Can you imagine how excited I was to round the corner and there it was, its twin towers reaching to the sky? Westminster ABBEY, baby! And yet… my first thought was, it’s smaller than I expected. How silly is that? But it’s true. I’ve been blessed in my life to have visited some spectacular cathedrals in Germany and Italy, and I just assumed this one would dwarf them all in size. It didn’t – at least from my opening view approaching the western facade.
Still, there’s no denying it’s a gorgeous building. I often try to imagine what it would have been like to live in the eras during which these gargantuan churches, these enormous cathedrals were built. We’re so used to skyscrapers now, to big, fancy buildings that soar numerous stories above us. Many of the buildings in the west end of London felt that way to me – huge stone edifices looking down on the ants wandering about below. But to see these religious houses in a time during which most other buildings would have been only a few stories high, if that? And built out of wood? How could you NOT believe in God in the face of such grandeur?
Yeah, yeah, I’m venturing into purple prose here, but truly, that’s how the medieval churches always strike me – places of beauty, of immense power, of a different kind of air, a holy air. I love them, and seek out these grand cathedrals whenever I get the opportunity (not many options for that here in Virginia).
I admired the outside of the Abbey for a while, and the buildings around it. I don’t even know what all of them were, since none were labelled on my simple map, but I liked the one to the side of the Abbey. Working my way toward the Abbey entrance, I could see that a line had formed, but it didn’t look too bad. I walked back to its end and found myself staring at the backside of Parliament, although it took my idiotic American brain a few minutes to figure that out (Big Ben helped a lot)! So many icons so close together – the history geek inside me was once again going nuts.
As I waited, I snapped a few pictures of the outside of the Abbey, and particularly enjoyed the carvings over the front entranceway. Again, I tried to imagine the people who had actually built the church. Not just the master carvers whose finished work we admire, but the people who laid the basic stone. What were their lives like?
Inside the Abbey photography is not permitted, so I have no snapshots from there. But like the multitude of other tourists milling about, I partook of the free audio guide and strolled around the Abbey in the prescribed fashion, admiring the architecture, particularly the black and white floor, and listening to history in my ears.
Truly, there is so much to see inside that it’s overwhelming. So many famous people buried there – kings and queens (Elizabeth and Mary!), Chaucer, Isaac Newton, Darwin… truly humbling and exhilarating at the same time to be sharing the same space with them (so to speak). I meandered around, trying to soak it all in. After making my way through the interior, I walked along the inside courtyard and back to a small museum that housed original clothing of famous Britons, including Admiral Lord Nelson.
I wanted to admire the peaceful inner courtyard, and did take a few pictures. But I was also on a deadline, since I needed to head over to the Victoria and Albert museum while I had the chance, before my husband returned from his conference. So reluctantly I left the Abbey behind, made a quick stop in the gift shop to get small items for my kids, and headed off north to the V&A.
In hindsight, I wish I’d spent more time in the area. Then again, it was clear I wasn’t going to have time for everything I wanted to do. Not nearly. I was also sorry that my husband hadn’t been able to come with me. I know he would have liked it. (He was sorry later, too, because what I DID drag him on were more Regency walks – but that’s coming up in a future installment…)
Long before my husband whisked me off to London, back when such a trip had only seemed a far-off fantasy, I’d purchased two books by Regency romance writer Louise Allen: Walks Through Regency London, and Walking Jane Austen’s London. Both, I felt, would be invaluable tools for me as a researcher, for even though I knew of all sorts of famous names and places (Almack’s, Grosvenor Square, Hyde Park, St. George’s), what I didn’t have a sense of was how close or far these places were to each other. How long would it have taken a gentleman to get from his club at White’s over to Tattersall’s to check out the horses? (Answer: not long.) To have someone “walk” me through the streets of London (aided by the absolutely magnificent Google maps Street View, invaluable for writers who can’t travel to each and every place they wish to describe!) while sitting in my home in Virginia – I couldn’t imagine anything better. Except, of course, walking those streets for real myself. You can bet these guides were one of the first things I packed!
After sleeping in just a bit and enjoying a leisurely hotel breakfast, my husband headed off to his conference and I struck out on my own down Piccadilly toward the famous St. James’s street. St James’s, the area in which Regency dandies went to see and be seen and bachelors often took their lodgings. St. James’s, home to exclusive boot makers, hatters, wine merchants, and numerous gentlemen’s clubs (not quite like the, ahem, euphemistically named “gentlemen’s clubs”, i.e. strip clubs, in the U.S. today). In the British gentlemen’s clubs of the Regency era, women weren’t allowed, plain and simple. Men gathered to discuss politics, drink, wager, play cards, and probably numerous other things about which I am sadly uninformed.
I learned from reading Allen’s guidebook that St. James’s wasn’t quite as lady-free as often depicted, however. After all, in 1807 a woman did have a corset shop right at no. 56 (Allen, Regency London, 4). Still, it was commonly accepted that no well-born Regency lady would venture down St. James’ street alone, without being in the company of a man.
Luckily (or unluckily, depending on how one chooses to view it), I’m no well-born lady and 200 years after the Regency period I was free to stroll down the street as much as I wished. While I still couldn’t gain entry into the gentlemen’s clubs even if I wanted to (neither can many men, for that matter), I could photograph their outsides. I could, um, peek through the windows. I could try to imagine what it would have been like to be a man in that time period, although frankly I’m probably not very good at imagining what it’s truly like to be a man today.
This first morning I only took with me the Walking Regency London book, which I love for its historical detail. The only thing slightly frustrating was no maps were included in this early edition (there are wonderfully helpful maps in the Jane Austen version), so I had to walk slowly and stop often to orient myself with what the book was saying. And given that I don’t really understand the British numbering system along streets, it took me a bit! (Apparently they number down one side and up the other, so it’s perfectly plausible for no. 7 to be opposite no. 63, which was admittedly more confusing than it should have been for this American girl. I blame it on jet lag.) And heck, I was going to walk slowly and stop often anyway to take it all in, so I was grateful to have such a guide in my hands, because I know there was no way I would be able to find/pick out all the sites Louise Allen included in her books.
The first famous Regency landmark upon which I stumbled, and the one I was most excited about seeing, was White’s, the infamous gentlemen’s club that appears in about every Regency novel I’ve read. As Louise Allen says, it “was not just the oldest, but also the smartest and most exclusive of the Regency clubs.” I snapped several pics from across the street, trying to take it all in while simultaneously enjoying the gorgeous architecture itself. What would it have been like to be a member there? What really went on behind those doors?
I wondered the same thing when I moved slightly farther south on the street and found Brook’s, another quite famous gentleman’s club. This one was harder to get decent pictures of, given the strong morning sun, but I did my best. Brook’s was also famous for high-stakes gambling. In fact, according to Allen, there were as many as 24 gaming hells (gambling places) in the St. James area alone in the early 19th century. I guess what happens in St. James’s stays in St. James’s, eh?
I couldn’t believe all the famous names springing out at me from the page: Boodle’s (yet another club), Fenton’s (a hotel at no. 63, although the current building at that address is a modern one), wine merchants Berry Bros & Rudd. I probably hopped up and down in glee several times. Thank goodness nobody seemed to care or take any notice of an American geeking out that morning. I even got to enter Lock & co, a hat makers with its original 1810 store front, and check out the building, as well as some very old hats it had over its front counter. It was humbling to imagine Beau Brummel or Lord Nelson standing in those same spots, ordering hats (although perhaps in reality a servant did that for them – I don’t know).
Upon reaching the end of St. James’s street, I found myself gawking at St. James’s Palace, “one of the chief royal residences until Buckingham House was enlarged for George IV in the 1830s” (Allen, Regency London, 3). Sandwiched in with all of the buildings around it, perhaps it looks a little less impressive than it once did, but it was still a sight to behold. I’d hoped to possibly go inside, but it’s closed to the public. This palace, I learned, housed the British monarchy for nearly 300 years, from the early 16th century up until the early 19th. Think about the famous people who once strolled its halls!
Next I headed east along Pall Mall – THE Pall Mall. According to Allen, “Pall Mall was lined with clubs, hotels, insurance agents, and upmarket shops such as the fashionable drapers, Harding Howell, & Co.” It was also “the first London street to be gas-lit in 1807 as a temporary display for George III’s birthday” (Allen, Regency London, 3). Carlton House, the Prince Regent’s lavish mansion, used to be along Pall Mall, but he had it demolished in 1827. Apparently once he became king in 1820, he decided Carlton House simply wasn’t kingly enough.
I wanted to linger and explore some of the side streets and find St. James’s Square, but I’d actually struck out early on purpose, and that was so that I could get to Westminster Abbey near its opening hour and hopefully avoid what were rumored to be perpetually long entrance lines (this is one of the reasons I didn’t wait and go with hubby in the late afternoon). So instead I cut through near the Duke of York’s column and headed south to the Abbey. Along the way I skirted the edges of St. James’s park, another gorgeous green space, and caught sight of these fancy people driving horse and buggies, although I’ve no clue as to the occasion.
Everywhere I looked took my breath away. Yes, there are ordinary, mundane parts of London: garbage cans and dirty cars and all of that. There are loud noises and construction and tourists galore. But, oh, how magnificent the buildings, and how much history contained within such a small, walkable area. The air felt different – big, grand, mysterious. I was an American girl ambling through Regency London, and I was having a ball!
Can you believe that I actually considered skipping the Tower of London as I was planning out our itinerary? We only had four days, after all, and I was trying to focus as much on Regency era things as I could…
However, the medievalist in me insisted it just wouldn’t be right. How can one go to London and not see the infamous tower, the earliest parts of which were built by William the Conqueror in the late 11th century?!? Plus, I reasoned, not only did 21st century tourist me want to see the Tower, but I was sure 19th c Regency folk would have, too. Therefore we HAD to go. I’m so glad we did.
Although we were leery of venturing off to the Tower on a weekend, Sunday was the day in which it best fit with our plans. Surprisingly it wasn’t overwhelmingly crowded when we got there, although there were numerous people, to be sure. The crisp blue sky and delectably cool temperatures (and lack of rain!) made it an ideal day for perusing centuries of history.
I snapped a picture immediately upon emerging from the Tube stop – but the bright sun, which was so great in many ways, made it hard to get good shots. We also stopped briefly to look at the Roman Wall – one of the last remnants of the original Roman wall built in the 3rd century A.D. that had encircled Londonium. It was just so exhilarating to think of the history right under our feet, right in front of us – and to know that the Romans had trod upon the very places in which we stood.
The Tower is certainly impressive-looking. I love, love, love medieval castles and anything built out of stone, so I was gasping with delight as we walked along the Tower’s edge. I knew the Tower had played a key role in British history, obviously, but will admit to doing a little bit of reading once back home to refresh my memory. Control of the Tower often went hand-in-hand with controlling England, and battles between kings and barons for it were common in the medieval period. Throughout the centuries kings and queens took refuge in the Tower to avoid capture/being overthrown. It had actually been the royal residence in its earlier years, but by the 16th century had declined enough to mostly be used as a prison or for other government duties, but not as living quarters for the royals.
We opted not to take a formal tour, which I now rather regret, figuring that we were pretty tired at this point and didn’t want to wait around for a tour to start; we’d rather take the map and strike out on our own. However, we hardly needed the map – all we had to do was follow the people in front of us as we wove in and out of towers in an orderly procession.
In spite of all the tourists, and even in spite of knowing many parts of the Tower had been restore/repaired/redone in the 19th century, it was amazing to stop and try to picture the people who would have walked where I was walking, centuries before me. William the Conqueror. Richard the Lion-Hearted. Walter Raleigh. Henry VIII. Anne Boleyn was executed here in 1536. The Princes in the Tower had found their untimely end here in 1483. Although the Tower’s reputation for torture and executions has apparently been greatly exaggerated, it was still sobering to think of all the people who had been held there, who had been tortured there, who had been executed there. It was still awe-inspiring to think of all the major figures in history who had wandered through the same places that I was wandering, who’d slept within the halls of the tower, who’d lived their lives in times so different from our own it’s often difficult for me to try to even comprehend.
Here we were, 21st century tourists, roaming freely throughout a place that in centuries past would have been limited to a certain segment of the population, would have been feared and hated, would have dealt continuously with the threat of attack. We could touch the walls of the prison cells, admire the armor worn by soldiers of times past, see the Crown Jewels… I don’t know, it all just felt amazing, to realize we were walking freely and safely in an area in which for hundreds of years that wouldn’t have been possible, especially for a commoner like me.
We strolled along walls and through various towers. Some had been living chambers, some prison cells. Seeing the “graffiti” carved into the walls by people who’d been held there in centuries past was quite moving to me. I stood still a few times, trying to picture men and women laboriously carving evidence of their existence – and imprisonment – into these very walls. Did they know that 500 years later people would be poring over their etchings?
After walking through a tower which held replicas of many of the royals’ crowns (sans real jewels, of course), we found ourselves in the inner courtyard, and could see a marvelous-looking stone building that we soon figured out was the Waterloo Barracks, built in 1845, which currently houses the Crown Jewels display. We were apparently quite lucky to get in line when we did – we walked right in the front of the building, although we could tell from the metal queue guides, and the comments of the people around us, that the line often extended way out beyond the building and wait times could soar to more than an hour. Still, once inside it was a long, slow process of shuffling ahead. The Tower has done a marvelous job of creating multimedia displays, however, for people to watch and listen to while waiting to actually get to the Jewels.
And what did we think of the Jewels? Everything was impressive, but not as wowy zowy as I had expected – maybe in part because it was hard to get a good look at much, since there were SO MANY PEOPLE in there and the line had to keep moving forward steadily. I also kept hoping to find the spot where Moriarty put on the royal regalia in that episode of Sherlock (it was the Reichenbach Fall, wasn’t it?), but never did see anything that looked exactly like the glass case in which he had sat. I guess this just means I need to watch the episode again.
After touring the Crown Jewels, we went into the White Tower itself, the central and oldest part of the Tower complex. It was the first stone keep in England, built under William the Conqueror himself, starting around 1078. Now it houses a huge collection of armor, as well as educational displays about the Tower compound. I learned that the Royal Mint, now in Wales, had been housed in the Tower itself for centuries. I also found a pretty awesome-looking steam punk dragon, although I have no idea how it fit into anything. I didn’t care – it was cool.
Outside as we wandered around we often noticed metal wire sculptures of animals. These, we learned, were to remind people the Tower had also housed a menagerie (fancy word for zoo) since medieval times. Medieval kings often received unusual animals as gifts, and polar bears, lions, and even elephants had once roamed the Tower grounds. According to Wikipedia,
“By the 18th century, the menagerie was open to the public; admission cost three half-pence or the supply of a cat or dog to be fed to the lions. In 1828 there were over 280 animals representing at least 60 species. The last of the animals left in 1835, relocated to Regents Park, after one of the lions was accused of biting a soldier.”
You can bet some of my characters will end up there in future Regency books, although I’m hoping they forgo the custom of supplying household pets as a meal.
All in all, visiting the Tower was a very satisfying, moving experience, even as my feet were now loudly proclaiming their fatigue, along with the rest of me.
We thought about roaming around The City, as the central square mile of London proper is called, or visiting Tower Bridge (hubby did snap a pic of me standing on the Tower walls with Tower Bridge in the background), but frankly we were exhausted and decided the next thing we needed to do was check into the hotel and crash for a quick nap.
Later that evening we went back down along Piccadilly to the theatre area, and grabbed some pizza at the Pizza Express on the corner of Haymarket and Panton (how American sounding, but they had pizzas on the menu that were different from the kinds typically seen here. I ended up ordering a sloppy joe pizza – spicy, but good!). No Colin Morgan sightings (for one thing, it was Sunday, and I knew Mojo didn’t run on Sundays), but it was a great way to end a wonderful first day in London.
After admiring a bit of London at night (since it got dark quite early there), we were happy to hole up in the hotel and plan out the next day… and sleep some more!
After we left Hyde Park, we ambled our way back east along Piccadilly, marveling (at least I was) over the huge buildings and elaborate stonework carvings and sculptures we often saw. It was still hard to grasp I was walking on Piccadilly – such a famous street name, and there I was! We strolled past the Burlington Arcade (one of the first covered shopping areas, opened in 1819), Hatchards (the oldest bookstore in London, founded in 1797), and Fortnum & Mason (the Queen’s official grocer, established in 1707), but since it was Sunday morning, none of them were open. We did, however, pass Fortnum & Mason just as it was striking 9:00 a.m., so we got to see the famous clock and the two mechanized figures of Fortnum and Mason come out to greet each other on the hour.
I paused as often as the husband would allow, snapping pictures and trying to imagine Regency bucks and debutantes walking along these same streets, entering these same buildings. I wondered also at how different it would have sounded – and smelled – to have had horse-drawn carriages rumbling through the streets; it was loud enough with modern cars and busses.
It wasn’t long until we ended up at Piccadilly Circus, which immediately had a different, much more modern feel, helped along of course by the big-screen digital billboards. It was a raucous hubbub of activity. It was delightful, although apparently I didn’t take any photos there! Of course later on in the trip when we walked through the area and it was much more crowded than that first Sunday morning, it was a little less inviting…
We kept moving forward and ended up at Leicester Square, the infamous Leicester Square (most definitely pronounced LES-ter, not LIE-ces-ter). Fodor’s had warned us this was a popular tourist spot and we should be on the look out for pick pockets, but at least on this gorgeous Sunday morning it was quite peaceful and calm and seemed rather small. It did also have a more “international” feel and we noted with dismay a number of American fast food staples such as Burger King and McDonalds.
My husband commented several times throughout our trip how rarely we seemed to hear native Brits speaking; what we mostly heard were a lot of foreign languages – German (which always catches my ear since I still understand much of it), French, some Asian languages, and of course other Americans. We decided this was mostly likely because we were in the Tourist Central part of London. We also noted often throughout our stay that most of the restaurant wait staff did not seem to be native to the country, either. It didn’t matter to us either way; it was just something we tuned in to. I don’t know if that’s because we ate at some rather casual places likely to pick up tourists (we’re not ones for fancy cuisine no matter where we are).
I knew we were quite close now to the Harold Pinter Theater, so even though we weren’t going to see the play Mojo until Tuesday night, I cajoled my husband into letting us stroll by and check it out. He even took a picture of me in front of Colin Morgan’s face. Woo hoo! (I’ve already blogged about my Mojo experience, if you want to skip ahead and read it.)
From Leicester Square we headed south to find Charing Cross. First we passed the well-known church St. Martin’s-in-the-Fields, whose bells were pealing merrily, calling all into Sunday worship. I wanted to zip over and peek inside, but decided I really didn’t want to disrupt those there for services, so we continued on…and stumbled into Trafalgar Square. And oh my, what a view! The square was immense, and striking in its grandeur, with the huge statue of Nelson mounted high up on his column, the impressive facade of the National Gallery behind it, and looking out toward the Thames and Parliament in front. I really loved this area – it felt vibrant and alive. I snapped a pic of the famous statue of George IV – the ruler who gave the Regency era its name, in that he served as Regent from 1811-1820 while his father was incapacitated. Prince George (“Prinny”) finally became King in 1820.
After admiring the large lion statues at the base of Nelson’s column (which reminded me fleetingly of the lions outside of the Art Institute of Chicago, which I visited as a child), we were examining the display map when a guard approached us. He seemed quintessentially stereotypically British – polite, helpful, and sans most of his teeth. I probably shouldn’t say that, but I found his thick accent and friendly manner quite charming, and he gave us lots of advice on how best to see London – including warning us NOT to pay for the double-decker bus tours, that they were rip-offs and we could see the same sites on regular busses (we’d already decided against the bus tour, but it was amusing how much he emphasized that. Sorry, British touring bus companies.).
By this point it was 10:00 a.m., and we could head to the London Pass office to pick up our London Passes (which allowed us free or discounted entry into a number of tourist attractions, and in which we’d also included Tube passes. I don’t know if this was the most cost-effective way to see London, especially since with our limited time and Regency-focused itinerary we weren’t able to get to lots of the sites, but hey, it was easy and took the anxiety out of some of the planning).
Passes in hand, we headed down for our first Tube ride, across the city over to the Tower of London. My basic observation of the Tube was it felt like the subways in Germany and DC and therefore familiar, and that anybody who actually was talking while in a Tube car (carriage?) was generally not speaking English. I’d heard that native Londoners don’t actually talk or acknowledge others on the Tube. This amused my husband and I as we tried to guess who were tourists and who were not.
And thus we arrived at the Tower tube station and walked out into the sunlight to see the famous and infamous Tower of London staring back at us. But that is a story for another blog…
Getting to fly in the economy plus section of the airplane was a nice bonus (somehow it was cheaper than economy!), but flights are always tough on us because we can’t sleep on airplanes. Heck, we can hardly sleep even when we’re nestled in our own beds at home. Still, we were delighted to actually arrive early at Heathrow and make it through customs and all that remarkably quickly. By about 6 a.m. we were already ensconced in a cab and making our way from the airport to Mayfair.
So what were our first impressions during that cab ride? Well, both of us commented on the distance between us and the driver, and the fact that there was a complete plexiglas wall separating us. No getting to know your cabbie here, I guess – which was just as well, considering how tired we were. It did feel slightly odd to be driving on the left side of the road, but given we were on a divided highway and all the lanes directly around us were flowing in the same direction, we quickly stopped noticing it. By and large we were surprised at how much everything looked…the same. Until we got closer to London and started to see bigger buildings – especially the large grand stone ones that suddenly had me feeling I’d stepped back into another era.
Although I had no clue at the time where we were, I did recognize Harrod’s as we drove past. Suddenly we were driving past Hyde Park and just as quickly we were there – the cab dropped us off in front of the Holiday Inn in Mayfair. Now I’ll grant you the Holiday Inn neither sounds nor looks Regency, of course. Many Americans teased us for staying in an American chain (at least I’ve assumed it’s American). And the outside of the hotel was, well, rather drab – although the inside was quite nicely furnished. But who cares? We were smack dab in the middle of Mayfair. The Green Park tube stop was literally about one minute away. London was all around us!
As it was far too early to check in – it was 7:00 a.m. on Sunday morning – we just dropped our luggage and, in spite of being tired, headed right out to explore. The minute we hit the streets I was completely energized again. I was in London, baby, and I didn’t want to waste a minute! Since it was also too early to go pick up the London Passes and tube tickets we’d ordered ahead of time, I grabbed my London map and we set out on foot. Luckily for us, the weather was absolutely beautiful – clear blue skies and just the hint of fall coolness in the air.
In spite of being awed by the large buildings all around me, the first place we actually headed to was… Green Park. And it was exactly that, lush and green, even in November. It was delightfully simple and serene. No big structures. Not many people around. I was rather amazed, actually, to find such a hushed spot in the middle of a huge city, especially when I knew it was so close to Buckingham Palace and other major notable spots. Hubby and I strolled leisurely, and I enjoyed snapping pictures. Then we found ourselves in front of the Palace.
Buckingham Palace. Buckingham Palace? Less than an hour or two in England and we were already standing in front of one of the most famous buildings in the world? One advantage to being out and about so early on a Sunday morning was that very few other people were out and about so early on a Sunday morning. We could take in the magnitude and majesty of the building at our own pace. Which we did, although our view kept getting interrupted by old cars – really old cars – racing by in front of the palace. The variety of cars was amazing, and it was oddly amusing to watch them race pell-mell around Buckingham Palace at the end of Pall Mall (see what I did there?). Turns out we’d arrived on the day of the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run!
After a bit we decided to head up to the famous Hyde Park that appears in almost every Regency romance novel. I desperately wanted to see Rotten Row and the Serpentine – names familiar from books but of things I’d never seen. I still could hardly believe I was about to see them now – that I was in LONDON, and that all of these places were real, right in front of me!
We passed near the Wellington Arch, but couldn’t go under it, as that was the route the antique cars were taking. And then we were at Hyde Park corner. I could see Apsley House, home to Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington who triumphed over Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. I could see the park. I could see a large, gorgeous, white building that used to be St. George’s Hospital – a name I’m also sure I’d read about before.
I just wanted to stand and soak it all up. It was extraordinary – the sights, the sounds, the smells.
All the people. The old, majestic buildings lining the streets, occasionally interspersed with something more modern looking. I just can’t properly convey the feelings that were running through me at that moment. I’m pretty sure my husband’s main feeling was “tired”, but he gamely set out with me through the entrance into Hyde Park.
And then we were there. Walking along paths people have walked along for hundreds of years. Paths where numerous romantic trysts certainly occurred (perhaps just in fiction, but hey, what happens in Hyde Park stays in Hyde Park). I could see Rotten Row – THE Rotten Row (corrupted from Route de Roi, the route of the King). I stood for a moment, trying to imagine carriages and curricles making their way up and down the path as the ton did their version of “scooping the loop” back at the beginning of the 19th century. It was the place to see and be seen. In the 21st century, what Rotten Row and the sidewalk path next to it mostly had was… runners. Lots and lots of people running along the pathways for exercise. Which made sense – if you’re going to work out, why not pick a gorgeous and relatively quiet park with well-laid out paths to do so? Still, I couldn’t help giggling a little, wondering what promenading members of the peerage would have made of today’s fitness buffs.
Hyde Park is big. Bigger than I had expected (odd, that, since everything else was closer than I had expected. I guess that’s the challenge of trying to experience something through a 2D map). While I had this desire to explore each and every inch of it, truth be told I knew it was only early morning on what was bound to be a long day with LOTS of walking, and I wanted to save my feet a bit for exploring the city. So we strolled as far as the edge of the Serpentine, and then meandered back to Piccadilly. I thought we might get back to Hyde Park later in the week, but we didn’t. In hindsight I do wish I’d explored the park a bit more – but in reality, I wish I’d explored EVERYTHING a bit more, and we only had so much time…