Saturday, 6 October 2012

Twin Peaks Walk

From Monument to Wellington Arch
a continuation of the walk Sunday Morning Contrasts

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Two peaks, two climbs and one almost straight hike across two cities was the route today. London of course is made up of the City of Westminster and the City of London, with both sitting hunched up together surrounded by boroughs and Royal Boroughs. It's an urban sprawl  which would take you a lifetime to get around and see in it's entirety.

Monument to the Great Fire of London
Monument to the Great Fire of London
(with The Shard in the background)
I landed on Fish street just before doors opened for the day, had a quick brew and got watered for the next few hours. I've always felt the setting here quite imposing to say the least and a little claustrophobic. The main reason for this being is that the monument is situated only 202ft (62m) from where the Great fire of London started and is itself the same height. Hence it's full official title and what it commemorates: The Monument to the Great Fire of London. 

Doors opened and I was already third in the queue and followed in step with another couple behind. Round and round and up we went the 311 steps of Portland stone. It's quite a climb and if you did it in one go without stopping could certainly qualify for any Olympic games. Many stop of course on the way up at the bay windows which allow some extra space and allow one to lean in so that any traffic can pass. Finally after what felt like 10 minutes you feel the  sunlight then fresh air and the last step onto the top viewing platform.

View from the Monument
View from the Monument
The claustrophobic aspect at the bottom does have it's benefits however when you reach the top. The view towards the city is impressive and you feel right amongst it been almost the same height as the taller buildings and buildings to be. 

Of course London been London there's  CCTV all around the top but I hadn't expected to see speakers. Health and Safety gone mad again I thought and assumed it was for fire evacuations. 
Certificate for climbing the Monument to the Great Fire of London
Something new for the CV

A few snaps later and one final panoramic look around I returned to the bottom and was presented with the certificate everyone gets for this great feat of exertion. Another addition to the CV I returned to the guy in the box who informed me that the speakers where actually to ward of graffiti artists and the "I was here" brigade. Everything made sense at that stage and off I went up Cannon street in the direction of Saint Paul's Cathedral.

London Stone, 111 Cannon Street, London
The London Stone
111 Canon Street
Cannon street's most famous resident these days is the London Stone which is an encased stone rumoured to be the one that King Arthur drew his sword from. Other legends also persist but the poor thing has been shunted around more than several times over the years to allow for the ever growing traffic and ever growing building work that this city is all too keen on. It's current home is mid-way along the street at #111 and is encased is a tasteful mesh of iron.
Cannon Street Station
Cannon Street Station
Building work indeed and this very straight street has many gems of glass and steel. As I passed the London Stone the site of Cannon Street railway station is unmissable with it's glass side giving a great reflection on this October morning.

And off a side street in one of those hidden courtyards you find dotted 
Barclays Bank
Barclays Bank

around central London a building occupied by Barclays which encases the space and is well done with it's futuristic curves of steel. I continued along Cannon Street and watched as Saint 

Cannon Street and Saint Paul's Cathedral, London
Cannon Street leading to St. Paul's Cathedral

Paul's Cathedral started to come into view. The contrast between big city building and the iconic cathedral designed by Sir Christopher Wren is quite a contrast and starts providing a different mood to the walk. As you approach St. Paul's the space becomes more open with lots of tourist traffic around and many feeding over the river Thames along the Millennium bridge from Tate Modern.

St Paul's Cathedral, London
St Paul's Cathedral, London
St. Paul's can be seen from most parts of central London. One reason for this is that of the restriction imposed that must allow a view between it and Westminster not to be blocked. This stops it from been lost amongst the on-going construction work in the city. The Cathedral also occupies the highest point in the city of London on top of Ludgate hill. 

Saint Bride's Church, Fleet Street, London
Saint Bride's Church
I head on past this national treasure of Portland stone, down Ludgate Hill and join Fleet Street. Once home to the newspaper industry you still get the feel of the era when walking past the art deco building once occupied by the Daily Telegraph. The plaque and bust of TP O'Connor also sits above a doorway almost opposite the Telegraph's old home as a permanent reminder to this street's  history.

Off Fleet street and along Saint Bride's Avenue sits St Bride's church, also by Christopher Wren, which is known as the printers church. Adopted by the journalists and the industry of the area and were memorials exist for lost personal who lost their lives when working abroad and at home especially in conflicts. The famous diarist Samuel Pepys was buried here in 1703. The tall steeple was added in 1670 and inspired local bakers to start the trend of tiered wedding cakes which has lasted ever since. 
Eat, Fleet Street, London
Eat, Fleet Street, London

Continuing along Fleet street I wanted to visit number 168 which was the fabled home of Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. As I counted the building numbers which descended as I went along I came to 170 then no numbers for a few doors but by my calculations the current address is occupied by an outlet of a chain of caf├ęs call Eat. An ironic coincidence or what that the scene that many met there end in such barbarous conditions to be cooked up in Mrs Lovett's pie shop should now again be used for a culinary outlet of another kind. The thought of the menu didn't cross my mind at this stage but there was a sign for pies!

Boundary between the City of London and the City of Westminster
Boundary between the
City of London
 and the City of Westminster
Heading west I start nearing the Strand and the boundary that separates the City of London and the City of Westminster. The boundary around the City of London is well marked by a variety of ways which are always black. In this case it's the statue of a black dragon that sits on a plinth. A short distance ahead is a street lamp with a pillar that has the marking City of Westminster. 

The feel here starts to change as I pass the Royal Courts of Justice and brush along side the famous west end's Theatre Land area.

The Royal Courts of Justice sit majestically just off The Strand at Aldwich and have seen many famous cases down the years. Oscar Wilde, Lord Haw Haww, The Cray Twins
Royal Courts of Justice, London
Royal Courts of Justice, London

No court cases today only tourists and a fashion shoot which looked out of place I have to say. There was plenty of activity however around the entrance with staff going in and out. It's a huge building that doesn't seem to fit into it's surrounding area I felt because it's size and grandeur.

Stanley Gibbons, Home of Stemp Collecting, The Strand, London
Stanley Gibbons
When walking along the strand you find that the north side seems to be a border where the West End finishes.There are a couple of theatres along this side along with hotels. The south side is home to the ever prestigious Savoy hotel and Somerset House with it's amazing fountain and space used for open-air concerts in summer and ice-rink in the winter. The courtyard is magical at any time of year but more so in winter time I have to say. Back on the north side two old institutions which sit quietly amongst the tourist traffic that makes it's way up and down the stretch. Stanley Gibbons, the home of stamp collecting since 1856, which when I was growing up was synonymous with stamp collecting. They have inspired school boys young and old toward collecting first day issues and name-checking the rarest and most expensive stamps in the world. 
Coutts Bank, The Strand, London
Coutts Bank

Stanley Gibbons promise that if you pop into see them at 299 The Strand  "for 5 minutes, you’ll lose an hour just looking at the rich selection of quality stamps we have available". Definitely one for a rainy afternoon.

Further along is another old institution which also bares the royal crest and serves the banking interests of royalty. Coutts was founded by John Campbell in 1692, two years before the Bank of England. Their main line of business is Private and Commercial Banking. Again the throngs of tourists pass on by walking to and from Trafalgar Square asI head in that direction.

Matsuri Festival, Trafalgar Square
Matsuri Festival, Trafalgar Square

I went on and passed Charing Cross station and arrived at Trafalgar square. A festival was taking place and was one of the many cultural celebrations that happen around the fountain and in front of Nelson's Column throughout the year.
Today was the Japan Matsuri 2012. As I walk through a programme was handed to me which explained the festival and outlined what entertainment and celebrations were taking place. Matsuri means festival in Japanese and all the stalls surrounding Trafalgar square were showcasing food, providing demonstrations in drawing, selling holidays, culture and stalls set up by the sponsors which there were many. 

Matsuri Festival, Trafalgar Square
Matsuri Festival, Trafalgar Square

The stage in front of Nelson's column was staging a fashion show with local and Japanese models parading in pairs finely turned out. Traditional Japanese outfits with a modern twist I thought. Even the parasols they carried looked cool. I headed on through the crowds past the many food stalls providing a taste brought from the orient to local and ex-pat visitors. 

Buckingham Palace, London
Buckingham Palace, London
As I cleared the festivities in Trafalgar Square I made a quick check on my location and planned route by looking at one of the many maps dotted around Westminster and the City of London. It's almost impossible to get lost in this city as these maps are found in most areas tourists frequent along with smaller versions at every bus stop right across London. From where I stood I had to go through Buckingham gate and onto the Mall towards Buckingham Palace. A straight walk. 
Constitution Hill, London
Constitution Hill, London

The Mall is well used by traffic with most of that made up by what looked like taxis. The manicured lawns are perfect around the surrounding area and the beds looked like they had been turned over recently and readied for autumn. The space the palace affords itself is comfortable enough to be admired and enjoyed by visiting tourists and locals strolling around. Taking snaps, lazing on the grass, jogging, hiking and even a outdoor watercolour class provide a more relaxing atmosphere.

I followed on right and made my way along Constitution Hill which was my the home straight to Wellington Arch. The park land around here is made for all seasons especially autumn with the leaves now changing colour. A large puddle sat amongst the trees served as a reminder to recent wet nights. It was a wonderful reflection which I snapped and gave a painterly effect later using Photoshop.

Wellington Arch, London
Wellington Arch, London

Walking along the Mall and Constitution Hill gave me the feeling of making the choice in which peak to climb first as this walk turned green and allowed me to take advantage of the heat of the sun. Up until then I was walking on the sunny side of the street. I got to my final destination via the pedestrian crossing for people (and horses!) across the road that encircles the arch. 
I entered the doorway inside the arch and paid the entrance fee to get to the viewing platform. 

View from Wellington Arch, London
View from Wellington Arch, London
Another reason hit me as to why doing this peak second was provided to me when I was instructed by the person in the foyer to take the lift up to the viewing platform. 
Music to my ears at this stage and I gladly choose the floor to the top. It's like a Tardus in here I thought when passing the exhibition currently taking place in order to get the view from outside. 
Although the view back along Constitution Hill is quite nice with the many trees in view the potential view could be much better. If the trees were just a little lower then a spectacular view of the houses of parliament and of the London Eye would be very pleasing indeed.

After a welcome rest I boarded the Piccadilly line from Hyde Park Corner and headed home.

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