on June 28, 2012
~~A TRIP TO COVENT GARDEN~~ I was born in London but moved to the Essex/London borders some years ago. When I moved out I chose to not go so far that we weren't within easy reach of the London underground network as I thought there would be many times when travelling into the city was necessary for my family, for both work and leisure. I still live close to a central line underground station although I don't often travel into the capital but my grown up children do fairly frequently. It's helpful for them that we do live near to a station. I've always enjoyed the capital, especially its West End. I used to work in the city and go out in the city with friends. And shopping in Oxford Street was quite a frequent event as a teenager.Now, I suppose I visit central London several times a year and this is mainly for trips to the theatre. In April I spent a pleasant few hours in Covent Garden. I went with my husband to meet our daughter (who is at university in London) to take her to see Sweeney Todd the musical, which was at The Adelphi Theatre, in The Strand. We travelled by tube to Covent Garden station and when we emerged from the station by lift (no escalators at this station) it was light and sunny. It was early afternoon and we had booked to see a matinee performance and so we began the short walk to The Strand. After the show it was still a nice day but with the threat of rain but still pleasant enough weather wise, we decided, for us to enjoy a walk around Covent Garden. Although when I think of Covent Garden I think fruit and flower market (scenes from 'My Fair Lady' were filmed here) but the famous market has long gone, leaving an outdoor, more general market on certain days (as well as other shopping facilities) but the market wasn't open at the time of our visit. By now evening was approaching although it wasn't yet dark. The area around the square was busy but the piazza itself wasn't too crowded. I felt, there was an air of expectancy as if the area was waiting for night time when the evening visitors would be arriving; giving Covent Garden its second wind and then it would really begin to sparkle. It's been a while since I've had a walk around here and so I found it interesting. ~~A FEW FACTS/HISTORY~~ The name of Covent Garden is familiar to me. As is Billingsgate and Smithfield but a Scottish friend recently asked me what Covent Garden is and so this may be of interest to her and hopefully one or two others. I only know of Covent Garden's more recent history so did some research and found that there has been activity in this location for very many years. Some interesting facts about the architecture and the area in general can be found on this website. I hope it may be of use: http://www.coventgardenlondonuk.com/ And just a snippet of history taken from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covent_Garden "The first record of a "new market in Covent Garden" is in 1654 when market traders set up stalls against the garden wall of Bedford House. The Earl of Bedford acquired a private charter from Charles II in 1670 for a fruit and vegetable market, permitting him and his heirs to hold a market every day except Sundays and Christmas Day." I can remember hearing of protests and there had been much campaigning over some years to keep the flower market, which it was famous for, within Covent Garden but it was thought to congested. In 1974 the market did indeed move to Nine Elms (New Covent Garden Market). It was intended that the area of the old market was to be greatly developed but campaigners pushed for many buildings to become listed and this prevented redevelopment of the area. Since then it seems that much improvement and regeneration has happened and is still on-going, making the area a pleasant one for shopping, wining and dining, and entertainment. ~~THE PIAZZA~~ SHOPPING There are many interesting shops here but we were here purely to window shop. Inside the indoor shopping market there is a wide variety of shops from some of the usual mall shops to the rare and even quirky. An outdoor market is held here but at the time of our visit this wasn't open. There is an outdoor farmer's market, which opens in May until Christmas on Thursdays and Saturday mornings ( 8 am until 1 pm) but we were too early for that as this was April and also later than one in the afternoon. ATMOSPHERE There certainly seemed to be a lot going on in the square itself. People were dining al-fresco and, although it had been quite a nice day it was becoming a little chilly. But I've mentioned the heaters, which added to the cheerful feeling really. The aroma of fresh coffee floated around the square or piazza, as it is called. I thought the piazza reminiscent of Mediterranean towns with the sight of al- fresco dining and street performers. It actually made me think of when I visited Palma, Majorca a few years ago. When visiting, you are bound to see performances here. Many are short and I believe should be of less than of thirty minutes duration. While we wandered around we happened to see a juggler, an acrobat, and a magician had just began to speak on his microphone, commanding an audience. My daughter is often in the area as she goes to the theatre often and was actually there in this June week that I write this review. She has just told me that she was impressed with a construction emulating Lego and she also saw a contortionist. As we began to walk away from the piazza but we were still in the Covent garden area and we saw crowds standing on pavements, outside pubs, whilst drinking their beer. In the narrow streets which aren't pedestrianized cars bib and people dodge as they cross the roads when the cars slow down. BARS/CAFES/RESTAURANTS Lots of the outdoor cafes had outdoor table heaters ablaze which added to the atmosphere. We three nearly fell out with each other when deciding where to eat. My husband and I wanted to eat somewhere nice but our very fussy daughter wanted Italian. Most places were busy and there were queues at many restaurants. As we didn't want our daughter to travel home alone (to her university accommodation) too late, we didn't wish to wait long before dining. It was now growing increasingly busy, with many people wanting to eat; those wishing to dine before going to the theatre and those who had been to matinee performances, like us, and those who had come out just to eat. Our daughter requested Bella Italia which my husband and myself aren't too keen on, but owing to the queues we would have settled for anything, more or less, but Bella Italia near to the Piazza had an hours wait and so we didn't actually eat within Covent Garden but walked to The Strand.There are lots of cafes/bars/ pubs and restaurants to choose from in the piazza and close by. ~~MOBILITY DIFFICULTIES?~~ The indoor market has toilet facilities and a lift whilst the Piazza is fairly even and accessible. If you are disabled or are a carer and are considering visiting this area then I would suggest first reading information from the following site which I thought could be helpful: http://www.coventgardenlife.com/info/disabled. html ~~LOCATION~~ The area of Covent Garden is in London's West End between St. Martin's Lane and Drury Lane. It lies within two London boroughs, these being both Camden and Westminster. Covent Garden is on the Piccadilly line. It is also very close to the underground stations of Leicester Square and Charing Cross. It is a short walk from the Strand where many bus routes serve the area. London's black taxi cabs can take you here and fares are charged by meter. ~~SUMMARY~~ We enjoyed our few hours in Covent Garden and I would say this is an interesting area to visit for eating out, enjoying a drink or two or just for a wander around. I would recommend it but think, although there are indoor facilities, to get the best from the heart of Covent Garden, the Piazza then it would be most enjoyed in dry weather either in the day time or evening.
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