London, U.K. (March 16-May 1, 2022)
Updated: May 1, 2022
We arrived in London on March 16, in the rain and fog. "A foggy day, in London town...."
Our flat is in Camden Town, about 25 minutes from the center of the city by underground. It is a vibrant neighborhood with lots of parks, stores & restaurants. There is a canal nearby.
We took the tube down to the center of town. There we saw government buildings, Big Ben, and walked along the Thames from the Embankment tube stop around to St. Paul's Cathedral.
We took a tour of St. Paul's Cathedral, and learned about its amazing history.
Here are some pictures from a walk along the canal in Camden; we also went into the Camden Market and then left the canal to walk in Regent's Park, which is massive!
Took a walk to the British Museum and passed Euston Square and the University of Central London. The museum truly has one of the most impressive collections of world civilization I have ever seen. We saw the Rosetta Stone. There is a drawing of Prague dating back to the middle ages that shows St. Vitus Cathedral and the Charles Bridge that Kate, James, and I walked across in 1994. There were so many Egyptian items.
More photos from our neighborhood
Friday we took a trip into Brixton to visit with family friends. They walked us around from Brixton Station, through the market, past Lambeth and into Herne Hill. We had an excellent lunch at the Half Moon Pub and terrific conversation. If I had to put my finger on the difference in vibe between Brixton and Camden Town, it would be the vibrancy - of the colors, the sounds (great steel drum by the station), and the people.
One of the best ways to explore a place is to take ever-expanding walks that spiral from our neighborhood. We walked to Kentish Town, then looped back to Camden Markets then back home.
Here are some photos of the inside of our Camden Town flat. It gets lots of light from the lovely back garden, but it is very, very small. The location is perfect!
We took a trip to The Borough food market. The buildings date back to the 1850s, but there has been a market in this spot since the 12th century! Afterwards, we went back to our flat and had a lovely meal!
We took the Tube there and back. It was really crowded - I guess that's what you'd expect from the first sunny day all week and a Saturday to boot! Northern line to Waterloo Station - Paul says Waterloo Station is in one of the Bourne movies but I don't remember it. Then walking to The Borough and back on the Jubilee line to Waterloo.
Paul made a great meal from the food we bought there!
We've been to Covent Garden twice - see see La Traviata at the Royal Opera House, and to meet friends for brunch. Here are some Covent Garden photos:
We took a double-decker bus to Hyde Park, then walked through Hyde Park and toured Kensington Palace.
My aunt had a penpal from England - they were 12 years old when they became penpals, and kept in touch for over 60 years! We met them for brunch. It was so nice to talk and visit.
A walk to Trafalgar Square, then behind Big Ben, Westminster, St. James Park to Buckingham Palace. They were not changing the guard, so we didn't see Christopher Robin or Alice! We did see two demonstrations - one by "Extinction Rebellion" environmental activists, and one supporting Ukraine.
Pub night with our son and daughter-in-law.
We had a wonderful day at the Tower of London. The original castle dates back to 1066, and has been the scene of many events, good and bad, in history. We saw the famous prison tower, where you can read the grafitti left by prisoners. It is moving to see the mark they left - alone, often condemned to die for their beliefs, but still believing their words had meaning in the world.
We met up with Issa and Claire in Bishopsgate, to tour the Bishopsgate Institute, where Issa works, and to have lunch at Spitalfields Market and visit. Bishopsgate Institute was established in 1895. It provides adult education, community events, and a library/archive of social movements, including a large LGBTQ collection.
We traveled about an hour by tube to Southfields, near Wimbledon. Friends of my cousin live there (they used to live in Louisville, but they are from London). We had a really enjoyable day! We started at their home, then drove by the famous tennis venue, into WImbledon VIllage. After our host treated us to deli choices, we walked across the Commons, and into a flowering park. The original large house on the estate has been turned into a hotel. Our walk ended in a "secret garden".
I had a little accident with my cell phone and had to have it repaired, so off I went to Golders Green, which is north of Camden Town and close to Hampstead Heath. Here are some photos of the area.
We have seen vegan restaurants and vegan dishes in non-vegan restaurants everywhere. London appears to be a Vegan paradise!
I ventured out to Oxford Street to buy some pants. I had read there was a nice store with plus sizes, but when I got there, it had been permanently closed. I tried on some pants at the extremely large TK Maxx, but they were just ugly. I Googled "plus size clothes" and saw that there was a shop about 15 minutes away, so I walked there. It wasn't until I got close I noticed the map called it, "Beige, the luxury plus-size destination for woman." Sort of the opposite of TK Maxx. I noticed the area looked very nice. I had to ring a bell to get in. The employees were extremely nice, offering to find exactly what I needed. I did buy pants. As I said to Paul when I got home, they were the least expensive item in the store! (and yes, being a good nomad, I discarded a pair of less functional pants to make room!) Here are photos of the area.
We took the train to Coventry, where we were met by our friends, Iris and Paul. They drove us to Stratford-upon-Avon to see where William Shakespeare was born, lived, and was buried. After touring and eating there, we drove to Kenilworth, site of the ruined Elizabethan castle, and shared drinks at the appropriately named Queen and Castle Pub. After, we returned to Coventry to see the Cathedral that was bombed during the Blitz, and the amazing new cathedral built right beside the old, destroyed one. The old cathedral was sobering - the destruction so present; a memorial statue given to Coventry by the people of Hiroshima (the two figures whose heads are bowing); the simple wood cross made from the old, fallen rafters. We saw old buildings that date back to the middle ages. The Coventry coat of arms had the elephant and castle, and we saw that carved into a lot of edifices. Finally, we saw a statue honoring Lady Godiva, who famously rode naked through Coventry in the 11th century on a dare with her husband, that if she did so, he would lower taxes on the poor. According to lore, she rode, and he lowered taxes, so she is something of a folk heroine. The square also features a mechanical clock showing Lady Godiva ride on her horse on the hour, and the tailor who reportedly was the only one to watch her, whose eyes were struck blind. This is the legend of Peeping Tom. After seeing Lady Godiva's ride on the old mechanical clock, we went to Iris & Paul's lovely home and enjoyed a cuppa with Iris, Paul, and their family. It was a great day.
Here is a short video of the mechanical clock in Coventry that tells the story of Lady Godiva.
Final week in London. First set, dinner in Leicester Square before the theatre. Second set, walk from Piccadilly Circus to Tottenham Court station.