Saturday, March 8th
My mum and I had decided today would be a good day to go to London, so off we set. Because the Jubilee Line was closed from Finchley Road to Waterloo, we changed from the Metropolitan Line to the Bakerloo Line at Baker Street and travelled to Oxford Circus, where we changed to the Victoria Line and continued on to Victoria Station.
After a quick coffee, we headed along Victoria Street until we reached our first destination. Westminster Cathedral. After some exterior photos were taken we headed inside. Now, I thought the building was impressive from the outside, but the inside was breathtaking! The lower half of the Cathedral walls are clad in marble, which come from twenty-four different countries, across five continents, of which there are over 125 different types. Above the marble the walls are bare brick, right up to and including the four domes, which make for a truly grand ceiling. In some ways this gives the effect of an unfinished building, but, on the other hand, the marble also draws the gaze of the parishioner to the altar. The low hung chandeliers also give the upper floors an almost melancholy look, where the shadows dance across the rough texture. The Cathedral is a building that could almost be said to be alive.
We arrived during Mass so we waited patiently for this to finish, and for the procession to file out, before we could take a look around. There are chapels to St. Patrick, St. David, St. Andrew, St. George and various others. There were also smaller chapels, as one might expect, for private prayer.
We then decided to head up the bell tower, which contains 300 steps! Fortunately, the steps are off-limits, so we took the elevator. Arriving on the seventh floor, which is 64 metres or 210 feet above street level, we stepped out and into the top of the tower, where four doors lead to four small balconies; North, East, South and West. Unfortunately, the West balcony was closed due to there being a problem with the padlock. Even so, the views were incredible and it was well worth the few quid we were charged to see them. We must have spent a good half-hour looking out into the distance, pointing out the landmarks that we could see through the light haze, that still hung over the city.
We then headed back down into the Cathedral proper, where we had another look around and took even more photographs, before heading up to see the ‘Treasures of Westminster Cathedral’ exhibition. The exhibition consists of chalices, sacred relics, vestments and other ecclesiastical objects that the Cathedral has acquired, since it opened in 1903.
Although the Cathedral opened in 1903, it wasn’t consecrated until 1910 because Catholic buildings can not be consecrated until all debts have been cleared. The Cathedral’s architect, John Francis Bentley, was also responsible for the Church of the Holy Rood, Watford, which is said to be his ‘Gothic Masterpiece’.
We left Westminster Cathedral and headed south towards Warwick Way, where we stopped at The Queens Arms, Pimlico, for a spot of lunch and a drink.
We then continued down Denbigh Street and onto Claverton Street which brought us out on Grosvenor Road. From here we headed west towards Battersea. Soon, we could see the old Battersea Power Station which looked like the hulking upturned skeleton of some prehistoric animal.
With the occasional stop, to take photos, we followed the River Thames to Chelsea Bridge, where we crossed, and headed in to Battersea Park. By now the sun was at full strength, shining down on Battersea Park and the Japanese Peace Pagoda, making the colours and architecture even more vibrant. We sat in the sun, while we waited for the pagoda to be clear of tourists and ‘health freaks’, who were exercising on the steps and around the base, thereby spoiling the chance for everyone to enjoy the pagoda without interruption.
After a short break we made our way back to Chelsea Bridge and headed east, along Grosvenor Road. We stopped at the Pimlico Garden and Shrubbery, to look at some statues, before rejoining the Thames Path, which would take us on to Westminster. Just before you reach Vauxhall Bridge, there is a plaque which marks the joining of the Tyburn River to the River Thames. Looking across the river we could see the headquarters of the S.I.S. (MI6) at 85 Albert Embankment, Vauxhall Cross. This building has many names, including; Legoland and Babylon-on-the-Thames.
Looking at the headquarters for the Secret Intelligence Service, from across the River Thames at Riverside Walk Gardens, I was surprised to see children playing on the shore and in front of the building.
We then continued along Millbank, passing a bollard which had the inscription:
Near this site stood Millbank Prison which was opened in 1816 and closed in 1890. This buttress stood at the head of the river steps from which, until 1867, prisoners sentenced to transportation embarked on their journey to Australia.
Not much of the prison still exists, apart from one piece of a concrete perimeter ditch, which is now part of a housing development. As we approached Lambeth Bridge, with Lambeth Palace clearly in evidence across the river, I noticed that we were walking beside Thames House, headquarters for MI5, so, I took some photos of the doors and some of the carved stone figures, surrounding it. We then walked in to Victoria Tower Gardens, where the shade was welcomed and, as it turned out, my mum had never visited. Some photos of the Buxton Memorial Fountain, were taken, before leaving the gardens, via its northern exit, where there is a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst.
From here we walked past the Houses of Parliament, then Westminster Abbey and the Methodist Central Hall, before turning onto Tothill Street and then Broadway, where we took a few photos of New Scotland Yard, before grabbing a bite to eat and a drink, which we demolished in Christchurch Gardens. We then walked back up Broadway and turned on to Queen Anne’s Gate, which lead us on to Birdcage Walk and into St. James’s Park.
With the sun beginning its descent, we made our way along Horse Guards Road and up to Waterloo Place, then down Charles II Street and up Duke of York Street to St. James’s Church. In a small open space, on the north side of the church, there was a small market, where I purchased a few items for Emma and the girls, while my mum bought some Tibetan Prayer Flags.
With our legs beginning to tire, we headed towards Baker Street, via Piccadilly, Old Bond Street, New Bond Street and onto Vere Street and Wimpole Street until, eventually, Devonshire Place brought us out on the Marylebone Road. From here it wasn’t far to Baker Street station, where we stopped for refreshment at The Metropolitan Bar, before catching our train home.
Following our journey on Google Maps, it is estimated that we walked in excess of 11 miles and, for the most part, it didn’t seem like it.
All in all it was another nice stroll around the greatest city in the world.
Until next time, May It Be Well With You.