hearts of London
A few blogs ago, I wrote about what to do if you’ve got a night in London, which included walking around Covent Gardens and seeing Phantom of the Opera. Those of course, are pretty obvious things to do, so I’m going to continue on that trend of what Captain Obvious would suggest for during the day.
We had two days total. As I’ve mentioned before, the metro is an overpriced swamp, a veritable thieving scheme put on by the City of London. The trains commonly don’t run on time and the navigation is something like trying to find your way through a room of spaghetti noodles. Avoid it. Instead, hop a ride on one of London’s famous double decker buses. They take you everywhere you want to go, tend to go in straight, navigable lines, and cost only 1 pound 50. I’ve already detailed the gist on the transit here.
I also can’t recommend enough the Z Hotel. Cozy—hotel talk for comfortable and super tiny—rooms that are affordable, offer a nightly deal of unlimited wine, and right in the center of the city on the Strand. So our tour started here.
We started at the Z, but this tour works fine enough starting from Trafalgar Square. This is pretty much the main square of the town, with a column dedicated to Horatio Nelson, who managed to beat Napoleon’s Navy at the Battle of Trafalgar post-mortem.
The Strand isn’t really the most exquisite of streets in London, but it does contain the obviously Harry Potter-inspired Royal Courts of Justice. It’s a massive complex built in the 1800s in the Victorian Gothic style, a style of architecture so immense, that they named it after the woman with the most immense Empire in the world.
The Royal Courts of Justice
The Royal Courts of Justice houses the High Court and Court of Appeal, and functions basically as the American Supreme Court. As England still lacks real codification, some can say this is the seat of real legal power in the nation. That said, there’s a whole complex working of court bureaucracy tied up with the Crown, and I’m not going to even pretend I know anything about it, just that it’s stocked full of moms and m’luds.
Because of the location of the Royal Courts, this area has become famous for its abundance of legal offices and schools. It’s known as the Temple district, because at one point in time, it was a hot hang out for the Knights Templar, who built a church there in the 12th century. When the Knights Templar were dissolved, the possessions went to the Knights Hospitaller, who started renting the properties out to law firms. Henry VIII dissolved the order, swiped their land and continued the practice. The Temple now houses what is basically the same as the American Bar Association, and they pay for 10 quid in annual rent.
St. Paul's cathedral and the best London transit
The Strand took us to St. Paul’s cathedral, the biggest and first of all St. Paul’s churches in London. There’s been a church at this site named St. Paul’s since 604 AD, with the present construction dating from the 1600s. It’s made in the English Baroque style. Which makes sense, because being the premiere Protestant church of the time, it’s best to model your structures off of the Vatican.
From St. Paul’s, we went down to the Millennium Bridge, a pedestrian walkway going over the Thames with nice views of the London skyline on either side. The Bridge takes you to the Tate Modern, one of the better museums in London that was built out of an old power station. Like all state-owned museums in London, its free to enter and walk around. A donation is required though if you want a guide-brochure telling you what exactly is relevant to see.
a view the Shard from Millenium Bridge
Like all modern art museums, it’s filled with a lot of incoherent mumbo jumbo composed by art majors in black turtlenecks pretending to be philosophers. The result is a neat looking tower of radios, some Communist manifestations, and a room full of rocks.
An exhibit at the Tate
From the museum, we followed the boardwalk past Shakespeare’s Globe—it’s not the original, but it is a mostly accurate replica and you can watch shows there in the summer. Further down through some tight streets we found the Golden Hinde, a replica of the very ship that Sir Francis Drake sailed in while running away from the Spanish Navy with all their booty, accidentally circumnavigating the world. He was the first captain to make the journey alive, and it was entirely basically a bank heist gone wrong. I'm not really sure why that's not a movie.
The Globe Theatre
Continuing along, one runs into the very beautiful and quaint Southwark Cathedral, which is right up along the largest street food market in London, the Borough Market. Continuing along this stretch took us by the HMS Belfast, a royal Navy museum on a fairly modern vessel sitting on the Thames, then finally to the Tower Bridge. If you’ve got energy to spare along with about 11 quid, the Bridge Exhibition is pretty interesting, showing you the mechanics of the suspension mechanisms.
The Tower Bridge and the Tower of London (on the left)
The tour ended at the walls of the Tower of London. Unfortunately, so did our wallets, but since we’ve seen about a hundred castles at this point, we marked up a tour of the grand White Tower for our next trip. You’ve got to save something for the next trip after all. Check back Friday for more views on the walk.