My 3 day weekend in London started early when my alarm went of at half 4 this morning. Why so early? Well I wanted to get a whole day in London, so that meant the first train out of Abergavenny, which left at 06:07, I got into Paddington just after 8:30. My hotel is in Waterloo so I got on the Tube and 20 minutes later I was in the lobby.
I dropped my bag off and started walking toward the Embankment. Tomorrow I’m going to the BFI to see Casablanca, and I wanted to see where the entrance was, that found I continued down the Embankment on Queens Walk towards St. Paul’s Cathedral.
Some Londoner’s are rather energetic and they like to run down by the river, I saw about 30 in my 20 minute stroll.
Further down the Embankment is Tate Modern, I didn’t have time to go in and only got this dodgy photo of the tower.
I crossed over the Millennium Bridge getting a long shot of Tower Bridge, which I’m hoping to get closer to tomorrow when I visit The Tower of London. It was very windy this morning, the wind was howling down the river which made me a little uncomfortable on the bridge. As you cross the bridge there is a great view of St.Paul’s Cathedral (which is why the bridge was put there of course) so I snapped a few pics.
I was surprised to see the tents belonging to the ‘Occupy London’ protestors outside the Cathedral, I quite wrongly thought that they had all been cleared away. I’ve not read about their cause enough to know who’s right and who’s wrong but their actions did annoy me, more about that in a moment. The picture below is taken from the steps of St. Paul’s, there are more tents going around the side to the right. Paternoster Square which is behind the tents has all but been closed off, there are lots of metal barriers, perhaps 5 or 6 deep to prevent the tent city or maybe it’s more a village now, getting any bigger.
My reason for walking to this part of London was my first proper destination of the day; The Museum of London. Before I get to that let me say why the ‘Occupy’ protestors annoyed me; I’d planned to visit ‘Postman’s Park‘ which is just over the road from the museum. It’s a small park which used to be where several cemeteries, which served the local Churches, joined together. The reason I wanted to visit was to see George Frederic Watts’s Memorial to Heroic Self Sacrifice, a memorial to ordinary people who died saving the lives of others and who might otherwise have been forgotten. I had read all about the memorials when i was planning my trip, however I was unable to get in as it’s been closed due to the actions of ‘Occupy’ Protestors just down the road. I had to make do with this glimpse through the railings of the gate.
I went this time because I’d read about and then saw a TV report about an exhibition of Charles Dickens’ London. £8 to get in but it was worth it, lots of memorabilia from his time, the desk where he wrote some of his famous books, costumes from the plays of his books and examples of his early drafts. I could barely read his writing, makes me think my handwriting isn’t so bad! At the end there is a film with a voiceover reading a passage from some of his writings; I didn’t see the start but it’s about one of his many walks around London. It’s a clever piece as it shows that not much has changed in the 140 years since he died. A lot of the buildings are the same (a lot of Dickensian London has gone but a lot remains), we still have poor people, we still have drunken behaviour and London’s streets are still alive with the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
Following the exhibition I went around the Museum proper, it’s free to get in if you want to go. The museum follows life in London before London was even founded. The early part of the Museum has lots of animal and human remains that have been found on various digs in and around the city. The story then moves through the Romans, Medieval, Great Fire and so on until it reaches the London of today. An interesting place, a couple of cafes to have a breather and did I mention it was free!
One planned activity down, one to go! I had time to spare so after a quick sandwich, I Tube’d it over to Leicester Square. The square is one giant building site, it was the same on my previous visit in September. There is going to be a new exciting space “Your Leicester Square” as the wraparound hoardings proudly proclaim. I didn’t expect the whole square to be off limits so instead of heading directly to Piccadilly Circus, I found myself making an circuitous route by way of double backing on myself but keeping parallel to Leicester Square, if only I’d put on my GPS and I could have seen what an odd route it was. Anyway I eventually made it to Eros and had a well earned sit down.
I’m sure if you sit at Eros for long enough, you will appear in hundreds of photos. I only managed to get this terribly lit one, oh well we all know what he looks Iike.
Just a metaphorical ‘stones throw’ away from the noise of Piccadilly is St. James’s Square where WPC Yvonne Fletcher was killed in 1984. This is the second time I’ve gone to the marker, I can only think its because of two things; I remember it happening (I was 8) and I know where it is. There’s lots more hidden history in London’s streets, you just have to know where to look.
From St. James’s Square I went to Savile Row, for two reasons; The Beatles and clothes I can’t afford. The Beatles had their Apple Corp headquarters at 3 Savile Row and played their famous rooftop concert here. The second is the clothes, I’m no fashionista but a sharp suit is a sharp suit, and there’s a lot of them walking around this street. I’m never going to be able to afford to shop here but theres nothing to stop me looking, in fact on one side of the street you are able to peer into the basements where the tailors are hard at work.
You may notice a distinct lack of photos! The streets were small, crowded and I was a bit self conscious about standing out as a tourist, which I probably do anyway – I think I’m the only person I’ve seen in walking shoes!!
With my wandering complete it was time for the big event…
My only other exposure to Les Mis has been a very good school production by Brecon High, the 25th Anniversary concert which isn’t acted and the soundtrack which I’ve listened to a few times; ‘Do You Hear The People Sing’ is usually floating in my head most days, it’s just so catchy! I’m glad I had that exposure though, as I remember having a little trouble initially following who was who back in Brecon. Jean Valjean being in rags one moment and then he’s a well dressed man, should be easy to spot, but I wasn’t that sharp. The same could be said for the teenager in front of me who was also confused but this time at a much higher ticket price! Several times she leaned towards her Mum and had to be guided as to who was who. There’s a particular scene towards the end where our hero shows clemency to a character, but then seems (with a loud bang) to change his mind, She turned her head and asked “is he dead?”…if you’ve seen the show dear reader then only you will know.
I couldn’t help comparing the lead to Alfie Boe. He appears in the 25th Anniversary concert and is perhaps the most famous of the most recent Jean Valjeans among non theatre goers. I have his version of the songs on my iPod, and while the new chap is very good I didn’t think he was quite as good as Alfie, I just wish I’d seen the show with him in it.
I remember when watching the school production that it seemed they had skimped on the sets. There are several scenes that take place at a house, which was only represented by a set of gates. I had to take back my silent scorn, as out of the darkness on stage in London appeared a set of gates to represent the house! Well done Brecon High for so magically capturing the London stage show!!
A brilliant production and one I would definitely see again, although I will wait until the lead actor changes, so that I might see a different take on 24601 Jean Valjean. (if you’ve seen it, you just sang that in your head didn’t you)
So theatre done, fed and watered I made my way back to the hotel. I’d checked the map whilst in Pizza Hut and noticed that ‘The Ivy’ restaurant, famous for its celebrity clientele was close by, so I went to see if I could see anyone famous. It was only a short walk from where I was but there were no paps and no famous people, it was a bit early perhaps. The windows are made up with coloured glass tiles so you can’t even see in, it was only then that I noticed ‘normal’ people going in! Was this the right place? I looked it up when I was back at the hotel, and yes it was the right place and yes ‘normal’ people can go in, the celebs have a not so secret entrance via a flower shop around the corner. The normals have the ground floor to themselves, the celebs get the three floors above.
When walking in London you come across things you don’t expect (well I do), nothing alarming, although I did nearly trip over a sleeping homeless person within 20 minutes of stepping foot in the capital. What I mean is that things (buildings, shops etc) aren’t always where I expect them to be or they aren’t as far apart as I expect them to be, London despite its size isn’t that big if you stick to the touristy bits. Just across the road from The Ivy is a theatre, nothing special there, I was in Theatreland after all but it’s one I’d like to visit at some point.
…and just around the corner from the theatre is ‘Stringfellows’ it wasn’t open though. It was only half 6 but I’d had a long day so I continued to make my way towards home, I headed for Trafalgar Square thinking it would be nice to see Nelson all lit up, but he was all in darkness which surprised me, so I got a picture of the Olympic countdown clock instead.
Then I made a mistake, tiredness perhaps but instead of going down Northumberland Avenue, I went down Whitehall and away from the bridge that would take me to the hotel.
All was not lost though because I think I saw a famous person! How exciting, well it would be if I’d had the courage to speak! The man in question was Warren Clarke famed for playing Andy Dalziel in ‘Dalziel and Pascoe’. The ‘man’ was standing outside a theatre, and looked a lot like Mr Clarke, I’m fairly sure it was him as in the very theatre he was outside of, Warren Clarke is starring in a play as Winston Churchill. As I walked down the road I could see his picture jutting out from the side of the building, then my eyes were drawn to the ‘man’, I looked at him, then did a double take and we stared at each other as I walked past, me in disbelief, him perhaps hoping I didn’t call him Dalziel! I got about 30 feet down the road and turned around just to check and he was staring right back at me, perhaps now annoyed that I hadn’t recognised him! I’ll never know.
Two final pictures, the London Eye all lit up which looked better than I’ve captured it here and the Cenotaph. I was going to get a picture of Big Ben but I got to the underground entrance first and saved my legs by going one stop back to Waterloo.
If you’ve read all that, then well done!
Approx. miles walked – 7