In honor of my one-year anniversary since I was in London (where IS that time-traveling Tardis when I need it?), I’m finally posting links to the 360 degree panoramas I took of several of the places we visited. They aren’t professional quality, but I hope you enjoy them, anyway.
(Click on the photos to be taken to the 360 degree view.)
Next we caught the Tube to St. Paul’s. Upon emerging from the Tube exit, we were looking around for the cathedral, but didn’t see it initially. We spied some sort of smaller building, but were sure that couldn’t be the church. Hubby then turned around and laughed, because tucked down the street between the tall buildings was our first peek of St. Paul’s – and it was definitely not small.
St. Paul’s is magnificent. I’ve always loved the huge medieval cathedrals – there is something about them that just sings to me. The architecture, the artwork, the religious devotion inspiring their construction – all of it works something in me whenever I step foot in one. I loved St. Paul’s. No pictures were allowed inside, but that’s OK – I was too busy gawking over its grandeur to worry much about that.
One of my goals I had set before even arriving in London was climbing the stairs in St. Paul’s to its top. All of the stairs. There are 259 of them. I know for many people this is no big deal, but I’m not exactly a small woman, a young woman, or a woman in particularly good shape. At least I had the good sense in the month and a half before our trip to kick up my walking regimen, getting up to five miles a day before we left. I’m sure that’s why I actually made it to the top of the Cathedral, but it wasn’t easy going. Brett and I stopped in the whispering gallery, and then climbed the additional steps to the very top. The view of London was fantastic, and I can tell you every step of that climb was worth it.
As I stood at the top, I tried once again to imagine what it must have been like for people from centuries past to stand in that same place and look out over the city, especially considering the other buildings would have been much, much shorter. In truth I have no idea if people in the Regency period were allowed up in the Dome the way we are today. I assume so, but I suppose I need to look into that. If they were, I guarantee you a future hero and heroine will spend time whispering to each other across the Whispering Gallery, and then will steal kisses while surveying the city from upon high.
Heading back to the hotel, we chilled out for an hour or so before walking down to Leicester Square. I’d booked a table in a Mexican restaurant on the Square – sure, a total tourist trap, but I was trying to appease my husband with Mexican food, since I was about to drag him to a play in which he had no interest so that I could ogle Colin Morgan.
We were amused by the idea of a “Mangarita” listed on the menu, so hubby ordered one of those, while I ordered the regular frozen version. Can you tell which is which?
We still had a bit of time to kill before the play, so we wandered around Leicester Square and back down to Trafalgar Square, where we stumbled across some sort of protest – and two bagpipe players. It was delightful to stand among the hub-bub of the evening and take in all the people – and the lights. I took a pic of the National Museum in the background, and lamented that we would not be able to go in it on this trip. We wandered back over toward the theater, and I was delighted to see Her Majesty’s Theatre and the Royal Theatre at Haymarket along the way.
Then it was showtime, baby… on to Mojo, seeing Colin Morgan, and what would become what I dubbed the Best High-Five Ever! You can read all about that adventure here.
I’ll admit that I was mostly excited for Day 3 of our trip because we would be attending Mojo the play – and seeing COLIN MORGAN!! – that evening. But I was also fired up to visit the world-famous British Museum and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Even hubby was pretty excited, as, like me, he loves museums and large cathedrals.
Unfortunately, the day dawned gray and rainy. Although given it was the first time we’d had rain since we arrived, I shouldn’t complain. Plus we had mostly indoor activities sketched out for the day, so besides being a bit of a mood dampener, the rain didn’t deter us. Upon arrival at the museum, hubby and I immediately split up – I wanted to search out any Regency-related artifacts I could find, whereas hubby headed to the Greek and Roman displays. Sadly, many of my pictures didn’t really come out, but I enjoyed examining Regency jewelry and buttons and watches and clocks. There were fewer items from the early 19th century than I’d seen at the V&A, I think.
After the Regency displays, I sought out the medieval sections of the Museum, still feeling affection for my former area of doctoral study. I loved studying the various artifacts. I stumbled across a display of pocket watches and clocks, and also one of money. It was fun to search out those from my period of interest, but also to see pieces across time and geographical space. and eventually found my way over to the other side of the Museum myself, in which I looked at ancient Greek vases (and thought of my step-dad, long a classical Greece enthusiast), then raced through rooms full of marble statues as I sought out the mummies. My favorite was the cat mummy display.
Unfortunately I ran out of time – we knew it was going to be a time-crunched day with all we wanted to do, so we’d agreed to spend only two hours or so at the Museum. Two hours are not enough – not nearly enough – to see everything. I know there were numerous displays I’d missed, but frankly I was happy (and a bit overwhelmed) with everything I’d taken in that morning, so after zipping in briefly to see the infamous Elgin marbles and a few other ancient items, we headed out in search of some lunch.
It had stopped raining by that point, so I took advantage of that to snap a few pics of the exterior of the museum. We wandered briefly around the neighborhoods near the museum, searching for a Greek restaurant, but ultimately ended up at a chain pizzeria – the same chain at which we’d eaten the first night. Whatever. I didn’t care, and it’s what hubby wanted.
After a filling lunch, we walked to the Sir John Soane Museum. Hubby totally indulged me here, as I’m sure he wasn’t particularly interested in this Regency architect’s home. I was, though, as John Soane bequeathed his home and its contents to the England, and it is essentially an extant – if a bit unusual – Regency house. Pictures inside were not allowed, but I still enjoyed seeing the various rooms, and bought a guidebook so I could later remember the interior. Sir John Soane’s home lies directly across from the Lincoln’s Inn Fields, another large, beautiful green space in London, so I snapped a quick pic. Had I been on my own, I would have lingered much longer in the home, but I could tell hubby was chafing to get over to St. Paul’s…so off to the Tube we went!
Ah. At last. A walk through Mayfair. The very reason I most wanted to go to London…and the very part that would prove most boring to my husband (although he only revealed that a month or so after coming home).
Didn’t he get it? Didn’t he realize this was where the creme de la creme of society lived in the early 19th century? Wasn’t he excited to visit Grosvenor Square, to see the site of Gunter’s, to know where Regency bucks went to train with Gentleman Jackson?
Not one whit. Which makes sense, since I’m not sure he’s aware of any of those things. I am, however, and so armed with Louise Allen’s Walking Jane Austen’s London guidebook in hand, I set out with fervor and excitement for an afternoon stroll. The weather was delightful – crisp fall air and beautifully sunny skies. A heavenly day in London!
I don’t know why it took me so long to write this blog post – I found myself putting it off time and again. I think it’s just because there is SO MUCH that I saw that I could write for days and days. And part of me wants to, believe me. I’ll try to touch briefly on the main highlights, hope I don’t get too much out of order, stick in a bunch of pictures, and pray everyone is happy!
Our hotel was conveniently located for this walking tour, as we were already right at Berkeley Street and Piccadilly, where the “tour” was supposed to start. I took pictures of buildings with old-looking architecture, just because I liked them, although I have no idea as to the actual date of these buildings.
Turning up Albemarle, we came to the site of John Murray, Jane Austen’s publisher. It was amazing for me to think that Miss Austen had trod these same streets when she came to visit with Mr. Murray. Huzzah!
Walking farther north, we hit Berkeley Square, and found No. 7 – once the location of the famous Gunter’s Tea Shop, which also served ices. Now it houses one of the ubiquitous Pret A Mangers we saw scattered throughout central London (although I admit, I still don’t know how to pronounce that). While I tittered and squealed, Brett wondered what all the fuss was about, since we’d just stopped at such a shop an hour before to get him a Coke. We then crossed to Berkeley Square itself, although apparently I didn’t try for any pictures of the green space. It was fun to imagine dashing rogues and demure debutantes eating the latest frozen confection underneath the shade of the enormous trees (which Louis Allen says are original, dating from 1789).
Walking down Curzon Street, we stumbled across Crewe House – a mid-eighteenth century mansion which is now the Saudi Arabian Embassy. I also snapped pictures of Beau Brummel’s house and other buildings of interest. I just wanted to soak it all in, and I couldn’t. Had I been alone, no doubt I would have lingered longer and taken a zillion more pictures. As it was, we moved on…
We stopped into Grosvenor Chapel (which I snapped an inside pic of, but apparently missed the outside. If I remember correctly, it was impossible to back up enough to get a good iPhone pic, but it was pretty!). I liked the beautiful white interior with its columns, and imagined Regency families worshipping here. Outside, a short distance away, we found Purdey’s Gun Manufacturers. I’m not a gun fan, but hey, I should at least know where the Regency gents would have purchased their best weaponry, right?
We happened across the Mount Street Gardens by chance, a lush green park which seemed to serve as the “back yard” for many of the lovely brick buildings around it. We also saw a gaggle of British school children chatting merrily as they left a nearby library and headed back to school. Talk about feeling as if you’d just seen a slice of London life!
And then, before I knew it, we were there!GROSVENOR SQUARE, baby! The reason I’d wanted to come to Mayfair! Well, OK, just one of the many reasons (Hyde Park, Bond Street, St. George’s), but really, this was the highlight for me – to be standing in the MIDDLE of Grosvenor Square, a place I’d read about so many times in so many of my beloved Regency romances, the place that seemed to epitomize the grandeur and exclusivity of the ton.
I loved it at first sight. Hubby stood by as I took numerous photos. Lots of photos. Tons of photos. But, oh, the greenery! The architecture! OK, yeah, Louise Allen reminded me that although the Square dates to 1725, many of the buildings around it have been extensively rebuilt. And truth be told, I have no idea which if any of the buildings were from the Regency era. It’s still a striking sight.
Reluctantly I left the Square, and we moved on farther north. We found the front of what I think was St. Mark’s church, but I’m not sure, as the woman chatting on the phone in front of the building indicated to us it was a private residence as we tried to enter. Still, it was beautiful, and looked quite old.
Reaching Oxford Street and seeing that we were at the edge of Baker Street, we briefly considered continuing north to find 221B. I knew, however, that there were many more Regency sites I wanted to see and that my feet, sadly, would only last so long. I had us turn east and head down Oxford Street toward New Bond Street, as I was now in search of Hanover Square, another well-known Regency landmark. The gates to the park were locked, however, so I satisfied myself with a quick photo.
Next on my list of “must sees” was St. George’s of Hanover Square, the church mentioned in numerous Regency novels as the site of many a ton wedding. Even the husband seemed to admire this one – he’s a fan of buildings with big, Greek-looking columns. Once again I snapped away with the phone, trying to record numerous angles, etc., for future writing. There were people inside the church, however, and we didn’t want to disturb them (it was some sort of music rehearsal, we gathered), so I didn’t dally long inside, even though I really, really wanted to.
Next we walked down Bond Street. I, um, definitely felt out of place with my American sneakers and colorful 20-year-old blue jacket. I may love to read about the fashionable, high-end people of London, but it was quite clear after just a moment or two that I will never count myself among them. There were a number of people dressed to the hilt strolling between the big-name stores. Then again, there were a number of people looking, well, more average like me. So it was all good. I loved the store front of No. 143, Ralph Lauren. Louise Allen’s guide informed me it was an original store front dating to the Regency period that used to house the chemists Savory and Moore.
It was getting late in the afternoon, and as much as I wanted to keep exploring, I could tell my husband was getting hungry. We decided we’d head down Bond Street to the Tube station so that we could head south of the Thames and eat at The George Inn, about which I’d read in Fodor’s London Guide. Along the way, of course, I took a few more pictures, including this one at Duke’s Yard. I liked the “old feel” of the architecture, with the bricks and numerous chimneys.
I’d chosen The George Inn for dinner because it is, as Wikipedia says, the only surviving galleried coaching inn in London. Plus it was medieval in origin: bonus! I wanted to see what a coaching inn would have felt like for a Regency traveler – or at least as close as I could imagine. I have to say, this was the most delightfully English-feeling meal of the whole trip, and I adored the atmosphere (As a side note, our server that night bore a noticeable resemblance to Robert Pattinson. I kid you not.). I ordered a steak pie and a pint of ale – how much more English could I get? Even hubby enjoyed this part of the evening a lot!
After satiating ourselves on the pub fare, we headed back to the hotel for some much-needed sleep and prepared ourselves for Day 3 of this fantastic adventure: The British Museum and St. Paul’s Cathedral. AND MOJO!
We’re nearly getting to the point of Throwback Thursday status, since I’m chronicling a trip that took place nearly half a year ago. I’m good with that – it’s a joy to get to relive the experience through sharing it with you.
After checking out Westminster Abbey, I headed over to the gigantic Victoria & Albert Museum, which heralds itself the world’s greatest museum of art and design. I was excited to visit the Regency-related exhibits, to see household items one would have had in the Regency era (well, OK, ones which the wealthier folk would have possessed, I’m guessing).
It didn’t disappoint. The biggest challenge was trying to see everything in the couple of hours I had before I was due to meet up with the husband. I failed in that there is NO WAY one can take in everything this museum has to offer–even when your area of interest is relatively narrow–in such a short time. I was dismayed later to realize I had entirely missed the Regency era clothing in the fashion displays. Ratzy fratzy.
I lingered over the furniture, which didn’t surprise me. I’ve always loved furniture, particularly that made out of solid wood in classical styles. Gleaming cherry wood tables, beautiful oak chairs, mahogany trunks – oh yeah.
I also snapped pictures of several of the helpful description panels because hey, why not?
I made a mad dash through the silver exhibits before admitting foot exhaustion and mental overload and headed back down the road to the hotel. One bonus: I walked by Harrod’s! Never made it in, though…
I was grateful for a brief respite in the hotel before dragging my husband out for another Regency walk. Details on that coming up in the next exciting installment, tentatively entitled, “Wife Goes Into Tizzy Over Regency Buildings No Longer in Existence While Husband Becomes Convinced Wife Has Photographed Every Building In London.”
Until then…here are some additional photos from the day: