the name of Londinium. After having visited cities such as Paris, Rome, Prague, Vienna, Venice, and other parts of the world, I was eager to visit London, a city that I visited a few years ago with my cousin, when I was still single.
All this added to the insistence of my lady made us choose London as a destination.
At this point, I warn you that here you will get little information about who built such a building, or in what year the works began or from what time it is. For all this there are hundreds of great London travel guides with much information about it. This London travel blog can be seen as a complement to these travel guides that I consider essential, especially if it is the first time visit to London.
First of all, I advise the traveler to purchase the travel pass to move around the city. London is a pretty expensive city and everything that saves a few pounds is well worth it. I filled in the information two weeks before leaving for London and I got the map and the guide when I was already in London.
The first thing was to look for a central and decent accommodation. I went through a travel agency to ask for a brochure. I do not know why, but a small hotel caught my attention in the booklet. It was not badly priced and on the map, it seemed to have a privileged location. There were not many references about it, but on tripadvisor it was described as clean, adequate and above all, very central.
Once the hotel is decided and the flights are booked, we start preparing for the trip.
We take the passport, a Lonely Planet guide apart from the credit cards. Around evening, we reach the airport. There we check-in and pass the immigration control. We show our tickets on a printed page with our seat and everything assigned, we embark for London. The only annoying thing was to endure the 3 or 4 typical couples who traveled together and sat around us and did not stop uttering nonsense.
We arrived at Stanstead airport in London. We followed the people and we took a small train to where it took us to collect the suitcases. After we took the suitcases, we went to the counter to buy the train ticket. We went down a little to catch the train to Liverpool street. After a siesta of about 45 minutes, we arrived at Liverpool Street.
Well, for us to get to our hotel, we had to take the red line and get off at Holborn and then take another to get off at Russel Square. Our first contact with the subway was quite good. They are quite fast, and there is almost no need to wait for one to come when the other one leaves, which is not the case where we live.
By the way, during the subway ride, a young girl with the look of a university student in a sporty dress gave the first shock of my prejudices about the English. There were a few stairs to climb and the bags was a problem. I was loaded with a suitcase and a trolley climbing the stairs of the subway with difficulty. My partner almost could not when the smiling girl helps her. I was amazed by her kindness that later proved to be something very common for England.
We asked someone for the hotel and it was really close to the stop. Just in front there is a super market that is pretty good and there is everything. We arrived and we gave them the papers of the reservation that we made on the internet. We were given the key to the room that was accompanied by a super long iron stick. The room was small. The bed was not very comfortable but we could rest and sleep at least. We had no problems with noise and things like that.
To the left of the reception was the entrance to the restaurant for breakfast. It left a lot to be desired, besides all the tables were filled right away. We have juices, chocolate milk, some toasts, cereals and little more. We left the hotel. It was raining lightly. There was a lot of day ahead and we had considered a walk on foot to get a general idea.
We set course for the first destination of the day that is no other than a set of buildings. It has been used as a fortress, armory, treasury store, royal palace, detention palace, observatory, shelter, menagerie and prison (especially for prisoners of high class). I am referring, of course, to the Tower of London.
Well, the Tower of London has some interesting anecdotes. Most people do not know, but London had its origin in the Roman city of Londinium. The wall that rises in the Tower, is one of the few remains of the city that attest (of course it is very far from the Roman, but something is something).
In the tower were executed numerous illustrious people such as Sir Tomas Moro (those who follow the TV series The Tudors will know who was this theologian, thinker and politician). It was also here that Ana Bolena was cut off (who, incidentally, also appears in the series The Tudor). According to legend, her ghost still travels the Tower with her head under her arm. Actually the tower is full of ghosts. I still cannot explain that none appeared to me.
Speaking of legends, there is another well-known legend. If the crows that remain in the tower disappear some day, this would mean the collapse of the fortification and the end of the monarchy . However, do not worry about this, the poor ravens have partially cut their wings so they cannot fly.
There is a part of the tower especially striking for the masses. It is the Jewel House, the place where the jewels of the Crown are kept, the most valuable collection of jewels in the world (imagine how protected they are). In the crown of Queen Elizabeth is the oldest known diamond, the Koh-i-noor.
I mention it for its curious legend that says that its bearer will reach great power, but if a man does he will die tragically. It also highlights the Scepter of the Cross. This is easy to identify. It is the one that has the second largest diamond in the world, the Cullinan I or the Great Star of Africa.
By the way, the Cullinan II (because it was carved from the same raw diamond that came out of the Cullinan I) can also be seen in the Crown of the Imperial State. But if for something it deserves, from my curious point of view, a visit to the tower, it is not for the crown jewels. It is for something much less striking but fascinating.
It is the graffiti that the prisoners did on the walls of their respective prisons and that have survived over the years. And of all of them I loved the mysterious Draper astrological engraving of 1561. Who was this man? It is hardly known. He was a tavern keeper accused of witchcraft by another astronomer of the time and that he had to renounce all his science, and burn his books. However, he left us this work of art in his cell.
Leaving aside the Tower, we go to the next point of day, one of the most famous bridges in the world which is none other than the Tower Bridge. Many confuse it, as is often the case, with the London Bridge, which is another. But before, when going under the bridge to climb the other side we find this macabre place, the Dead Man's Hole. In this place were collected the bodies of those executed and thrown into the Thames and left in the warehouse until they were buried.
Also, in the past Londoners could only cross the river with the wherrymen (boatmen). Here was a point to cross the river. It is said that not all that crossed were alive, since the boatmen sometimes crossed corpses to sell it to the anatomists of hospitals.
Regarding the famous bridge, there can hardly be said anything that does not appear in the London guides. The views from above are great, but if you're not an engineering enthusiast, you may not like the visit too much. Of course, the bridge has appeared in numerous films such as Tomb Raider, The Mummy Returns, Thunderbirds, and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. In the Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, the scene where she is seen crossing the bridge was shot at dawn and all the people that come out are extras.
Leaving the bridge behind us and walking through The Queen's Walk, our next objective is London City Hall. This building ignored by tourists is amazing and quite interesting. It was designed by Norman Foster (the one who designed the cucumber-shaped buildings of London) and consumed 25% less energy than any other office building.
It also recycles the heat of the sun and computers and a hydraulic system extracts the water it needs from the water table in London for cooling the building. It has the shape of a sphere of crystal because it was intended to deepen the concept of transparency. However, it has also earned him the nickname of the testicle of the mayor.
We decide to enter and see the green and gray carpet that covers the floor of the lobby. It is an aerial photo of all of London that also appears in the movie Love Actually. It's time to ride on the tube as Londoners call it by the shape of its tunnels (by the way, did you know that it is the oldest underground in the world).
We go to St Paul's Cathedral. But before reaching the cathedral, just at the exit of the metro, we find a statue. The statue was originally in another house (in Paternoster Row). When that house was demolished the Farrows Bank Bank refused to let the child run the same fate and turned it into his amulet. However, it did not bring him any luck since the bank went bankrupt. The statue was moved in 1964 to this street that was previously the epicenter of bakeries (Panyer Alley) as it looks like a child with a basket of bread.
St. Paul's Cathedral stands out among other things for having the second largest dome in the world after the dome of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome (the work of Michelangelo). Apparently, the view from above is spectacular, but climbing the 530 steps at this stage of the route is better on another occasion.
The Cathedral also has its interesting data, such as the Whispers Gallery where they say that you can hear a murmur 32 meters away. Perhaps the most surprising thing that not everyone visits is the triforium of the Cathedral. But, what is a clerestory? To simplify, it is a secret passage between the interior and exterior walls of the church.
Well, this passage houses such treasures as a wooden library, a trophy room (where there are sketches of the Piña, an earlier version of the Cucumber that Foster would build in London and Barcelona) or remains of the old cathedral (now burned in the Great Fire of 1666). It also comes out in some scene of Love Actually.
Our next stop is Millennium Bridge. This bridge has become famous not because of the technology used in its construction, nor because it was built by Norman Foster. It is because it was recently destroyed in a strange attack. Luckily we have the images of what happened thanks to two brave people. Now the bridge has been rebuilt exactly as before the attack.
Leaving behind this Bridge, we arrive at the Tate Modern. Acclaimed as the most popular museum in the world, but ugly on the outside, it was formerly an electric station. Unlike my girlfriend, I am not attracted to contemporary art, but I must be the only one. To my surprise it has become the second most visited attraction in the United Kingdom and attracts more than a million people every year. However, I still have the views from the top floor.
Leaving and turning left from Tate Modern, we pass under the Millennium Bridge. We immediately arrived at a building different from the rest. It is the Shakespeare's Globe, a reconstruction of the Elizabethan theater. It had the honor of welcoming the premiere of works by the great Shakespeare like Hamlet, Othello, and Macbeth. etc. The movie Shakespeare in Love is filmed here. On the outside wall of the theater you can see this blue plate
This actor (he appears in the movie Superman IV) and director was key in the reconstruction of the legendary theater since the original was burned in 1613. By the way, London is full of blue plates. These plates are located in places where he lived, was born, died or that famous personage or something interesting happened. The curious traveler cannot help but read them as soon as he sees one.
After finishing a sandwich we continue towards the Southwark Bridge. Very close to the theater, we find another of the hidden pearls of London on the wall of a Greek restaurant. Specifically on the street called Bear Garden. It would be the last seat used by the wherrymen (boatmen) to cross the river since until 1750 there was only the London Bridge.
Towards this area, the London populace came to be transported by the river in the wherries boats. They went to see works in the Globe Theatre or The Rose, but also to go to brothels (pride of the area). They also go to see fights of bears and dogs, prohibited in 1642 (remember the name of Bear Gardens. It was a bestial and very perverse pleasure.
As we cross the bridge now, we soon arrive at a very striking pub on the outside. It was much liked by Shakespeare, who used to come here with his theater company after each show to change costumes with the actors.
We skip the Clink Prison Museum (not worth mentioning it) and run into the Golden Hind. It is a replica of the famous English galleon with which Sir Francis Drake went around the world. This ship is located between buildings on a dry dock, near the London Bridge. When the British captured and executed William Wallace, his body was butchered and moved throughout England. The head was brought to the London bridge.
We now arrive at the end of the day, specifically it will be the Borough Market, which is considered the most famous food market in London. The food market is featured in numerous films, including Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (the night bus leaves Harry under a bridge in this area). The Globe pub is well known, because on top of it is Bridget Jones' apartment in both films.
Apart from this, the pub itself is quite cozy and the waitresses can serve you the pints with a curious butterfly in the foam. We decided that it was time to give a rest to the body and the spirit and to know another fundamental aspect of London life. The pub is a real institution in London. Everybody when they finish working goes to the pub. In the weekends to eat they go to the pub. When they are with the friends they go to the pub. It is definitely a very good way to end the day.
In that first pub I asked, for the sake of tasting ale, a London Pride. It was not bad, but it has little to do with what we are used to. The offer in the pubs is endless with imported ones like Stella Artois, Guinness, the Czech Staropramen, Young, Fosters, the German Erdinger, Old Rosie and so on until almost infinity.
We dined in a pub and a couple of pints more encouraged me to return to buy the sneakers I had seen before! We walked quietly to the hotel. We then arrive at the hotel very exhausted and wait for tomorrow.
As usual, we got up without hurry and went to breakfast downstairs. We took some good cups of coffee with milk and toast. Saying a see you later to the receptionist, we went out to see London again.
We start our journey on Ambrosden Avenue, near Victoria Station. Here the largest and most important Catholic church is located throughout England and Wales. I refer to Westminster Cathedral (not to be confused with the famous Abbey. But before we can see the interesting Little Big Ben in front of the station.
Focusing on the Cathedral, it is interesting to know that the area where it stands is called Bulinga Fen near the marsh, which was cleaned up by the monks. Then there was successively a market, a fairground, a labyrinth of alleyways, another arena for dog and bull fights and a prison for children.
The Cathedral, very pretty, has the same style as the Victorian residences that surround it. Its interior is still unfinished, but it is still beautiful. We go up in the elevator to the seventh floor of the belfry. According to the woman who runs the elevator, you get the best view of all of London.
We can see St Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, London Eye, Victorian residences in the foreground, and the gherkin of Foster. Once visited, we continue walking along Victoria Street and soon we arrive at Dean's Yard, the old courtyard of the dean of Westminster School. And from there to the obligatory visit of all tourists, the famous Westminster Abbey.
What can I say about the Collegiate Church of St. Peter of Westminster? Everyone knows that this is where the royal coronations take place. Here the prince of England and Scotland rest. Here characters of the likes of Darwin, Livingstone, Newton, Dickens, Handel, Laurence Olivier among many other illustrious are also buried.
We go to the crypt of the abbey that is located near the cloister. The British monarchs, until the Middle Ages, were embalmed and exposed to the public for a time. Later, they were replaced by wooden replicas that were dressed from head to toe with the royal wardrobe. We see replicas in the crypt museum and the most interesting thing is that they give us an idea of the approximate size that kings should have had at that time and, by the way, they were not very tall.
The abbey is subscribed to the British monarchy and not to the diocese of a prelate. Leaving the Abbey, we come across St Margaret's Church. In this small Anglican church is where English high society decides to arrange their weddings. Churchill was married here. Behind the Church we finally see the world symbol of London, the Palace of Westminster with the famous Big Ben.
We go from the Westminster subway station. Have you ever wondered why they call the tower Big Ben? In truth, although the whole clock tower is known as Big Ben, officially Big Ben is only the main bell inside the tower. It is the largest (13.8 tons), hence the name Big, but what about Ben? Well there are several theories.
There are those who consider that it is due to Benjamin Hall the first manager of the construction of the tower. Or perhaps it is a tribute to Ben Caunt a boxer very popular at the time when the bell was fused. Anyway the clock is impressive. Its machinations are really accurate, capable of giving the time with the precision of a second. In fact, Queen Victoria granted the title of Lord to the lawyer who designed his mechanism, the lord Edmund Denison.
Do you remember the Simpsons episode, Lisa's wedding? in that episode appears London in 2010 and it turns out that the clock of the tower was digital! In 1834 the original Palace of Westminster was destroyed in a fire and rebuilt in Gothic style. We visit the Jewel Tower that was part of the original palace nearby. Well, although there is little left of the original palace, something was saved.
We leave this place quickly and go now down Great George Street, where we find the Institution of Civil Engineers. But what really interests us is right next door, I mean the oldest royal park in London, St James's Park.
The English parks are a delight for both visitors and Londoners themselves who do not hesitate to enjoy them as soon as the weather permits. St James's Park is one of the nine real parks of London, that is, they are public only because the Royal family gives them up for that use. Here scenes of 007 were shot.
Anyway, if something catches the attention of the parks, it is not the ducks, nor the trees, nor the grass, but the adorable little bugs. It turns out that an evil American squirrel is displacing and leading to the extinction of the adorable European squirrel. Is it for this reason that some London restaurants offer among their specialties a tasty cake called chipmunk?
Crossing the park, we immediately arrived at another one of the obligatory visits of the tourists, the Buckingham Palace, neither more nor less than the royal residence of the British monarch in London. The history of the Palace is interesting, but as in this guide we are not interested at all go to the interesting facts.
Traditionally, when the queen was in the Palace, the official flag waved and it was removed when the queen was not present. In 1997 this tradition was changed when Princess Diana of Wales died. Because at that time the queen was not in the Palace and therefore there was no flag waving. The queen ordered to break the protocol and to half mast the Union Jack. Since then, if the queen is in the palace, the official flag flies, and when she is not there, the flag of the United Kingdom flies.
Surely you already know that it is in this place where it is celebrated almost every day at 11.30 am the famous changing of the guard. However, it is a real madness to find a place to see it decently. The guard of the Palace is not intended to entertain tourists in the changes or serve as a mold to lead soldiers. Its main function is security, and, at this point there have been important failures throughout history.
A Santa Claus was chained to the main doors and in 1837 a 12 year old boy tried to live a whole year in the Palace without being detected. As he was hidden in the chimneys he left a trail of dirt and in this way was located.
Leaving the Palace, we take a nice walk along The Mall (the triumphal avenue of London) to immediately turn left towards St James's street. We see the Berry Bros & Rudd wine shop, the oldest in all of Great Britain. To say that its cellars belonged to the royal residence of Henry VIII and also served as a hiding place for Napoleon III. In addition, a secret tunnel (now covered) led directly to St James's Palace. It was supposedly used to gain access to the prostitutes who frequented the store back in the eighteenth century.
Right next to the store, we see a narrow alley that still maintains the 18th century paneling and leads to a small square called Pickering Place. This square, which is half hidden, became the preferred place to fight in a duel and many claim that it was here that the last duel in England took place.
The hunger began to knock on the door. So we decided to eat at the restaurant with a normal sandwich and a soda.
Very close on Picadilly street, we find a real national treasure hidden behind some gates of the Royal Academy of Art. I am referring to another of the symbols of Great Britain. Why have I waited until this moment to show you the famous red cabins if London is full of them?
Simply because these two cabins are the original K2 (Kiosk 2) designed in 1926 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scort. He also designed the power plants of Battersea and Bankside (the latter is now the Tate Modern) or the London's longest bridge, the Waterloo Bridge.
K2 cabins were subsequently improved 3 times to the current K6 of which there are now some 15,000 units throughout Britain. In fact, a K6 can be purchased for about 6,000 euros, while the K2 is worth about 12,300 euros. Are you thinking about it? We go back to Picadilly street and look at the opposite sidewalk.
We see the most select grocery store in London, Fortnum & Mason, supplier of the Royal House and with a curious clock. Here every 15 minutes sounds 18 bells. Well, looking at the clock, I realize how late we were. It's time to move on to one of the visits I most wanted to do in London, I mean the British Museum, and for that I decide to take the tube to Russel Square. From the stop, on the way to the museum, I skirt a small park and see the Senate House.
Welcome to Gotham City! This building was the State Court on whose stairs they killed Chill in the movie Batman Begin (Chill was the evil guy who murdered Bruce Wayne's parents). The truth is that this museum is a treasure for anyone who likes ancient history. It is the largest museum in the United Kingdom, one of the oldest in the world and, without doubt is the most famous museum of antiquities on the planet.
As soon as we cross the door, we arrive at the Grand Atrium, the largest covered square in Europe. We enjoy the treasures. Despite the size of the building, the collection maintained by the museum is so huge that only a part can be seen.
And if we talk about treasures, undoubtedly the great star of the museum and that receives all eyes is the Rosetta Stone. It is not named for the color of the stone, but for the place where it was found by a French soldier. This object is the magic key that allowed us to decipher the mysterious hieroglyphics that the Egyptians left us.
Basically in the stone appears a text in three languages, one of them the Greek, another Egyptian demotic and the other the hieroglyphics. The interesting thing came when the Greek text was translated and in the last line it affirmed that the other texts said exactly the same thing.
However, there are other treasures, more or less unknown to the general public in the museum, such as the Warren Cup (silver Roman cup dated between 5-15 AD). What makes it unique is that the erotic acts that appear represented in the cup are between men.
These scenes in the 50s made the cup not to pass through customs in the US and that the vast majority of museums (including British) refused to exhibit it. How much would the thing change when in 1999 this museum acquired the cup for 1.8 million Pounds (its largest outlay for a single object). Another treasure is the most famous cuneiform tablets of Mesopotamia (Assyrian Empire, 7th century BC).
These tablets tell the story of Gilgamesh and his search for immortality. The eleventh tablet tells how this gentleman meets with a certain Utnapishtim. He, having been warned about the planetary flood that the gods planned, built a ship where he kept to his family and to any bug he could find.
They say that when George Smith in 1872 translated the text, began to move around the room in a state of excitement and, to general surprise, began to undress. The list of curious objects is endless. We can see a quartz crystal skull (remember the last Indiana Jones movie). We see a Roman mosaic from the 4th century AD that could be the most ancient of Christ or even a moai statue of Easter Island.
But as everything good ends, we must put an end to our visit to the museum. In passing, we put a finishing touch to the day, and what better way to do it than to enjoy a musical in the city where they were born? I loved the musical. It was also my birthday present and my girlfriend knew where to get it right.
We went to a pub for dinner. I ordered the famous fish and chips (battered fish with potatoes), sausages with mashed potatoes, fillets with garnish, meatloaf, and grilled salmon. We arrived at the hotel very tired, and after a shower, we fell asleep thinking about what it was like today and what it would be like tomorrow.
Another day the alarm sounds. We got up a little later than other days. Around 8:30 and we quickly went to breakfast. We wanted a coffee and we found a small cafeteria. We had a chocolate cake, coffee and a hot chocolate. When we left, some old ladies who ate, said goodbye very happily and kindly.
After the delicious coffee, our first destination takes us to the Hyde park corner subway stop. Another day with rain. Here we can see the number one house in London that is none other than Apsley House. The house in question, currently belongs to the State, but a part still belongs to the Duke of Wellington. When we went it was closed.
From the door of Apsley House, we see in front an arch, the Wellintong arch. A curious fact is that this arch housed the second smallest police station in London. Another curiosity is that part of the arch serves as a ventilation chimney of the network of the London underground. On average, three people a year call the firefighters to warn that the arch is burning.
Well, it's time to take a stroll through another real park, Hyde park, one of the biggest parks in London and all of England. The music greats such as The Rolling Stone, Pink Floyd, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Bon Jovi have performed here. The Beatles took the photo of the album in this park in 1964.
But if this park is famous for something, it is for the Speaker's Corner, located in the northeast of the park. Did you know that freedom of expression is forbidden in the royal parks of London? Only in the Speaker's corner it is allowed. During World War II people defended Hitler or criticized Churchill without consequences.
Of course, do not believe that there is full freedom. It is not allowed to deal with illegal issues although in practice the police are quite tolerant. Since we are here, we take a look at the arch that we see opposite, Marble Arch.
This arch, tells the popular story, which was built to be the entrance to Buckingham Palace. It turned out that it was too narrow for the royal carriage to pass and had to be moved to this place. However, it seems that this is not entirely true, who knows? There is another legend that says that inside the arch there are three small hidden surveillance rooms that were used until the 50s.
We go back to Hyde Park and take a nice walk to the west of the park, specifically to Victoria Gate. There, in a corner we see a pretty cemetery but of pets. Here rests in peace Yum Yum, Flo, Prince and so on to more than 300 animals (dogs, cats, birds and even a monkey). Today, this cemetery, which has been defined by some as the most horrible spectacle in England is closed.
We go to a much happier place and very close to where we are now. We only have to locate the source of the beginning of Serpentine lake (right in front of the cemetery of pets) and to walk by the way to the lake. Soon we see a statue. Who is this girl? Well, in reality it is a child who did not want to grow and, without a doubt has achieved it. Surely you know that I mean Peter Pan, the cute character created by James M. Barrie.
Barrie published in 1906 a children's book called Peter Pan in the Kensington Gardens (which is precisely where we are now). Here he narrated the adventures of a child, who did not want to grow up, and who flies to the island of Neverland. It is in the middle of the Serpentine lake in front of the statue.
Barrie was inspired by the children of some of his friends, with whom he used to walk in this park, to create the character. According to Barrie, the park was inhabited by fairies, sirens and other beings who left when the doors closed. In fact, the statue appeared, in the place where we see it today, one morning to the Londoners' surprise (it was, in fact, a gift from the writer himself).
The statue was commissioned and donated by the same James M. Barrie. The sculptor did not model it based on the small Michael, the middle son of the family friend of Barrie, but on another child, which bothered Barrie because it did not reflect the demonic side of Peter.
Leaving Peter, we continue walking in the park. We see the Albert Memorial, Queen's Temple, Serpentine Gallery and there is also the memorial to Diana. At the western end of the park, is the official residence of Princess Diana of Wales until her death. Leaving the park by Black Lion Gate in the northwest, it is time to visit the world's most famous and largest antique market, Portobello Road in the famous London neighborhood of Notting Hill.
Although the street businesses are open 6 days a week, the day of the fair and market is on Saturday. Although it is also the day of the crowd of people, it is worth going to have a look. There are shops just for watches, old books, old maps, typewriters, and funny posters.
Well today Portobello road is not exactly like that. at least I do not remember having danced with Scots. But let's retrace our steps in the direction of Kensington Garden. Here, just opposite the Albert Memorial, is one of the best-known theaters in the world where the biggest classical music festival on the planet is held every summer.
I am referring to the Royal Albert Hall, the theater that Queen Victoria had built after the death of her husband. Here have passed the greatest artists and not just classical music as for example The Killers, Robbie Williams, Paul McCartney or Pink Floyd.
Do you remember that I told you at the beginning that London is a pretty expensive city? This is true, but the museums are mostly free (except temporary exhibitions). In this area we have three museums to spend several days of affordable entertainment. Unfortunately, that was not our case. We would have to choose between Natural History Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum and Science Museum.
In the end my childhood side won and we go to the Science Museum. Unfortunately, I was wrong. The museum is huge, with lots of light gossip, and touch gadgets of all kinds. The problem is that, being free, the site is full of children everywhere since the museum is aimed at them. We did not find a space to approach a computer.
Even so, the museum has much to offer. For example, here is the oldest steam locomotive, the Stephenson's Rocket. It is famous for its incredible speed barely visible to the human eye. There is the command module Charlie Brown of the Apollo X that was the first manned mission that entered the moon's orbit and that prepared the famous moon landing later. However, I was more excited to see the biggest wheel that was manufactured.
We did not know where to go as we did not take note of restaurants or anything. We would eat wherever we were caught along the way. We have 2 huge hamburgers. We ate very well and in a very pleasant atmosphere. Once our bellies were full we started walking.
Well leaving the Museum of Natural History for our next visit, we now walk about 5 minutes by Bromptom road. We see Harrods, the most famous commercial warehouse in the world. It is a property, as everyone will know, of the Egyptian magnate Mohamed Al-Fayed? Harrods belongs to the Qatari Royal family since May 2010. Al-Fayed sold it for more than double what it cost.
I'm assaulted by certain questions about the future of Harrods. Will it still maintain that luxurious Egyptian interior when it no longer belongs to an Egyptian? Will they remove the shabby tribute to Princess Diana and Dodi who is in the basement of the warehouse? Time will tell. Now what will not change for sure, is the sensation of being in a luxury museum where we are afraid to touch things so as not to break them.
We see artificial snow, remote control cars, UFOs, flying fairies. One of the things that I saw in the toys section was the Harry Potter wand. It reminded me that my train destined to Hogwarts was about to leave. Unfortunately, although we went to the magical world, the train had left and we had to return to the muggle world by platform 9 ¾. We go to the King Cross train station.
We take a night walk from the Oxford Circus metro stop to Picadilly Circus on the important Regent Street shopping street. Here are the stores of Hugo Boss, Levi's, Calvin Klein, a Ferrari Store or an Apple Store, but my favorite is undoubtedly the largest, best and oldest toy store in the world Hamleys, a paradise for children of seven floors. It is intersting to know that the first toy store that opened William Hamleys in 1760 was called Noah's Ark. It should have been called, as you know thanks to the British Museum, Ark of Utnapishtim.
Parallel to Regent street is a street known worldwide for its tailor-made menswear laboratories. It is said that the costumes of these stores are like what the Roll Royce to the cars. They can take more than a year in making it. They require that their clients several tests, but that does not prevent them from being the suppliers of all the men belonging to the Royal English house.
Where do you think Robbie Williams, Brad Pitt, Elton John, Tom Cruise, David Beckham buy their suits? Here, of course! Or where do you think our historical ones like Churchill, Napoleon or John Lennon got their suits? To end the night, we go back to Regent St and then go to Heddon St to an ice bar! We watched a football game, took two or three pints while a guitarist played versions of Nirvana and some other English grunge group. Once the game ended we went to dinner at a Chinese buffet. And with a full belly we went to rest at the hotel.
We went to breakfast, while we thought about the route of today. We noticed that there was a door at the bottom of the dining room that overlooked a somewhat neglected little garden. We saw a lot of squirrels playing with each other and would be our little visitors while they accompanied us at breakfast. We said goodbye to them until tomorrow.
The sky was very overcast. Today is Sunday and what can a tourist in London do on a Sunday morning? Without a doubt, we go headlong to the marvelous madness that is the Camden Town market. Let me ask you what is your style, Gothic? Lolita? Punk? Hippy? Cyber? Retro? It does not matter. Here there are exclusive stores dedicated to you.
For example, one of the most striking is Cyberdog since it is the closest thing to get into a nightclub at 10 in the morning. We see DJs playing music at full volume, girls dancing, electronic shirts, ultraviolet lights everywhere. There is a gossip that we do not even know what it's worth, a bright "X" zone.
But the most famous flea market in the world is not just clothes. I ask you again what kind of food you like, Oriental? Mexican? Italian? Thai? Spanish? Indian? It does not matter. Here there are places of all places and at a reasonable price to be London. In addition, as the day progresses, some, especially those of oriental food lower the price so that there is no surplus. Even the place to sit down to eat is interesting.
A tattoo? piercings? an electric hairstyle? a recycled painting? a massage made by fish? a Wolowitz belt or a Sheldon shirt? Imagine, look and you will find it. Our next destination is the London Zoo. Finally we did not enter because they told us that a snake has escaped, and they are still looking for it.
We then visit the most photographed zebra crossing in the world. We had booked a tour at 7:00 pm in the Covent Garden district. We head to the United Grand Lodge of England head of the regular stream of Freemasonry. The building is open to the public. Very close to here, we find the Covent Garden.
Actually this is the Royal Opera House, also called Covent Garden because it is the neighborhood where it is located. It is the seat of the Royal Opera, the Royal Ballet and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera. It is the third theater located here since the other two went out burning, of course! Very close, in Bow street were the Courts of punishment.
It was here that the first professional police force in the world arose, the Bow street runners, the ancestors of Scotland Yard. It was also here where they were judged among other Casanovas (who by the way was a Mason), the brilliant Oscar Wilde (condemned two years for being homosexual) or, more recently, General Pinochet.
The heart of Covent Garden is the Square. This was the first modern square in London and currently the only place in the city where street performers can obtain licenses to act. We were tired and thirsty and in the middle of the park we found a kind of eatery and ordered a cappuccino and a hot chocolate.
In Covent Garden there is also the oldest pub in London. Well, it's not really the only pub that claims the title of being the oldest in the place. It's a privilege desired by many. What is clear is that Dickens used to frequent here (which is not new either, since all the pubs in the area were Mr. Dickens' goal). Another curiosity is that the pub was known as "Blood Cube" for organizing fist fights on the floor above and throwing blood through the window to the street.
Whoever has the title of the oldest restaurant in London is at 35 Maiden Lane. This restaurant was frequented by writers like Dickens (not only would the pubs like the good man), theater actors such as Henry Irving or Laurence Olivier or Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton.
You will have noticed that the author of Oliver Twist (Dickens) is very present in this place. This is because he had his home and office in this district. To see it we go to Wellington street and look for the blue plate. Well, after seeing the oldest pub and restaurant in London, it's time to visit the oldest active theater. This is the Drury Lane Theater of 1663.
This theater has also been the subject of fires on several occasions. We must bear in mind that formerly the special effects of fire and the wood of buildings did not get along very well. In addition, like almost all theaters in London, it has a large cast of its own ghosts. But for real fear, there is nothing like a night in a suite of the legendary London Hotel par excellence, the London Savoy.
First of all, that little street that serves as the entrance to the hotel, is the only one in the United Kingdom where you drive on the right. Now a question, do you know any company that can afford to close for three years and spend 200 million pounds for a complete remodeling? Welcome to Hotel Savoy. Here, The Other Club was co-founded by Winston Churchill (who considered the hotel's restaurant his favorite). There are paintings of Monet, Frank Sinatra, Oscar Wilde, Marilyn Monroe among others.
After having seen the pub, the restaurant and the oldest theater in London, what better way to top it off with the oldest wine bar in Europe on Villier Street. The bar that did not escape Dickens currently also enjoys great success among young and old. Definitely Covent Garden is a district with tradition. We bought some potatoes and chocolates to go munching during the walk.
We bought a few beers and a little pizza to have in the room. Everything has gone according to plan. We have seen what we wanted to see and we have loved it. So we went to rest because tomorrow would be another busy day full of surprises.
At about 8.00 we get up. We went down to the little dining room of the hotel and had a copious breakfast based on toast, cereals and a couple of cafes with milk, a horrible coffee. We already know that the English are not famous for their coffee. While we were having breakfast we watched the little squirrels again and this time we went to see them in the patio.
They did not stop running around and fiddling with each other and also taking away the bread thrown to the pigeons.
This is the last day of the trip and the energy reserves were low. Maybe that's why we decided to walk as little as possible and we started the day doing a Thames Cruise. The departure and arrival is right next to the London eye, which was the largest wheel in the world until 2006.
We see Cleopatra's Needles (her sister is in Central Park New York). In fact it is an Egyptian obelisk sent to build by Thutmose III in the fifteenth century BC. So, in all likelihood, it is the oldest monument in London.
You will ask yourself, and rightly so, what a more inappropriate place to place the obelisk. The reason is simple. At first it was going to be placed in front of the British Museum, but they discovered that they could not cross some streets. Then it was thought to install it in front of the Westminster Abbey, but they could not pass by train through the tunnel. Another building that we saw in the boat ride, not emblematic, but interesting is the Oxo Tower.
In the windows of the tower, the OXO brand is clearly read, a challenge to the authorities that had banned advertising along the banks of the Thames. They say that the restaurant of the building offers a spectacular panorama. Once on the mainland, very close to the London Eye, we see this building that houses the Aquarium. The County Hall of London.
As it turns out, this building, where some scenes were filmed and has also recently hosted the London Film Museum. Entering here was a real whim for me. The entrance is very expensive and the museum very small, but I was dying of curiosity to see what was inside. So, I had no choice but to use the power of force with my reticent girlfriend to convince her.
Inside the museum there are exhibited movie props, costumes such as Wolverine (X-Men) or the red suit of Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt in the Fight Club). There is an interactive dinosaur, a model of Alien, an exhibition about Charlie Chaplin or an art exhibition.
There are some pieces that can be bought like the liquid metal terminator. Well, for about 5,000 books one can buy one of the shirts that were used to make special effects. It is a bargain, if we consider that this movie took the Oscar for the Best Visual Effects.
Leaving this peculiar museum, we decided to cross to the other side of the river and cross Whitehall towards Trafalgar Square. After buying some sandwiches, drinks and a donuts we passed through famous Downing St because at the number 10 of this street is the residence of the British Prime Minister. The Royal British Cavalry Building is also striking (beware of caressing the horses that are trained to kill.
Trafalgar Square is named for the Battle of Trafalgar. Here was the smallest police station in Britain. In this square is also Zone 0 of London, well, more exactly the central point of the city from where the distances are measured. And of course it also has some Guinness record.
To bite something we go to St. Martin in the Fields. It is a church that is in the same Trafalgar Square where it is possible to eat, at a reasonable price-quality, in its Crypt. Returning back to the square, we decided that it is time to visit another free and spectacular museum, the National Gallery.
It is the main art museum in London and inside there are works as well known as The Rokeby Venus or The Sunflowers by Van Gogh. I am going to talk about another work of art normally ignored by the tourists, moreover, not only ignore it, but also trample it with total impunity. It is about four mosaics that decorate the lobby of the museum and that were designed by the Russian artist Boris Anrep. He also designed some mosaic in the Westminster Cathedral.
This man had a peculiar sense of humor. He did not want the public to look at his works with the respect and distance with which a painting is observed. He preferred that people enjoy his work closely, that he could literally feel it. In these mosaics, although the style is Byzantine, the theme is something else. In fact, Anrep represented as a muse to Greta Garbo, or Churchill observing from above a strange beast with the shape of the Nazi swastika. He even made a tomb-shaped mosaic and drew his self-portrait.
We buy an audio guide that are not expensive. At the exit, we decided to spend the rest of the day taking a walk through the district to try to discover some of its secrets. We went into a cafe and ate a hamburger with a coke. We caught the tube to the St Paul's station and crossing the street we went into the St Martin's street.
It is one of the last, if not the last blue telephone booth that were used to report crimes or ask for reinforcement. Unfortunately, the sign says that the free phone is no longer operational. Do you see the BBC Doctor Who series? At least it will sound like it is the longest-running science fiction series in the world. Well, the Doctor was traveling in time with his Tardis ship that was nothing more than a blue police phone booth.
However, these cabins were removed in 1969. In 1996 the BBC registered the Tardis as a trademark for merchandising. In 1998 the Police filed a complaint for this registration and in 2002 the Patent Office decided in favor of the BBC. It considered that in the popular consciousness the image of the police booth is more associated with Doctor Who than the police itself.
Right behind the blue cabin we see one of the corners that I liked the most in London. It is a pleasant little garden, Postman's Park, where we rest quietly while watching a monument that gives us goose bumps. It is an emotional monument in honor of anonymous heroes. These heroes were ordinary people who gave their lives saving people who were, in most cases, unknown.
Crossing the little park we arrive at King Edward Street. Turning left, at the corner with Newgate St we find a space occupied by rose bushes and a tower. This place was during the Middle Ages a monastery of Franciscan monks. Here four queens were buried. However it was destroyed by the Great Fire of 1666. Subsequently Mr. Christopher Wren, who also rebuilt the Cathedral of St. Paul, rebuilt the church in 1704. It was destroyed by the German bombs in 1940, saving only the west tower that can be seen in the place.
A few meters from here, at 126 Newgate Street, the remains of London's main penitentiary for almost five centuries (until 1902) are in an unsuspected location. The cells of the Newgate prison. The prison, well, what is left is not a big deal. It gives us an idea of what it must be like to be locked in those dwarf cubicles where you could not lie down or stand up.
The only light came from a tube that reached the street and where, with luck, passersby could throw some food and there was no service. In fact a jailer said that the plague could suffocate even a horse. Well, now we do not have to walk a lot. We just cross the street and will see the first public fountain in London.
In 1867 it was said to be the only drinking trough that provided free water for men and cattle in London. It is a pity that it was not long before it was discovered that in the sources was the cause of the cholera epidemic that ravaged London. On the same street as the fountain, a few meters away we find the chubby golden boy at the corner of Cock Lane.
Who was this chubby kid? Well, neither more nor less than the culprit of the famous Great Fire of 1666. Actually, first a French goldsmith who confessed the fire was blamed and immediately executed. The problem was when it was discovered that the mythomaniac arrived in England two days after the fire.
Then a famous astrologer who had predicted the fire a year in advance was blamed, but managed to get rid of it. Then they blamed the Catholics and finally the Municipal Council decided to impute the fire to the sin of gluttony (represented in the little boy).
From here, we walk for about five minutes towards the street of Fleet Street journalists, around which we see the Church of St Bridge. This small church is full of anecdotes. It was rebuilt by Wren and its tower was the biggest one built by that master. Pepys was baptized here (he was born in Fleet Street). A Roman road was discovered thanks to the German bombs. Its tiered steeple was the inspiration for modern bridal cakes when a neighborhood pastry chef represented him with icing sugar.
To end a busy day, we approach a haven of peace and tranquility in the middle of a legal labyrinth. It is a square located in Middle Temple, Fountain Court (very close to the famous Temple Church). The fountain of almost 300 years appears in many London literary works, for example in Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens. It was the playground of the poet Charles Lamb. Oliver Goldsmith spent a long time in this square, a writer who also idolized Samuel Jhonson. It influenced well-known works like Oliver Twist and David Coperfield of Dickens.
Maybe this place is not up to the mark, to bid farewell to our trip. However it is still a curious place, secret and perhaps something geeky.
We started to be exhausted. we took a few pints in a very typical and welcoming tavern. There we were like an hour chatting of the day, laughing of how we had spent it, and watching the English. The hunger was beginning to knock on the door and we went to dinner and has a pizza and coke. Once the forces were restored, we went to the hotel. After a long shower we had an English style tea at around 10:00 pm. After remembering and reliving the day we went to sleep to regain strength for tomorrow.
The alarm sounds one last time. Yes, that sadness invades us because the trip came to an end, but we are happy to have seen everything we had planned. We went quietly to breakfast because the previous night we packed our bags. Today is the day of the last breakfast. The time was over, and we had to leave. We saw our bus that would take us to Victoria.
We said goodbye to the friendly receptionist, and we arrived at the bus stop, located right in front of the hotel. In London, if you wait for a bus, and do not raise your hand, the guy does not stop! I watched the time, again and again. Well, we still have an hour of time for the train to leave.
The bus arrived ten minutes later, and we took a seat. We pass through the Chelsea area. The bus went around the area but it did not progress and it stopped a lot. So I decided to take the suitcases and get off! We were headed to South Kensington. We went well, and all that, without realizing we see that we headed for the blue line. We went back and took the correct line. We arrived in Victoria.
This is our London story and diary in which we hope you have liked and I can get you out of many doubts. I have tried to do it in a simple way and explain more about our experience than a simple travel guide. Here influence other factors such as the choice of photographs and their digital retouching, and resize them so that they do not weigh so much when uploading them to the web. Without further ado, this has been our trip. Greetings to all the travelers of the world.