Today is my last day in London before going off to other parts.After my morning tea I decided to walk down through the City of London, also known as the Square Mile, and gawp at the architecture and search out the remains of the Wren churches hiding among the newer office towers. The weather is sunny but not too hot, perfect for walking.
I walked all around Threadneedle street, Leadenhall Market, Cornhill, King William Street, passed by Lloyd's, the newish building with all the words on the outside, heating pipes, elevators etc. Leadenhall market is a covered Victorian arcade with some nice shops and cafes though I had thought it would be a stall type market. The iron work is superb, though. I walked down Lombard Street where the old banks used to be centuries ago. There are still little signs with all types of shapes hanging outside many of the doors, some dated back to the 1500's. One in particular I saw was a grasshopper and another was an eagle. These were the symbols for the various banks, like today's logos.
There are numerous narrow little alleyways and courtyards all over the place. I found businesses tucked away, or an old door that looked like it might have been from an old church but which led nowhere. There are a lot of churches, most of which were rebuilt by Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of 1666. They are squeezed and fitted in behind newer buildings. Some have tiny churchyards. The names are very old fashioned too, St. Peter Cornhill, St. Edmund the King and St. Dunstan.
Near the 202' Monument to the fire and next toLondon Bridge is St. Magnus the Martyr. This church was rebuilt after the fire and then had to be rebuilt and restored again after severe bomb damage in WWII. The floor of the main aisle contains memorial flagstones and there are marble memorials lining the walls. Most of the stained glass is post-war except for one circular one in the corner. The south wall contains tall stained glass depicting various saints and there's a statue of a fierce looking bloke in Viking kit representing St. Magnus himself.
The first mention of a church on this site was in the late 11th C. It's right near the river very close to where the original London Bridge. There's a there's a model of the old London bridge inside the church. Also, secured against a stone pillar outside is a very old post of fossilized wood that was discovered nearby in the 1930s and has been dated back to Roman times, probably an old wharf support.
I explored a bit and walked down Eastcheap where there were a few very interesting architectural touches on some buildings across from the Starbucks where I stopped for a cuppa. I had planned to walk to where I could catch a bus back up west but I didn't make it too far. About a block from Starbucks there was another church tower I saw. I went down the side street to the entrance and found that there was nothing left of St. Dunstan's in the East which was rebuilt after the fire but demolished and rebuilt again in 1817. Nothing left but a few bits of walls still standing from a bombed out shell although the Wren tower had been restored after a bomb destroyed most of it in WWII. The remaining walls are covered in ivy and there is a little park built there, with a small fountain ringed with benches. The sun was streaming down though, lighting the water and warming the people sitting and reading newspapers or quietly chatting.
A few blocks later I spotted a pub called Hung Drawn and Quartered about a block from the Tower of London and gave in to the temptations of a pint and a hot meal of scampi. The pub is aptly named. There is a rope noose hanging from a fixture in the ceiling over the bar! Must keep the Saturday night crowd in line! Actually it's probably there for the tourists, seeing as the Tower of London was so close by.
I walked to the bus stop by the Tower and boarded a double decker west. The traffic was very bad and the bus was stopped for much of the time so I got off on the Strand and walked towards Trafalgar Square where I had seen a large cyber café called EasyEverything and set to wading through over 100 emails waiting for me. I wrote a few general travel emails to send to friends and family and surfed a few of my regular sites.
I was close to Covent Garden so I went up there. I always like this area of London. I found the shop that former Corrie actor Peter Baldwin manages. It's a little shop that sells miniature reproduction theatres, called Pollock's Toy Shop. Another browse in another Past Times and then I just walked out of the square a different way than I ever had before, finally seeing the front of the Royal Opera House!
I went down Neal Street that comes out in a wonderful little court called Neal's Yard. This area has a number of unusual or trendy shops including an Astrology store. By the time I got to Neal's Yard, the populace was looking decidedly funkier to match the shops! The courtyard was strewn with green and purple flagged banners, the buildings where brightly painted, the one or two trees where green and leafy and the sun was trying to get past the 4 or 5 storey buildings to reach the small open space and cast a late afternoon glow over it all. There were cafes with tables and chairs on the pavement, a few benches, some young people around with hair that happened to match the banners in it's hues and the smell of freshly baked bread permeated the already lively atmosphere.
I found my way to Tottenham Court Road to the underground. It must be one of the oldest tube stations and I must have entered it from the wrong side of the intersection because I felt like I had left the sunny surface and descended into the bowels of the earth! What a contrast to the sunlit joyful atmosphere of Neal's Yard not so far away! I had to walk down a very long spiral staircase that had low ceilings and dreary painted concrete walls. At the bottom you turn a corner only to be faced with an escalator back up! Up there and then follow a maze of tunnels and corridors until you felt like you were going through Alice's rabbit hole. Finally the platform and, as if to combat the industrial scenery that brought you here, the walls of the platform were all brightly tiled with modern mosaics!
The tube was crowded and hot and I only got back to the station with 15 minutes to spare. Tonight we went into the seaside resort town of Southend which isn't far from Leigh, for fish and chips. Southend has the longest pleasure pier in England and it and the seafront promenade are lined with arcades and pubs. There are several amusement parks with rides as well though they were closed at night and there's a large casino on the waterfront as well. There were strings of lights and neon "illuminations" crossing a mile or so of the main prom which was kind of neat. The illuminations were figures like flowers, birds, clowns, and other figures, some animated and some not, all made of coloured neon strings of lights. There's also a beach here and this resort is very popular with East End London families in the summer, a short train journey from the smoke and noise of the city.
The chippie we went to is called Baileys and I finally had my fish and chips! The shop was deep and narrow with wooden tables and chairs and had a somewhat fast food atmosphere to get through the hungry queues of customers. The walls are painted brightly though and the food was very good. After eating we walked along the prom as it was a really nice night. We drove through Old Leigh on the waterfront on the way home. Leigh did and still does earn it's living from the sea. Tomorrow I leave for Redditch where I've got a B&B for Saturday night that's just a few blocks from where my friend Chris lives. We're going to see Warwick Castle and stop in Lichfield on Sunday before I make my way to Manchester for the next leg of the trip.
This was the longest visit to London I had made up to that point, though as I write this in 2008, I’ve had a fantastic week and a bit in London with my mother earlier this year. There’s another journal for that visit. And as of 2008, i've been to London 10 times. I love this town!