08/2011 - England, London 1st part

After more than twenty-five years we went back to London. We decided to visit what we had not seen in the past and to do pleasant walks in the city center.
We chose to stay at the IBIS hotel because we appreciate its quality/price ratio.
In London we stayed at the IBIS close to the Euston subway station.

The first day, early in the morning, we went to the Somerset House, a building with a beautiful and big inner courtyard recently embellished with a modern fountain and where, at the entrance, there is an allegorical monument.

I illustrate, with a wide photo-gallery, the art collection of the Courtauld Institute of Art. I wish to mention some of the most significant painters: Monet, Gauguin, Modigliani, Picasso, Utrillo to Kandinsky.

Some rooms of the picture-gallery are reserved to an exhibition of works that Toulouse Lautrec dedicated to the dancer Jane Avril, his favorite model.

Just outside the Institute, there is the pretty little church of St. Mary-le-Strand positioned in a pedestrian zone, in the middle of the road.
We continued towards the river Thames and reached the Cleopatra’s Needle, an Egyptian obelisk with two sphinxes at its sides.
We passed the river Thames crossing the pedestrian Hungerford bridge situated in front of Charing Cross Station.
We were not even at half way that we admired another bridge, Waterloo Bridge, beyond which we could see both St. Paul Cathedral and the skyscrapers of the City; among them it stood the Nat West Tower, known as the Gherkin (the Cucumber).

A big news for us was the British Airways London Eye, the giant (135 meters high) Ferries wheel built to celebrate the new millennium. With a wide photo-gallery I want to accompany my readers in a virtual tour showing some wonderful views of London.

We began the Queen’s Walk, a pedestrian path along the Thames.
We could admire the Queen’s Hall, the Royal Festival Hall, the monument to Laurence Oliver and the Blackfriars bridge (famous because there it was found Roberto Calvi’s body).
Following the Thames, we arrived to Gabriel’s Wharf Market, a square faced by many characteristic shops, an exhibition of wooden works and quaint houses whose walls were painted with faux illusionistic façades.
Continuing our walk along the river, now called the Riverside Walk, we arrived in the Bankside area. There, a building which was a former power station was transformed into a new building: the Tate Modern Gallery. The museum opened in 2000 and gathers six detached sections.
Opposite, there is another new monument: the steel pedestrian bridge, also built in 2000, which gave me the possibility to take nice shots.
Some more nice shots were taken southwards showing the Cannon Street Bridge, a railway bridge which looks “younger” than its age (1860) and is characterized by vivid colours; beyond it, the London Bridge appears in its majesty.

Not far, there is the white circular building of the Globe theatre where the company of William Shakespeare used to perform. The theatre had a very rough life: it was built in 1600, was destroyed by a fire, was rebuilt and, then, was closed and definitively demolished 44 years after its primary construction.

Other nice glimpse is that of the Anchor Pub, one of the oldest and most famous pub along the river.
A little further on, in a narrow angle, the copy of the Golden Hind galleon used by Sir Francis Drake to circumnavigate the globe.
Southwark Cathedral dates back to the twelfth century and had been recently restored. It is the most important monument of Southwark district of London.
In that district we found other remarkable peculiarities such as the George Inn, a characteristic inn of the seventeenth century which nowadays is a pub. Another recent transformation regarded the Borough Market which changed by wholesale market of fruits and vegetables to retail market even specialized in international food. Finally, a memorial plaque on the site of the original Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre.

At the end of our first full day in London, we had the pleasure of one more promenade. We went to Piccadilly Circus with its famous monument of Eros and its characteristic and countless bright signs. Similar signs are present also in the near Coventry Street where there is one of the “cult” place in London, the Trocadero. We concluded our walk in Leicester Square where important works in the course of construction prevented us from admiring the square in all its beauty.

The second day began with a typical autumnal weather and rain. I took a shot of the Wellington Arch and its Quadriga led by the angel of Peace while fighting with my umbrella. We found shelter inside the Apsley House where Wellington decided to place, among many other relics, a large marble statue of his great enemy at the foot of a staircase almost as a sign of submission. Napoleon was immortalized by Antonio Canova.

Then we moved to a completely different part of London in order to visit the Soane’s Museum. This museum has a peculiarity: in a very small space, thanks to special devices, Soane collected and exhibited an extraordinary number of works of art. The picture-gallery is the most striking room because in a very small space you can see a large number of paintings gathered in large panels which you can extract. I want to point out that, in order to better illustrate the museum, I took some pictures from Internet whereas I photographed the image of the interior taken from the City Book of the “Corriere della Sera” (an Italian newspaper). The quality of the picture is not very good.

Queen Elizabeth, to make money, opened her own gallery, as well as Buckingham Palace (see below). I describe the various rooms even if I do not think it is worth making a long queue to see those works of art which were received as presents in occasion of official visits.

I think much more interesting the photo-gallery dedicated to Buckingham Palace.
Here we have an example of the exceptional peculiarity of London. Leaving behind Buckingham Palace, you immediately enter the park, in a moment you leave the chaotic city traffic and find peace in the park. Silence, flowers, animals in the wild.

The Churchill War Room is a museum divided in two parts: the historical part with the faithful reconstruction of the rooms used for the War Cabinet’s strategic meetings and the modern (and multimedial) part where you can watch original historic filmed sequences.

We took Whitehall road towards Trafalgar Square. The first street on the left is Downing Street; we remembered it was a road open to the public but it was cordoned off and inaccessible.
It is quite moving, for its meaning, the monument dedicated to the women died during World War II.
For the tourists it is very popular the Horse Guards, the building where you can assist to the change of the guard. Unfortunately, when we passed, there was only the guard present, and not the horse.
Finally we reached Trafalgar Square; the square where most extravagant gatherings can be found. I took several pictures: the column erected in memory of Lord Nelson, statues of lions and large fountains, the clock marking the time left before 2012 Olympics, the National Gallery entrance, and more.
Another nice walk, in the heart of London, is the one which brings from Trafalgar Square to Oxford Circus.
First we walked along Cambridge Circus, then crossed a part of Soho neighborhood, reached Oxford Street and arrived to Oxford Circus.

We started our third day in London arriving, under the pouring rain, at the Speakers’ Corner. Because of the hour (it was 9.00 am) nobody was making speeches so we just took pictures of ourselves.

We took shelter in the nearby Wallace Collection; the visit allowed us to see a variety of works of art, all of rare beauty, that I widely present to my readers.

The weather got better and allowed us to fully admire the beauty of the flowers in front of Kensington Palace. Inside there is the representation of royal life scenes and, at last, an exhibition of wedding dresses of royal daughters, including Princess Diana’s.

Few people know the Kensington Roof Gardens, beautiful roof gardens (covering 6.000 square meters.) located on top of the warehouse Derry & Toms. It is beautiful and scenic the reconstruction of a Spanish garden, less interesting the one of an English one.

Quite closed there is the famous Harrods department store which I widely illustrate for the beauty of its interior (an Egyptian reconstruction, a fish exhibition, etc..). It is memorable Diana and Dody’s picture, the latter was the son of the Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Al-Fayed, owner of Harrods.