“The journey not the arrival matters.” – T.S. Eliot
Settle in for some reading. Might I suggest a cup of tea? It’s the perfectly British beverage for a post about exploring London, and the journey has been lovely!
On August 3, I went for my first job interview. By the end of it, I was offered a job! The only hitch, and one which has been a bit consuming, is complications with getting an updated Canadian criminal record check sent over. I won’t get into it because, frankly, it’s far too frustrating to think about, and thanks to perseverance and my Dad’s help, we have solved that problem. After rocking my job interview, I took Troy’s suggestion to ride the tube to Westminster station. Walking up the stairs to find the clock tower looming over you is impressive, to say the least.
I crossed the bridge to sit beside the River Thames, on a bench in the shade, looking across at the Houses of Parliament (also known as the Palace of Westminster). As I sat there, enjoying the view, I realized fully that this is where I live. As tourists bustled around me, using their limited time to take in as much of this beautiful city as they could, I enjoyed the calm of my resting spot. I had the luxury of reading my book, gazing up from time to time to watch the rolling clouds, to listen to Big Ben as it chimed, to enjoy the shifting light weaving its way through the leaves overhead.
Then, it was downtown for lunch with Troy at a lovely outdoor market called Spitalifelds. The covered outdoor markets are a big thing here! I was enjoying the vibe there (and the fish and chips) so much that I didn’t take a single picture. Oops.
Another London highlight was our day in Greenwich, where the world keeps time. Ours was not the typical tourist experience of Greenwich. Unbeknownst to us, we approached the park from the back, or south, side. We made our way through the beautiful and vast green spaces of the park, stopping to take in a cricket match before wandering up the tree-lined path that led to the observatory, where we were stunned at the view that opened up before us. Next to the observatory there is a beautiful, albeit crowded, space which overlooks the old Royal Naval College, Greenwich Village, the Thames, and the city beyond. I am constantly amazed at the beauty of this city. The juxtaposition of old brick buildings dotting the river bank, the castles and spires that rise into the skyline, and the new and interesting modern architecture is something to behold. We took in the view, enjoyed walking down the hill through the park (this time, taking the more travelled path) and then spent a great deal of time in the National Maritime Museum. I could talk about this one for hours, but I’ll spare you. Instead, a few photos!
Troy and I were fascinated by this beautiful two-tone hedge. And then the view that greeted us as we emerged from the treelined path:
Here we are with the city behind us. The old Naval College is just below us, at the edge of the large field. The short brick buildings and tall cityscape that you see are both on the north side of the Thames.
I can’t resist sharing just one photo from the National Maritime Museum. This is the seating area of Prince Frederick’s Barge. An accompanying info card tells us that it was completed in 1732 for Frederick, Prince of Wales, son of King George II. At the time, traveling by boat on the Thames was the fastest means of travel in London. The barge was last used by Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, in 1849. The detail is absolutely remarkable!
As I said, there is so much to experience here. Really, it’s too much to include! On a relaxing afternoon of reading in our nearest park, a butterfly settled on a rock just a few feet away and stayed with me for more than half an hour, reminding me that my sweet girl is always part of my life and journeys. I took in the beauty of the Guildhall Parish church (pictured) and the Guildhall Art Gallery, underneath which you can see the remains of the British Roman amphitheatre. And I explored the Barbican. It could get a post of its own, really. It was designed to be a community within the city. It includes housing, a theatre, library, church, school, art gallery and more. It is hideous to look at, but also fascinating. It is so unassuming from the outside, almost cold, that you don’t imagine what you’ll find inside.
Oh! And while I was out walking- I found sections of the remains of the London City Wall (which was originally built in AD 200! Large sections were repaired or rebuilt between the 12th and 17th centuries). Have I mentioned that I love the history here?
Last but not least, one of the things I love most about wandering the city is sights such as this: this tower is all that remains of the church that was St Alban Wood Street. A printed note on the door reads: “This church was built in 1682-85 by Sir Christopher Wren, as a replacement for an Inigo Jones church that was destroyed in the Great Fire of London [in 1666]. The church was almost completely destroyed in an air raid in 1940. The ruins of the church were finally demolished in 1955, leaving just the tower standing. The tower is now private property and is not open to the public.”
Can you imagine owning your own 300+ year old tower in the middle of London?!
London is truly a remarkable city. There is so much I haven’t yet seen! In part, I confess, this is because my body still likes to pretend I’m in Canada, so at 4 pm, which is 8 am BC time, I start to get my energy. Some days I’m motivated, and get up earlier to go exploring, but after a chaotic few months (moving from our apartment, packing up and vacating my classroom, moving in with friends in Mission, moving to London)… there are many days where I just enjoy the quiet, and that nothing is required of me. I can sleep in, watch TV, and enjoy some general laziness. It sounds a bit silly when I think of how much there is to see before I start work, but there it is!