London, my London - What to do in London
I’ve never hidden my love for London, or for what to do in London.
Growing up in Welling, a small town sitting on the South-East London border, the capital was only ever a short way away.
My earliest memories include going up there for a day with my dad – itself a rarity given how little he was in my life – and later with the cubs. School trips always seemed to focus on coach rides to various places in the city, including Sadler’s Wells Theatre, Westminster and The Monument.
I even remember having to do a project in Junior school about bridges, which many of the class did about the various structures spanning the Thames.
Some of the best nights out have been in London too. Whether that’s been first dates, visits to museums, meeting people from the internet (who you later fall madly in love with) or simply driving around at midnight with a best friend taking in the sights and trying to find an open coffee shop.
There’s a saying that says give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for life. Well give this man a twenty pound note and it’ll be used to buy a Travelcard to get to London where I can feed my thirst for all things new simply by wandering around and looking at my surroundings.
Incidentally, make sure you don’t pay too much for your Travelcard!
Though I’ve spent many a day simply ambling through parks, streets and alleyways in our capital, it’s true to say that I have my favourite spots. When I’m asked by visitors what to do in London, I’ll tell them my favourite day.
Quite often I’ll get off the train at Liverpool Street and walk along Bishopsgate. I can see the Heron Tower (and pop into Duck and Waffle for a coffee and a magnificent view over the skyline from the highest restaurant in town) and then pass by the Gherkin.
I can marvel at the small pieces of grassland which lay almost hidden down various nooks and crannies. On a Summer’s day, these pieces of grass are covered with city workers eating lunch and getting a tan.
Walking further south, I’ll then get to Bank, crossing the busy road and heading over London Bridge, passing The Monument as I go. More than 300 years after it was built to remember those who died in the Great Fire Of London, it still stands tall and proud near the banks of the Thames.
Stopping on London Bridge (the West side) I will take in the view of Tower Bridge – occasionally being lucky enough to see it opening for a passing ship. A nod towards HMS Belfast sees me head to the south side of the river where I cross the road and enter Borough Market.
The market is famous for the food it sells, and the sound and smells experienced there are fairly unique. If I’m feeling flush, I’ll hunt out the Burnt Sugar stall and buy some of their fudge which to date is the best I’ve ever tasted.
Leaving the market from the back entrance, I wander past Southwark Cathedral, itself acting as a monument having been in place in some form for around 1,000 years. I follow the path leading along the river, stopping to see the artist impressions painted onto the tiled walls of one of the underpasses by Southwark Bridge.
From there I continue along the South Bank, the river on my right, and soon Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on my left. Rebuilt a couple of decades ago, it sits on a site close to the original Globe and has been built to match the original specifications as closely as possible.
Then I have a choice. As the Tate Modern is level on my left, the Millenium Bridge is on my right. I normally choose to either head across the bridge, which now no longer has the shakes that it was so famous for on opening, and towards St Paul’s Cathedral – arguably Wren’s greatest achievement. Or I can continue straight on and under Blackfriar’s Bridge.
I choose the latter and continue to head towards Westminster. Big Ben and the London Eye start to come into view. By now the heavily-graffitied skate park will be nearby, complete with plenty of skaters, all wearing their own uniform fit for their lifestyle, and none of them exchanging more than grunts or passing looks.
This is in complete opposition to the entertainers that stand between them and the river, performing anything from dance, singing or tricks to stuff that you’d struggle to describe. All hoping for a few coins to be thrown their way.
Looking up, you’ll see the National Theatre and behind you, the Oxo Tower. You’ll also be extremely close to London Television Centre which backs onto the walkway overlooking the river. Across the river is Cleopatra’s Needle.
Walk under Waterloo Bridge and try not to sing The Kink’s Waterloo Sunset as you do so (extremely difficult, I find) and you’ll arrive at Hungerford Bridge, a pedestrian bridge that will take you across the river to Embankment station. If you are wondering what to do in London, you can, of course, choose to catch the underground here and go just about anywhere in the capital.
My preference is to walk up Northumberland Avenue (you just need Pall Mall and Whitehall to complete the pink Monopoly set now) towards Charing Cross. As you reach the busy roundabout, which will no doubt be full of red London buses and black taxis, you can turn left to take in the sights of 10 Downing Street, the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey.
You can cross the road, go right and head down The Strand or up towards Leicester Square and Covent Garden.
Or you can finish the journey the same way as me. By crossing over, going to the North side of Trafalgar Square and taking in the view of Nelson’s Column, the lions that guard it, the fountains that surround it and the hundreds of tourists within the square. As you gaze across the ocean of pedestrians, imagine how many people have stood where you stand.
The poor. The rich. The famous. The unknown. Each breathing in the surroundings of a busy London day. Whether it’s beautiful sunshine, harsh snow, or heavy rain, there will always be someone contemplating something as they look over the square.
That’s why I love London - My London. Because there will always be someone else falling in love with the capital as you stand there.
This blog entry “What to do in London” was written as part of theblogger competition.
More information can be found on the Redrow website.