A November 2003 trip
to London by vampirefan
Quote: Visitors to contemporary London can also feel what it is like to step back in time. Historical London is everywhere. Many contemporary places seamlessly sit right along with places that have been around for thousands of years.
Attraction | "Hyde Park"
Henry VIII acquired the park from the monks of Westminster Abby in 1536. At that time, it was private property of the king. James I opened it to limited public use. But it was Charles I who opened it to the public to enjoy in 1637. He added the ring section at that time. Today, the park is run by the Royal Park Service.
Once inside, you can roam the 350 areas at your leisure. There are walking paths all over the place. We were here in the fall, and the beauty of the autumn trees abounded in this place of beauty. I can just imagine how this places bursts from the dozens of colors in the flowers found all over in the spring. There are a number of beautiful statutes and fountains all over the place. There is a beautiful lake not too far from the entrance. Here, you get a wonderful view of London, and you will find an abundance of waterfowl that make this their home. There is an incredible marbled, arched entrance. There are plenty of places to sit and reflect. Or just stretch out in the grass and let your mind wonder for a while.
Here you can try rollerblading, rowing, bird-watching, bike riding, and horseback riding. They offer a playground and educational center for children, they do offer restrooms, and there are several places to grab a bite on the grounds. In the summer, there are a number of concerts on the green.
The memory of the late Princess Diana still lingers on here. There is a Princess Diana memorial walkway and a memorial fountain. This park was one of her favorite places to visit. When she was taken too soon from us in 1997, many people gathered here in her honor. This place was seen countless times in the weeks that followed, filled with many mourners remembering their princess.
When in London, you should take the time to visit. It is truly a beautiful place, and a place to escape and unwind for a while. There is no entrance fee to get in. The park is open from 5am to midnight year-round. There are several Tube stops, but the closest is Hyde Park. You can visit them on the web for more information at www.royalparks.gov.uk.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 3, 2005
Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens
W Carriage Drive
London, England W2 2UH
+44 20 7298 2100
The arch was designed by Decimus Burton and erected in 1828 as a memorial to Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington. Wellesley served as a soldier and as prime minister. On top of the monument there is the Statue of Peace descending the Chariot of War. The arch originally stood as a grand entrance to London. But, in 1882, it was moved to its location near Hyde Park as part of a widening scheme. In 1999, it came under protection of the English Heritage Trust, and they opened the inside of the arch to the public.
Inside the arch there are three levels of exhibits that detail the history of the arch. Until 1992, it housed the second-smallest police station. The smallest is at Trafalgar Square. There are elevators (or lifts as they are called in England) to each floor. If you are here, make sure to take the time out to visit the balcony. From here you get a great view of the London Eye, House of Parliament, and Buckingham Palace. The balcony is wheelchair-accessible. Admission to go inside the arch is £2.50. Or, if you have a London Pass, it is part of your pass.
Now, if you don’t care to check out the inside of the arch or if heights scare you, take the time to at least see the beautiful building. There is no charge to walk around it. In the same area you will find a statue of Wellington on his horse as well as a war memorial to honor all servicemen killed in the war. It is truly a stunning piece of architecture and should be on anyone's lists of thing to see in London. You should also make sure to come back and visit it at night. It lights up the London sky with the floodlight surrounding it. Beautiful indeed. The inside of the arch is open from 10am to 6pm during the summer and 10am to 5pm the rest of the year. Of course, to just admire its beauty from the outside, you can see it anytime you walk by. The nearest tube entrance is Hyde Park. The website is www.english-herritage.org.uk.
The Wellington Arch
Hyde Park Corner
London, England W1J 7JZ
020 7930 2726
The home is still the residence of several members of the royal family, while others have offices here. But they allow the common folk to come enjoy their finery - for a fee, of course. The building itself is stunning. There is a long walkway where you can enjoy the formal gardens. When we were here, that seemed to be the favorite of children who were running and wallowing all over the ground. Admission includes an audio tour. The cassettes come in several languages. You can tour at your leisure. Here you will see furniture, jewels, photographs, and personal items from the royal families who have resided here. The tapes are very lengthy. After a while, we found it easier and quicker to read the program guide descriptions. One of the favorite displays here the collection of royal ceremonial dresses. You can see the room where Queen Victoria was born and baptized. Make sure to check out the state rooms, which have a very large and impressive collection of 17th-century paintings.
Anyone who loves Princess Di should make sure to put this on his or her list. Downstairs, you can view a collection of the late-princess’ dresses. I noticed that the mood of the other rooms were a collection of people chatting away and ohhing and ahhing at the royal finery. Here, I noticed the mood was somber and people spoke in whispers. Many people, myself included, had to dab their eyes on more than one occasion. In fact, by the time I left, I was bawling. Though she has been gone now for almost 8 years, the memories of this beautiful lady are still here. People come here as a way to somehow be close to the People’s Princess. The black wrought-iron gates trimmed in gold on the outside was where so many people came to pay their respects when this beautiful life was taken tragically in August of 1997. This was the gate where millions of flowers were left to the late princess.
The palace is open from 10am to 5pm daily. Admission is £10 per person. Credit cards are accepted. On the way out, you do go through a gift shop (I am sure you are as shocked as I was). Here you can find guides, books, tourist goodies, postcards, and plenty of Di-related articles. You can visit them on the web at www.royal.gov.uk or www.hrp.org.uk.
London, England W8 4PX
+44 (20) 7937 9561
Attraction | "Covent Gardens"
The history of the gardens date back to the Roman times, when they constructed the Lunderwich. Pop ahead 1,700 years, and what is now Covent Gardens was starting to take shape. In 1630, Earl Bedford hired architect Indigo Jones to design the piazza and square. In 1830, Charles Flower opened it to the public as a produce market. At its peak, more than 1,200 porters were working. In 1974, the market stopped selling produce and started selling gifts, collectibles, and curios and fine goods. A tradition still continued today. There are over 100 shops in the gardens. Kings, slaves, and the working class have walked the paths of Covent Gardens. It has also been home to brothels and places of murder. Three hundred years ago, a skeleton was discovered shackled and headless!
Today, you will find shops such as Marks and Spencer’s, Borders Books, Boots the Chemist (drug store), Victoria’s Secret, The Body Shop, and the Freud shop! But it doesn’t house physiatrists, just designer house wares. They have a wonderful rubber-stamp shop. I loved this place. They have a huge selection. They have a great travel section perfect for your London scrapbook pages when you return home. They also had a terrific candle shop with thousands of candles of all sizes all over the place. I purchased an incredible tea-light candle chandelier for a mere £7.5, and several other candles were very reasonable priced.
We were there over Thanksgiving, and it was already decorated for Christmas. It was absolutely beautiful. It was also very crowded. In the warmer months, you can find street performers in the front plaza. Now, if you are walking through Covent Gardens and get a sense of deja vu, you’re not having some kind of flashback from a former life. Convent Gardens served as Diagon Alley in the very successful Harry Potter movies, which stars Daniel Radcliff, and in my opinion, the very sexy Jason Isaacs as Malfoy’s dad (sorry, just had to throw that in there). The book mentions the silver griffins at the entrance several places in JK Rowlin’s books.
Convent Gardens is a great place to check out English history and splurge on some designer duds at the same time. You can check their website to see what is going on while you’re in town. Their website is . The store hours vary and, of course, restaurants, pubs, and clubs are open later.
London, England WC2
+44 20 7836 9136
Attraction | "Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square"
The skies of Piccadilly come alive at night with thousands of neon bulbs in the massive neon signs advertising everything from Coke to Samson luggage. It is, of course, often compared to Times Square in New York City. You will find that many of Britain’s top designers have shops here. There is also a plethora of restaurants of every variety here: Planet Hollywood, Hard Rock, and Rainforest Café all have braches here. Madam Tusseud’s house, the Rock Circus, features wax figures of some of rock-and-rolls best. You are within walking distance of the famed West End, which is home to Broadway. This is also much like New York. Many of the restaurants feature theater menus for patrons of the arts looking to nosh before or after one of the many fantastic shows. And just like Time Square, it was once pretty seedy and not a place you would want to visit. Today, it is a must-stop on every visit to London.
Try to come here during the day, as well as a visit at night. During the day, you can admire the many beautiful statues surrounding the plaza. The historical part of the area is more apparent during the day. At night, the lights come on and all of London comes out for the show. You will see people of every walk of life here, so it makes for some great people-watching. This is where you will find a large concentration of clubs if that is your thing. Just walking around this place is an experience - and a free one at that. It is one of the few things London has to offer for free. No matter what your pleasure is, make sure to check out Piccadilly Circus. Make sure to bring your camera, too. You never know what you will see here! The Tube stops at Piccadilly Circus and Charring Cross will get you here.
London, England W1
Charlotte, North Carolina