Day 2: London
I know I should probably try and sleep in this morning, but I just can’t. Half of it is that I’m just excited, and the other half is because I just actually can’t sleep. Oh and the fact its light at around 4am! I may as well jump straight into it and pack as much sightseeing in as possible. Ready…..Set…..Go!
First up is to tackle the underground. Gloucester Road station is about a 2 minute walk down the road, which is great, and I don’t have to go that far to get to my tour meeting point. But I am early given that I couldn’t sleep in, so I stop at Embankment station and walk across to Southbank and wander around the streets until it’s time to go to Southwark Station to meet my group.
Because I wasn’t sure what sort of brain capacity I would have today, I decided that I would join a small group cycling tour around the Thames River area.
The guide looks like a typical BMX punk with black jeans (complete with chains) and a cap. He walks us through the backstreets of Southwark and leads us to a carparking area housing a row of 5 sheds – their office. Hmmmm. But it’s soon clear, that he knows his stuff. Here’s some of the stuff we learnt:
The Millenium Wheel
Apparently no good if you are in a relationship. Stories from the wheel include the gentleman who ‘treated’ his girlfriend to a ride to conquer her fears of height and vertigo and the guy who hired a private cubicle, violinist and all to propose to his girlfriend who said no. Uncomfortable ride to the bottom. If you are in London and keen to ride the wheel, perhaps do it alone.
Big Stink over the Thames River
The Big Stink was a time in the summer of 1858 during which the smell of untreated human waste, which used to flow straight into the Thames River, reached boiling point. The stench was so hideous the MPs in central London could no longer stand it.
The Metropolitan Board of Works accepted a scheme to implement sewers proposed by its chief engineer, Joseph Bazalgette, in 1859. The intention of this very expensive scheme was to resolve the epidemic of cholera by eliminating the stench which was believed to cause it. An unintended consequence was realised once the water supply ceased to be contaminated; this resolved the cholera epidemic.
The Houses of Parliament and Elizabeth Tower (more commonly called Big Ben, are among London’s most iconic landmarks. Technically, Big Ben is the name given to the massive bell inside the clock tower, which weighs more than 13,760 kg. Why Ben and not Tony or Bob? Apparently, it was named after a heavyweight boxing champion at that time, Benjamin Caunt. It was said that the sound of the largest bell, sounded just like Big Ben knocking out one of his opponents.
The Golden Hind
The Golden Hind was an English galleon best known for its circumnavigation of the globe between 1577 and 1580, captained by Sir Francis Drake.
Pretty much, Sir Francis Drake was a pirate.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre facts:
- The current building is a replica built from traditional materials and techniques – the original was demolished to make way for tenements in 1644.
- The Globe Theatre was stolen! The building started life on the opposite side of the River Thames, however after a row over land leases and ownership, the building was stolen and rebuilt across the river.
- The Globe was an open air theatre experience and therefore exposed to the awful English weather!
- William Shakespeare was a shareholder. As an astute businessman, the young Shakespeare bought shares in the theatre and benefited financially when his popularity grew.
Borough has long been associated with food markets and as far back as 1014, London Bridge attracted traders selling grain, fish, vegetables and livestock. In the 13th century traders were relocated to what is now Borough High Street and a market has existed there ever since.
The market stocks all kinds of foods and goods and the air is pungent with the smell of all kinds of cheeses, baked breads and sausages. But there’s fruit and veg, wine bars, chocolate shops, cake shops – all sorts. If you head to the Borough’s website, there’s a heap of recipes you can try – here’s one to get you started:
Pint of Stout Brownies
Makes 16, Prep time 15 minutes, Cooking time 25 minutes
200g dark chocolate at least 70% cocoa solids
200g caster sugar
125g demerara sugar
200ml Irish stout
175g self raising flour
200g mascarpone cheese
250g icing sugar, sifted
- Preheat the oven to 180°C. Lightly grease a 24cm square tin.
- Place 200g of the butter into a heavy based pan and put over a low heat to melt. Break the chocolate and add it to the pan. The butter stabilises the chocolate, so no need to worry. Warm until melted and stir together.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add the two types of sugar. Break in the eggs and beat them in well. Pour the stout in carefully, you don’t want it to froth too much, and combine.
- Mix in the flour until the mixture is glossy and thick, then scrape the mixture into the tin. Bake for 25 minutes until it is just set.
- Making sure the remaining 150g butter is lovely and soft, whisk it together with the mascarpone. Then, starting slowly to avoid dust clouds, add the icing sugar until it is all combined. Spread the icing lavishly over the cool brownie!
- Cut in to 16 and enjoy with a glass of Irish stout.
This is, or what is left of, the defensive wall built by the Romans around Londinium (the Romans early name for London), now obviously known as London. It’s believed to have been built in the late 2nd or early 3rd century and is likely to be one of the last projects undertaken by the Romans before they left Britain in 410. The wall remained in active use for over 1000 years afterwards.
Remants of War
This is the site of a former church, which was bombed during the blitzkrieg of WWII. Instead of rebuilding or demolishing the church, the ruins were turned into a garden sanctuary.
A Goose Named Tom
Old Tom frequented the Leadenhall Market in the early 1800´s and remains one of the most famous characters from Leadenhall´s past. He was due to be slaughtered along with thousands of other geese who had been sent here. However he escaped death and became a much loved character for traders and customers, and was fed at all the local inns. Known to the traders as ´Old Tom´ he eventually died at the age of 37 and lay in state before being buried here.
There’s also a bar named after him…Old Tom’s.
We see heaps more stuff like the London Tower Bridge, the Tower of London and the Monument to the Great Fire, but I’m conscious of boring you (and I’m tired after 5 hours of cycling!). I think London’s given me her typical weather today: there’s been a few moments of sunshine, but the sights have been covered by a grey blanket of cloud, and there’s been a few attempts of rain. I’d definitely recommend the Fat Tyre Bike Tour company if you are in London – we certainly saw some of the sights that weren’t just the run of the mill tourist trail, which is exactly what I like. The tour ends now, so I make my way back to Embankment to visit something special.
I’m going to check out St Martin-In-The-Fields Church. This landmark church in the heart of London was completed in 1726. Now who was St Martin, and what did he do to have a church named after him?
St Martin was a soldier posted in France. Riding through the city gate on cold night, he saw an almost naked beggar huddled against the stonework. Martin cut his cloak in half with his sword and gave the beggar half. That night in a dream, Jesus Christ appeared to Martin in the form of the beggar to thank him and the next day he rushed to be baptised.
Now upon the celebration of the Australian bicentenary in 1988, St Martin-In-The-Fields gifted the city of Perth its twelve bells. The bells, which are recorded as being in existence before the 14th century, are one of the few sets of royal bells and are the only ones known to have left London. The bells rang out to celebrate many occasions, including England’s victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588, WWII and ringing in the New Year for over 275 years.
The bells, embarrassingly having sat in storage for around eleven years, are now housed in the purpose built structure in Perth, Australia, known as the Bell Tower. The building caused a fair bit of controversy when they were built with people blaming the government for spending money unwisely. However, the building is created in the image of a swan, and I think its amazing.
St Martins-In-The-Fields is also the name of a church in Kensington, Western Australia. And why is St Martins-In-The-Fields of any interest of all to me? This church, which was built in 1953 and named after the London Church (there is a memento mounted in the church which is made from the original Portland Stone used when SMITF London was built), is the church where my parents got married!
Trafalgar Square was built to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar.
The square is also famous for its feral pigeons. How often does the local authority feed the pigeons? They don’t! It is illegal to feed them. Trafalgar Square used to be famous for its large flock of pigeons (estimated at the peak to number 35,000 birds), which used to appear daily to be fed by tourists and residents alike. In 2000, due to worries about the health risks posed by the pigeons, the sale of birdseed in Trafalgar Square was banned and trained falcons were used to try to discourage the pigeons from the area. In 2007, by-laws were passed to ban the feeding of the birds within Trafalgar Square. But if you are keen to find out what the pigeons have been up to since being moved on, make sure you have a read of http://pigeonblog.wordpress.com/.
Unfortunately I didn’t take any photos here because the square is set up for little teasers of all the West End shows and there’s stacks of people around, being a Saturday. You know when you get to the point, you are so tired, you just want to get home? This is one of those days – it’s been a really long day and I am really looking forward to an early night so I can really get into some more sightseeing tomorrow!